Wales is known for many things: Snowdonia, rarebit and Tom Jones to name but a few. It’s also becoming a household name in the tech sector as a place to find reasonable office space, innovative start-ups and talent.
Tech jobs have increased by a huge 83 per cent since 2010 in Wales, more than double the rate of the next best non-London area in the UK (the South West at 41 per cent). 400 tech jobs have been created every month in Wales, over the past 5 years.
Wales is now making a significant contribution to the UK’s tech industry, especially in FinTech, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity. It has a GVA (gross added value) of £392 million, compared to £369 million in 2016. The number of digital jobs now stands at 17,471.
Meanwhile, Wales’ employment rate is now higher than London’s, at 75 per cent. So, what’s behind this growth?
Greater quality of life
Part of the reason lies in the quality of life. 89 per cent of tech professionals and start-up founders in Wales stated that it had an impressive quality of life. The average house costs just £185,639 – compared to £471,504 in London. 71 per cent of Welsh tech workers also said that the cost of living is good.
A growing sector
Many see the potential in the Welsh sector too. 76 per cent of professionals agree that there’s room for more growth in Wales’ tech industry, growth that they can later take advantage of in the form of promotions, new business and funding. Wales’ tech industry growth is second only to London.
Location and infrastructure
Wales’ location is also a factor. It’s relatively accessible to London, being only two hours west of the capital. There’s robust infrastructure in place too, like the Internet connectivity and travel connections needed to succeed as a start-up.
Nearby universities provide excellent graduate talent and interns, plus, businesses benefit from competitive business rates and lower office costs which can translate into greater risk-taking and innovation. It’s easier and cheaper to test ideas in Cardiff and Swansea than the City of London because there’s less cash at stake.
The Welsh Government also supports its growing tech sector. There’s a digital development fund targeted specifically at tech start-ups. Cardiff has invested some £1.28 billion to improve its transport infrastructure and the Swansea Bay City Region has invested £500 million in becoming a ‘digital super hub’.
This means that large companies are also being attracted to the region. Global firms like Sony, GoCompare, IQE and GE Aviation all have headquarters in Wales.
But Wales’ growth isn’t without some challenges, and talent is a major one. The digital skills shortage is felt by start-ups everywhere, but it’s a lot easier to hire in London where the talent pool is greater.
Still, Wales is fast becoming an area of choice for savvy tech recruits, especially given the potential quality of life compared to London. Companies such as Cisco are also investing in home grown talent, it has partnered with the University of South Wales on cybersecurity training.
People drive growth
Wales is giving London a run for its money. But to become an international tech hub, Welsh businesses and the Government must prioritise talent, through hiring, training and academia. Wales’ continued growth will depend on its people.