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Plans for new tech cluster in Ebbw Vale move forward

Cynlluniau ar gyfer clwstwr technoleg newydd yng Nglynebwy yn mynd rhagddynt

The Welsh Government’s plans to create an exciting new tech cluster in Ebbw Vale are being driven forward by investment in 5G technology, a new campus for cyber testing and innovative new business accommodation.

Through a new 5G Wales Unlocked project, the Welsh Government is bringing 5G mobile connectivity to support pilots across education, transport, tourism and farming in Blaenau Gwent and neighbouring Monmouthshire.

The Welsh Government has also confirmed it is working with Thales UK Ltd on ResilientWorks, a £7m project in Blaenau Gwent to establish a campus for testing cyber security for connected and autonomous vehicles and energy infrastructure. The new campus will include research laboratories, a test track and a model street complex that start-ups, SMEs, international companies and Governments can all use to test and build trust in vital new technology.

In addition the Welsh Government and Blaenau Gwent Council are working together to deliver new accommodation for businesses in the area. This includes a new project The Box, supported by the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme, which will see a new hub of flexible office premises custom designed and transformed from shipping containers on the former Works site in Ebbw Vale.

Together the interventions are working to create a new and exciting technology cluster centred in Ebbw Vale and a place where high-tech businesses can establish, invest and flourish.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport said: “Through Tech Valleys the Welsh Government is committed to creating a new tech-cluster in Ebbw Vale that will attract, support and drive innovative tech businesses.

“The clustering of cutting edge digital infrastructure, modern and attractive accommodation and a leading tech anchor company can act as a magnet for new firms to the area.

“Our investment in 5G Wales Unlocked combined with new innovative accommodation for business via The Box and an exciting partnership with Thales on cyber testing for autonomous vehicles will help to make Ebbw Vale an obvious home for new tech businesses and will help to drive the innovation, collaboration, and long term economic prosperity that we want to see in the area. ”

Working with communities across Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire, a 5G network will be deployed to help transform rural businesses, public services and infrastructure. By building the case for rural 5G connectivity, Tech Valleys will be helping to digitise businesses, stimulate new jobs and improve public services for communities across rural and semi-rural Wales.

This exciting project is led by Welsh Government in association with the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds & Trials programme: Rural Connected Communities.

It brings together an impressive consortium of partners, including Cisco, BT, Utterberry, AppyWay, Cardiff University, Monmouthshire CC and Blaenau Gwent Local Authority. Together, they will demonstrate the commercial value of improved connectivity in rural Wales, accelerating the deployment of 5G and digital services across the region.

Peter Shearman, Head of Innovation Labs, UKI at Cisco, said: “We believe in building an inclusive future for everyone, and for us, a large part of that comes from the opportunity provided by connectivity for individuals and communities - whether in cities or rural areas. 5G Wales Unlocked brings together partners and government bodies across the UK to help tackle the digital divide and provide the resources necessary to trial new ways of closing it, including 5G. 5G infrastructure has the potential to help connect business critical services and devices, and the project aims to help build the commercial case for increased investment to make this a reality for rural communities.”

As part of the Tech Valleys programme of investment, businesses locating in the area can access office space for entrepreneurs, innovators and companies to co-locate with like-minded professionals focused on growth. This offer is being supplemented by Blaenau Gwent’s exciting new project The Box, which will provide businesses with even greater access to office space, co-working facilities and meeting rooms. The high spec accommodation will make innovative use of shipping containers and has been supported by nearly £500,000 from the Welsh Governments Transforming Towns programme.

Notes to editors

Blaenau Gwent has become the hub for the 5G project – leading on exciting trials such as the latest smart bus and smart parking solutions using ‘real time’ information and Artificial Intelligence. There will also be an immersive classroom bringing a 360 degrees interactive video experience to school and college learners. Investment has also been made in a LoRaWAN ® network which is a key enabler for Internet-of-Things technology and will allow innovators to experiment and develop solutions for smart buildings and towns.

In Monmouthshire, an engaging Augmented Reality tourism offer is being developed at Raglan Castle, which will provide a new and exciting addition to the visitor experience, attracting a new generation of cultural tourists. Productivity and security applications for farms and businesses will also be explored to benefit the rural economy. This will enhance the farm as a workplace by providing real time monitoring and analysis to make life easier and more productive for farmers.

UtterBerry Founder and CEO Heba Bevan OBE said: “UtterBerry is proud to be working on the programme’s 5G project to revolutionise wireless infrastructure in the area to become one of the most advanced in the UK. We also look forward to the broader positive changes the team at UtterBerry will make to the area, including job creation, a more efficient transportation network, enhanced connectivity and automation in rural areas, and real time structural monitoring of historic buildings.”

Using 5G to connect Tech Valleys is unusual, as the rollout of new mobile technology normally starts in cities, but its value is reflected in Welsh Government’s commitment to helping transform businesses, stimulate new jobs and improves public services. The project aims to demonstrate the commercial opportunity for long-term, sustained investment, which lies at the heart of 5G Wales Unlocked, a passion and focus to help build the case for a digital Wales.

Nick Speed, BT Group’s Director in Wales, said: “We’re pleased to be providing the 5G connectivity for this trial and demonstrating what this cutting-edge technology can do. This is a pioneering chance to demonstrate the potential of 5G in a rural setting. Using a localised ultrafast 5G network to power things like artificial intelligence and connected vehicles, we can explore how the latest tech can help improve various aspects of life, from tackling rural isolation, to improving farm security and bolstering the tourism industry. Connected, smart technology has the potential to help rural economies grow and encourage young people to stay in these areas.”