Archive for September, 2010

Comment about grants in Wales

Posted in Tewdric on September 21st, 2010 by GilesP – 77 Comments

I’d like to echo some of the comments made by Dylan Evans-Jones who wrote in the Western Mail on Saturday about the grant culture in Wales.

In his piece and blog, he’d like to see “case by case consideration for grant applications from all sizes of business in Wales – indigenous and inward investors”.

He says; “If Wales is to succeed, then it needs to support both large and small companies regardless of where they come from.” And I agree but I’d also add that controls need to be put in place when accessing grant funding.

We have state-of-the-art data centres (half-funded by WAG) in Cardiff, and now Newport, that can only be afforded by enterprises such as BT. Surely they should have been designed for smaller companies to co-locate or offer hosted services in this shared facility – or be subsidised for Welsh businesses to access?

It wasn’t that long ago that the entrepreneurs of Wasp IT quite happily pocketed millions of pounds of grant money including from the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund before folding the company and enabling its assets to be bought for a fraction of their value.

Perhaps we should set up a Dragon’s Den-style interview for applicants under the scrutiny of business leaders to conclude what the return of investment will be for Wales should the business be given a grant.

Evans-Jones also makes a very valid point that views need to change within senior civil servants AND businesses that operate in Wales towards grants. We need to stop being so insular to the rest of the UK. Without doubt, the Welsh Assembly could do more to promote Welsh expertise across the rest of Britain to encourage them to buy from Wales but Welsh organisations could, themselves, practice what they preach and build their own Welsh supply chain to help the economy.

As far as I’m concerned there is no clearer example than shown in this week’s Sunday Times supplement, Tech Track 100. It’s a league table compiled by the compound annual growth rate of the past three financial years from successful private limited companies within the technology sector. I hope you are as shocked as I was that, with the grant culture we have in Wales that is supposed to support economic growth, we have a big fat ZERO number of companies on the list!

I can put this down to only two possible reasons; Welsh businesses don’t care about being UK listed as successful (because they aren’t looking outside of Wales for business); or none meet the 3 year average growth rate of over 34% to make the list.

Neither reason is good for the Welsh economy and we must do better.

Ofcom’s Communications Report 2010 features Connect Cardiff

Posted in Connect Cardiff, Tewdric on September 17th, 2010 by TewdricBlogger – Comments Off

The presentation this morning of Ofcom’s Communications Market Report, in the main, brought up some interesting and positive results for Wales as the digital divide between Wales and the UK continues to narrow as Welsh consumers embrace communications services and become increasingly tech-savvy.

Among its findings, the report into the TV, radio, broadband and telecoms industries in Wales,shows that the gap between broadband take up in Wales and the UK as a whole decreased from 10 to 7 percentage points.

Wales has the highest mobile broadband take-up of any nation in the UK (16%), a 5 percentage point increase compared with 2009. South East Wales has the highest proportion of households who use mobile broadband (18%) followed by North and Mid Wales (14%) and South West Wales (12%).

All local telephone exchanges in Wales are now DSL-enabled, meaning that most homes in Wales now have access to a broadband service. However, because of the length and/or quality of the copper telephone wire between exchanges and consumer premises, not all consumers are able to receive downstream broadband speeds sufficient for many internet applications.

Broadband ‘not spots’ typically arise when the length or quality of copper telephone lines is not sufficient to support speeds via DSL broadband which are much higher than those available through ‘dial-up’ internet access. Generally, ‘not spots’ are most likely to arise in rural areas where there can long distances between homes and the local exchange.

However, this can also be the case in some urban areas, for example when new housing developments are built on the edges of towns and are served by telephone exchanges in town centres.

 The previous UK Government’s 2009 Digital Britain report estimated that around 11% of UK households were unable to get a broadband service with a downstream speed of 2Mbit/s or more. This is the connection speed the report believed was necessary to stream a TV programme and watch it online. However, Ofcom’s research into broadband speeds (conducted in association with SamKnows) found that there was very large variation in the performance delivered to a panel of over 1,500 residential broadband users. Around a third (34%) of those on ‘up to’ 8 or 10Mbit/s DSL packages, received average speeds of less than 2Mbit/s.

 The Welsh Assembly Government announced in July the Broadband Support Scheme to help individuals, businesses and communities find a solution for their ‘Not Spot’ areas. The £2million pot of European funding enables applicants to receive up to £1000 towards the infrastructure costs.

 Whilst this is going to provide a solution for some, £2 million is expected to go quite quickly with over 1500 people registered on the Not Spot list and it will be interesting to see the figures this time next year.

 Click here for the section of Report that mentions Connect Cardiff