Monday, February 13, 2006

Knowledge Economy in Wales

By Andrew Davies, Minister for Economic Development and Transport for the Welsh Assembly

Published Monday, 13 February, 2006 - 13:00

Andrew Davies, Minister for Economic Development and Transport for the Welsh Assembly

Andrew Davies, Minister for Economic Development and Transport and e-Minister for the Welsh Assembly Government discusses the body's vision for the Knowledge Economy in Wales.

Since 1999, the Welsh economy has undergone a dramatic transformation. Over 100,000 more people are in employment compared to 1999, and having been 30% above the UK average when the Assembly came into being, Wales’ unemployment rate has fallen to levels below the UK average.

From a reliance on traditional manufacturing industries, like coal and steel, Wales in the 21st Century is becoming internationally recognised as the place to establish and grow high technology, knowledge-driven busineses.

'Wales: A Vibrant Economy' our new strategic framework for economic development, was launched for consultation in November. WAVE builds on the remarkable transformation of the Welsh economy, working with employers and employees to improve skills, encourage innovation, support entrepreneurial activity and build a strong and sustainable knowledge-based economic force.

Last year I announced a £50 million investment to create the Institute of Life Science (ILS) at Swansea University. Life Sciences, recognised as one of the most fertile sources of technology transfer in the world, has the potential to create massive economic wealth from developments in the knowledge economy, through research, intellectual property licensing, spinout companies, inward investment, and SME support.

The ILS will become one of the world’s premier scientific and computing facilities and will host a new European Deep Computing Visualisation Centre for Medical Applications. The result of a collaboration agreement between the Assembly Government, IBM and Swansea University, the Centre will include a new IBM supercomputer - which the university has named 'Blue C'. Designed to accelerate ILS programmes, 'Blue C' will be one of the fastest computers in the world dedicated to life sciences research.

In addition, the ILS will provide dedicated incubator support for micro-companies, translating knowledge into commercial opportunities, enhancing our culture of entrepreneurship and innovation and complementing the work carried out by the Technium Project and the new Medical School in Swansea.

This announcement represented a quantum leap in the development of our knowledge economy, propelling Wales into the premier league in the international development of the vibrant and dynamic life science sector.

I have also recently announced a major investment in telecommunications research for Wales, with the creation of the £30m Institute of Advanced Telecommunications. This investment again builds on our strong links with our World class academic institutions, and is the result of a collaboration between the Welsh Assembly Government, Swansea University, IBM, Motorola, Marconi, Agilent Technologies and through Traffic Wales, the Assembly Government’s state-of-the-art traffic information centre. Based at Swansea University, the institute opens up new research in areas such as deep space telecommunications, optical systems and networks, wireless communications and telematics.

The Institute not only propels Wales into the forefront of international research into the fast growing telecommunications sector, but will drive the development of a communications cluster around the City, attracting high-value, knowledge-driven companies to the area, and delivering considerable and sustainable economic benefits for the Welsh knowledge economy.

The IAT is a prime example of how we are working in partnership with major international companies and our outstanding academic institutions to develop our knowledge economy and create high-value employment opportunities.

These major investments illustrate how we are transforming Wales into a knowledge driven economy, a transformation supported by our multi-million pound Broadband Wales programme, launched in 2001 to provide accessible and affordable broadband services in rural and urban area throughout Wales. Wales is leading the way in broadband access, with 99% of the population of Wales already having access to broadband technology, a key factor in the continued transformation of Wales into a knowledge-driven, innovative, successful and sustainable economic force.

Encouraging innovation and building a knowledge economy are key priorities for the Assembly Government. The recent launch of the Knowledge Bank for Business (KB4B) is a clear demonstration of this continued commitment to provide tailored programmes to support innovative Welsh companies.

KB4B, is a radically new way of supporting high-growth potential companies in Wales. Designed in consultation with the private sector, the £14m programme is a collaborative approach to developing high growth companies, providing tailored support and creating a flexible and seamless interface between individual businesses and resources and expertise from across the public and private sectors.

As a centre for innovation and enterprise, our knowledge economy is proving to be the best place to start a business, the best place to grow a business and the best place to see that business prosper.

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