Emerging Tech Fest 2020: “Innovative, exciting, creative”

The diverse and innovative Welsh technology sector converged at Venue Cymru, Llandudno on Wednesday 29th January 2020 for a highly successful Emerging Tech Fest, presented by Technology Connected (formerly the ESTnet), CEMET, KTN and Innovate UK.

The event featured a wide array of exhibitors and speakers drawn from across Wales’ technology sector, showcasing everything from Virtual Reality, Cyber, the Internet of Things, Operational Technology and beyond. Advanced manufacturing was represented by Sheffield University’s new AMRC Cymru facility, while the European Space Agency also had a presence, with regional ambassador Alan Cross presenting on how to gain funding for commercial applications.

A first for the event was the presence of two of the UK’s Catapults. The Catapult network established by Innovate UK is a network of world-leading technology centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation, Both the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult based in Newport and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s AMRC Cymru recently opened in Broughton, were significant contributors to the day..

The Emerging Tech Fest’s mission was to demonstrate to attendees how emerging technologies can be used to enhance businesses, making them more efficient, secure and profitable through real-life examples and hands-on demonstrations – and it delivered.

The action on the main Vision stage was presided over by Gareth Jones, the podcaster and TV presenter (above). Gareth said: “People are utterly focused and getting really valuable information that I don’t think you can get from anything else – Emerging Tech Fest is a unique event. It’s invaluable. If you know about technology this is a great forum to be at to share your knowledge, and if you need to know more this is the place to get your answers.”

Gareth was joined on the stage with a highly knowledgeable line-up of keynote speakers from brands including ENGIE, Centrica, Ipsen UK, Nightingale HQ and Thales UK, as well as panelists from businesses who are implementing these technologies into either their business or their customers. There was also an array of exhibitors in the vibrant marketplace, as well as a series of quickfire presentations from some dynamic businesses and organisations of all sizes on the Pitch Platform. A series of workshops led by Welsh Government and international business advisory giant Grant Thornton took place in the Fringe Area.

 Making headway

A busy day commenced with attendees from across North Wales and beyond arriving unperturbed by the cold January weather.

Alwen Williams, the newly appointed director of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (above) opened the event on the Vision Stage. A native of North Wales, Alwen has recently returned to the area after a career with telecoms giant BT. Alwen said: “The event has been well-supported – it’s been a critical mass of people who can make a real difference for North Wales. If I was to sum up the day, I’d describe it as interesting, innovative, creative, and encouraging.”

The first morning session focused on emerging technologies in manufacturing, a sector which makes an £11bn per annum contribution to Wales’ economy.

Peter Davies, Technical Director at Thales UK and one of the world’s leading experts on cryptography (above) was first to the stage, sharing some fascinating insights and perspectives from the use of cyber security in the Factory of the Future. He was followed by Chief Executive of Nightingale HQ, Steph Locke (below), who discussed the importance of Data and AI in manufacturing, before a panel session featuring the considerable insight of Omron Electronics Gareth Jones, an expert in automation in manufacturing, and Frits Van Calker of RFIDdirect who has expertise in bringing the ‘smart factor’ to production lines.

Between sessions on the Vision Stage, Pitch Platform played host to some compelling presentations, including ESTnet members miFuture, NearMeNow, CSA Catapult, Thales UK and the Wales Technology Award-winning Glyndwr Innovations, Supporting Partner for the event.

Caroline Gray, Director at Glyndwr Innovations (above) said: “What I’m heartened by is the amount of different companies here today. Learning about some of the microbusinesses in the area has been a massive takeaway from today. It’s been exciting, innovative, and most of all, useful.”

The Marketplace played host to a wide range of exhibitors from across all fields of technology. M-SParc, Associate Partner for the event, had one of the more eye-catching stands. Emily Jane Roberts, Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at M-SParc (above) commented. “It’s all about networking! Everybody here has been really getting into it: there’s been a lot of talk, a lot of people getting to know each other, walking round the stands meeting different people and seeing what you can get out of it.“

 Healthy reception

The next Vision stage session focused on healthcare – a key sector for Wales with over 80,000 people in employment with the NHS, and many compelling companies and developments being spun out of the nation’s universities.  New technologies like data science and artificial intelligence are helping people lead longer, healthier lives by doing everything from spotting diseases before they appear, to improving the way we care for the elderly, so this session was met with a sense of real anticipation.

The keynote presentation was delivered by Alison Mason, Upstream Development Manager at Ipsen UK (above), who went into detail regarding her work on delivering improved Botulinum NeuroToxins. Alison was joined by Jim Thurlow, Founder of Firestar Science and Technology; Mark Wilson, Director of Operations at Captivate Systems and Caroline Gray, Director at OpTIC Technology Centre and Glyndwr Innovations for a lively discussion around emerging technologies in healthcare.

Dr Louise Jones, Knowledge Transfer Manager of founding partners KTN & Innovate UK (above) said: “There’s been a nice buzz, and you can hear conversations going on all day and there’s never been a quiet moment.”

Get connected

Over at Pitch Platform, Avril Lewis MBE (above) was unveiling an exciting new direction for the ESTnet, which has evolved into Technology Connected.

Technology Connected will be the united voice of the dynamic, innovative technology sector in Wales, enabling; developing; influencing; innovating and championing on behalf of its diverse membership.

Avril said: “Today’s been a perfect way to really set out what Technology Connected is all about: connecting, people, technologies and markets with each other. You can see that’s definitely been going on today, with businesses and organisations from many different areas of expertise coming together and forging some great connections.”

Meanwhile, fellow founding partner CEMET was demonstrating some of its exciting developments, including a virtual reality application for road safety. Clayton Jones, Programme Manager at CEMET said: “We were approached by a company called Motion Rail who told us the high number of fatalities on level crossings – particularly children. We were asked to develop a virtual reality application to help children traverse a level crossing safely. It puts the children fully immersed in virtual reality, allowing them to learn to cross in a very realistic environment.”

 Getting energised

The subject turned to emerging technologies in energy for the Vision Stage’s final session of the day. Wales is a net exporter of energy, producing twice as much energy as it uses according to Welsh Government statistics, so it is of vital importance to the country’s economic prospects in the future.

The session saw fascinating keynote addresses from Damien Kelly, Solution Development Manager at ENGIE (above, second from right). Last year, the company announced a partnership with Microsoft to implement Darwin, an energy software developed by ENGIE using the cloud services of Microsoft Azure to optimise performance of ENGIE’s wind, solar, and hybrid renewable assets worldwide.

Joining Damien was Peter Sueref, Data Science Director at Centrica (above, right). Damien’s expertise lies in decarbonisation of energy for housing through innovative technologies and business models, while Peter leads a team of data scientists creating the next generation of data products.

 They were joined for a panel discussion by the Amar Abid-Ali, Chief Commercial Officer at CSA Catapult (above, second left) and David Hunnisett, Technical Manager at Scienap (above, left), adding their own expertise in compound semiconductors, power and photonics and energy, informatics respectively.

With the day’s proceedings coming to an end, it was left to host to Gareth Jones, Avril Lewis MBE and Dr Louise Jones, joined by CEMET Director Mark Griffiths and Operations Director at AMRC Cymru Jason Murphy for closing remarks.

Guests departed Venue Cymru full of knowledge and plenty of new connections – it’s safe to say that Emerging Tech Fest gave attendees a lot to think about for the rest of 2020.

 Attendees said…

“I gained a lot more than just listening to speakers – connections, insights, suggestions on apprenticeships and collaborations. Great exhibitions, great networking.”

“We made some good connections and will do business with at least two companies we met today.”

“The format was great, with lots going on in the different areas.”

“I connected with more individuals and companies than I expected. The event wasn’t too big and the information was very useful.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed the event… the host Gareth Jones and speakers were excellent.”

“Fantastic event – met some really interesting contacts. Very well organised.”

View the full photo album of the Emerging Tech Fest on Flickr.