Digital: Driving & Transforming Every CCR Priority Sector – Part 1

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The first feature in our CCR Digital Industry spotlight looked at the key drivers of a revolution that’s continually redefining the way we all live, work and play across the Cardiff Capital Region – revealing how every organisation is being powered or influenced by ‘digital’. in some shape or form.

Today, we’re publishing the first in our two-part investigation into how the CCR Priority Sectors are transforming in the fourth industrial age; discovering the underlying trends and stand-out performers in Artificial Intelligence, Compound Semiconductors, the Creative Economy and Cyber & Analytics …

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence – the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines – is reshaping our understanding of how our products can be made and our services can best be delivered. Like the Cyber & Analytics revolution, digitally- powered AI is serving and transforming all our sectors through expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision – with the mainstream AI tools of machine learning and deep learning being applied across all industries here in South East Wales.

Digitally-powered AI is serving and transforming all our sectors across the region

Right now, in CCR, intelligent systems handling huge amounts of data and making complex calculations very quickly are at play, every minute of every day, in all our priority sectors – often in close collaboration with the wide range of ground breaking AI centres of excellence at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff University and the University of South Wales. The real-life applications of that AI innovation can be seen everywhere, from the world-leading bespoke product development being conducted at The Catapult and the game-changing healthcare innovations in diagnostics and detection programmes being inspired at Life Sciences Hub Wales – right through to the neural modelling and Bayesian statistical techniques of the Airbus Endeavr Wales programme, focused on improving the current COTS Intrusion Detection and Prevention tools at use in the world.

The research, application and continual development of AI across CCR will come to greater and greater fruition in the next decade. Machines already understand verbal commands, distinguish pictures, drive cars and play games better than we do – and in the coming years those machines will reach and exceed human performance on ever more complex tasks; with CCR in the vanguard of this crucial data-led, digitally powered intelligence.

Compound Semiconductors

Compound Semiconductor technology is both a child and a parent of the digital age – and is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. It’s the technology that underpins most of today’s high-tech products and services – from 5G networks and the latest smartphones to robotics, e-cars and autonomous vehicles – functioning at speeds much faster than traditional silicon-based semiconductors. Without the atomically engineered compound semiconductors, many of our digital devices and applications simply would not exist – and the good news is that CCR’s world-leading Compound Semiconductor cluster based around Newport (which includes the pioneering companies of IQE, Microchip Technology Caldicot, Newport Wafer Fab and STPS Technologies) is a catalyst for Wales to become the leading centre of compound semiconductor expertise in the world.

Our world-leading centre of compound semiconductor expertise is both a child and a parent of the digital age

CCR’s investment of £38m into the Compound Semiconductor Foundry has helped root a world-leading industry in our region – supporting a cluster and supply chain that employs more than 2,000 people in high-value jobs, generating more than £600 million for the CCR economy each year. The Catapult Innovation Labs sat in the very engine of the Foundry also provide a state-of-the-art facility for local companies to develop their digital and advanced manufacturing ideas in a ‘safe’ and supportive environment – and this spirit of expert collaboration has brought the world to the door of South East Wales, with North American tech-start-up Rockley Photonics choose to make use of the IQE and Newport Wafer Fab facilities, to perfect their revolutionary “clinic-on-the-wrist” technology.

None of the above would have been possible without the digital prowess we now possess. It’s powering a high-potential network, translating state-of-the-art research and innovation capabilities into world-class Welsh manufacturing, for new and emerging global technology markets – enabling a “next generation” technology to shape our lives today and improve our experiences of tomorrow, through everything from electric vehicles and face recognition to space applications and ever-more-powerful smartphones.

It’s a warming thought that much of the digital application integral to these innovations owes its very existence to the Compound Semiconductor Cluster here in the Cardiff Capital Region.

The Creative Economy

This is a golden age for the Creative Industries of Cardiff Capital Region – and along with exceptional home-grown talent, digital is very much the alchemist of our success, helping build a world-class sector that contributes £361 million to the Cardiff Capital Region, employing over 5,000 people in more than 1300 companies across our region.

Over the past few years, the Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy award credits have been teeming with South Walian-produced TV blockbusters and cinema box-office hits – including Discovery of Witches, Hinterland, His Dark Materials, Sherlock, The War of the Worlds –  and in 2021 alone the shortlist for the 93rd Academy Awards saw 22 University of South Wales (USW) graduates nominated for their work on some of the most successful films of the past year, in the digitally-based Animated Feature Film and Visual Effects categories.

Digital is part of the alchemy that’s created the golden age for the Creative Industries of CCR

Those graduates studied Animation, Computer Animation and Visual Effects & Motion Graphics at USW, working on some of Hollywood’s highest-grossing films of recent years, including Farmageddon, The One and Only Ivan, Over The Moon, The Midnight Sky and Wolfwalkers. The ‘digital-element’ of the courses available at USW (which include the increasingly important digital discipline of gamification) places the USW Film and TV School Wales among the most celebrated film schools in the world – a fitting tribute to the genius and hard work undertaken by the inspirational Tom Ware (Director of Production and Performance at USW) and his team at the Cardiff, Newport and Pontypridd campuses.

That digitally based creative ecosystem based around the Welsh capital is home to a number of genuinely world-class employers, such as Richard Moss’s post-production team at Gorilla Group – or multi-Oscar-BAFTA-and-Emmy-award-winning RealSFX, which under the tutelage of Danny Hargreaves has become one of the top Special Effects providers of choice to major productions around the world, from its state-of-the-art base in eastern Cardiff.

It’s important to namecheck Danny, Richard, Tom and the thousands of other exceptional creative professionals in our region because digital, ultimately, is an unleasher of human potential: it enables and empowers people to achieve what they might never have thought possible. The Creative Economy of CCR is certainly showing what is possible when the powers of digital are put in the hands of outstanding talent ….

Cybersecurity & Analytics

According to government figures, the Welsh tech sector now employs 45,000 people and contributes more than £8.5 billion a year to the Welsh economy. Those are incredible figures. And they couldn’t be achieved without world-class Cybersecurity. Cyber is the digital sector’s most important enabling technology. It drives all our priority sectors and wider business community (with a particularly important place at the heart of our phenomenal Fintech success). Without it, there is no Industry 4.0.

Comfortingly, it’s a sector where we punch heavily above our weight, with CCR enjoying one of the most sophisticated cyber security ecosystems in Europe – enabling, encouraging and supporting multinationals, SMEs, start-ups and academic centres of excellence across our region. As a result, we are the engine for one of the largest centres of cyber in the UK: bringing resilience and reassurance to thousands of home-grown tech companies across our region, making our capital city one of the fastest-growing digital centres in Europe (chosen as location for the UK’s first 5G network) and a key motivator for companies like Airbus, Aston Martin, BT, General Dynamics, the SANS Institute and Thales to locate either their European headquarters or significant cyber operations to South East Wales.

CCR is a European centre of excellence for the digital sector’s most enabling technology

Exceptional CCR-based cyber companies (including Wolfberry, which in the past 12 months has been named ‘Most Innovative Cyber Security Company in the UK’) have seen our region acknowledged as top-tier around the world – and become a base for the South Wales Cyber Security Cluster, the Cyber Resilience Centre for Wales (which has set-up centres in the CCR to support businesses against cyber crime) – and the National Digital Exploitation Centre, established in Ebbw Vale to open the eyes and minds of schools, colleges and people of all ages, to the opportunities being offered by cyber. With expert resources now at hand to grow our cyber ambassadors and broaden the cyber horizon, we have everything in place to build the talent pipelines we undoubtedly need for this critical discipline.

We can’t underestimate or overstate the advantage Cyber gives us in terms of attracting inward investment, building back better and shaping the inclusive, resilient economy that we’re committed to creating – and we’ll be exploring our Cybersecurity credentials in much deeper detail in a subsequent article. For now, we can rest easy knowing that we’re establishing a world-class cyber ecosystem that we’re continually looking to strengthen and future-proof for the benefit of businesses and communities across our region.

In our next feature, we’ll be completing our exploration of the digital revolution that’s reimagining and reshaping the CCR Priority Sectors, looking at the transformation underway in Energy & Environment, Fintech, MedTech and Transport & Engineering ….    

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A delivery-focused leader and digital strategist Colan Mehaffey recently joined the Cardiff Capital Region as Head of Digital & Data Innovation.

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