Welsh high-tech start-ups get special treatment

Knowledge-driven, high-tech fledgling enterprises with the potential for rapid growth are being given easy access to good technological and research links, through a new Welsh Development Agency (WDA) initiative - Technium Centres.

At first glance, these Technium Centres may seem nothing more than glorified Business Innovation Centres. But WDA spokesperson Shan Ekin-Wood explains: “What makes the Technium Centres different from Business Innovation Centres is that they will be linked to higher education institutions.” Apparently, each Technium centre or building will develop in partnership with the “established Centre of Excellence in research and teaching in Higher Education” in a particular key sector. The centre will focus on research and development in the same growth area and will be near to the higher education institution.

“The flagship Swansea Technium Centre, for example, has been developed in partnership with the University of Wales Swansea.” The centre itself is focused on semiconductor research and is connected by broad band access to the Departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Computer Science the University of Wales Swansea, thus providing access to a wealth of relevant information.

Tenants at the centre get on-site business support suitable for high growth enterprises. In the case of the Swansea initiative, it is provided by the WDA and the local Business Connect. “An IT infrastructure of the highest standard” is also promised.

Mark Jones, Office Manager at the Swansea Technium Centre, added: “it is the high speed network connections to the University” which are the attractions of the Technium concept. “It offers good technological links and, obviously, good research links” for fledgling enterprises to develop growth.

The prime criterion to be selected to join the centre is to be a knowledge-driven company with “the potential for high-growth, ” Ekin-Wood pointed out. “Start-ups, existing small businesses, spin-outs from existing companies and multinationals looking to set up their own research and development departments, will have all the help there in the centre to ensure the business can develop.”

The flagship Swansea Technium Centre, launched earlier this year is the model for a roll-out of the concept across Wales. Other Technium Centres in the pipeline include a Bio-Technium at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales at Llanarthne, planned to be a leading centre for research in horticulture, botany and plant-based medical applications. An e:Technium at Cyber Bay in Pembroke Dock, an e:Media Technium at University of Wales Swansea, the Baglan Energy Park Technium and an Opto-Technium developed in conjunction with Bangor University at St. Asaph, where there is an established opto-electronics cluster, are all further initiatives planned.

For those who would like to find out more about the Technium concept, or who would like to find out about applying for space in future planned Technium Centres, contact Dr Steve Davis, chief executive at the Swansea Technium, on telephone number 01792-513112.

UPDATE: By 2010 six of the Techniums had been closiumed. The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) came to the conclusion that these Techniums were not delivering, particularly because of poor occupancy rates. Indeed, Welsh Development Agency and later WAG officials privately referred to the Pembrokeshire Technium as the “Emptium” and the one in Llanelli as the “Desertium”. More info on the failure of these ‘Techniums’ and their eventual close-down here: Six of Wales’ Techniums are being scrapped – where did it all go wrong? – Wales Online.

The 4 Techniums that survived were eventually either taken over by private organisations or merged into university departments.

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