Wednesday, June 30, 2010


One thing you can say about Leighton Andrews is that he is not slow in coming forward.

His statement yesterday has sent shockwaves of the 8.0 richter scale variety throughout the entire university sector in Wales.

Here is what he said in the chamber yesterday

“Wales has been dogged for years by many institutions which are too small to cut a mark internationally, too small to withstand and respond to the growing pressure of international competition, and in danger of wasting resources competing with neighbours rather than looking out from Wales to win reputation and research income. Currently only 36% of institutions in Wales have an annual income which is above the UK median, a situation that has changed little over many years. Additionally, colleagues will recall the findings of the PWC review that only 48% of university spending went on teaching, research and knowledge transfer, and 52% on support services. Today I am pleased to report that, in response to my remit letter, HEFCW has determined that by 2013 75% of HE institutions in Wales will have an annual income above the UK median, and none will be in the lower quartile. Llywydd, this target does not mean fewer students. But it is likely to mean fewer vice chancellors. We will have significantly fewer HE institutions in Wales but they will be larger and stronger. HEFCW will work with HE institutions to achieve this smoothly and rapidly with my full backing and of the Cabinet”.

So there we have it. The Minister has essentially told the vice chancellors that there will be fewer universities in Wales in 2013 i.e. they have essentially a couple of years to merge with other institutions in Wales.

So what are the potential mergers?

  • Bangor and Glyndwr – would make sense given the distinct geographical region that is North Wales and the business community in the region would be 100 per cent behind a new University of North Wales but as someone who was involved at the highest levels in the aborted merge talks of 2003, I have doubts if this would happen, especially given the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor at Bangor.
  • Bangor and Aberystwyth – would make sense in terms of establishing a rival research led institution to Swansea and Cardiff but this would only work if there was a clear delineation in subject areas across the two campuses as the distance is too great for any meaningful interaction i.e. science and business at Bangor; arts, humanities and social sciences at Aberystwyth. In that case, the Minister had better put a stop to the new Pontio Arts Innovation centre asap.
  • Swansea University and Swansea Metropolitan – potentially this could work but would the research led Swansea University welcome such a move? On the other hand, would the cash rich Swansea Met, which is the very model of an efficiently run institution wish to just hand over its money to a university that is less financially viable?
  • Swansea Metropolitan and Trinity St David’s – this would create a new super vocational university for West Wales, especially if it was strongly linked into the FE sector. However, would the Trinity St David’s focus on becoming the premier Welsh language university in Wales fit with Swansea Met’s aims of a technologically driven city-based institution
  • Glamorgan and Newport – seems most likely as the Minister is keen to push forward further with his University of the Valleys proposal where both institutions have worked closely together. The question, of course, is whether UWIC, which has developed rapidly over the last few years, would also be forced to join this merger and create a super technical university for South East Wales?

Of course, the real question is whether having less institutions in Wales will improve the quality of our institutions. There is certainly no guarantee that the mergers will improve research performance. For example, the University of Wales Cardiff was ranked 8th in the UK during the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise and yet, after the merger with the School of Medicine three years later, had plunged to 22nd in the 2008 research review.

If the Minister is keen to improve the research funding of Welsh institutions, then he should also make the case for Barnetising the research council income which is currently non-devolved. That would bring an additional £40-50 million into Wales every year to strengthen our research base.

There is also the issue that larger institutions are no guarantee of student quality in the long term. In fact, with pressures on universities to save money, the temptation will be to have larger classes and smaller numbers of teaching staff.

Finally, the smaller institutions in Wales tend to be exceptionally well managed financially whilst the larger ones have struggled in recent years. Would merger merely mean that the reserves of the better managed universities would be used to deal with the financial problems of the larger institutions?

Given this, the real question is how the universities in Wales, or more importantly, their leaders, will react to such a strong statement of intent? Many expect them to make some noise at first but eventually quietly capitulate to the plan and therefore ratifying the Minister’s earlier statements about the lack of leadership within higher education in Wales.

On the other hand, they could surprise us all and call the Minister’s bluff on the veiled threats to funding cuts for non-compliance and tell him, to use an academic term, to sod off.

After all, universities are independent institutions whose governing bodies should make decisions that are in the best interest of the university, its staff and its students and not for political expediency that suit a Minister who may no longer be in power in 2011.

However, such resistance would only work if the sector acted as one and not as individual institutions that act only out of self interest. Indeed, if the universities do go down this latter path, then the Minister may have inadvertedly succeeded in making the sector stronger for the benefit of the Welsh economy, but not in the way he envisaged.

Perhaps their best defence against mergers is the point that was made yesterday in the Western Mail when it was proposed that the number of councils in wales should be cut.

The response? "Reorganisation is hugely expensive and bearing in mind the scale of the challenges it is vital that we concentrate all our energies on delivering frontline services and protecting our communities.”

For councils, read universities?

One final point - there is also a political angle to this which no-one has yet mentioned.

Given that all mergers eventually lead to job losses and no guarantee of any improved service to students (which would take years to materialise anyway), could the Labour-Plaid coalition be handing the Liberal Democrats an electoral lifeline in seats such as Ceredigion, Swansea West, Wrexham and Newport East at the next Assembly elections. Certainly, if I were Kirsty Williams or a member of her team, I would start planning part of the next campaign around this very issue.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


In today's Western Mail, Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant states that whilst he is looking for efficiencies across local government, he will stop short of reducing the number of councils in Wales.

I believe this is extremely short-sighted, especially at a time when Wales simply cannot afford 22 local authorities across the nation.

As I wrote back in October 2008,

"there seems to be a growing consensus that we may have too many local authorities in Wales and it is time for another reorganisation, especially as the current number of councils was arrived at in 1994 and did not take into account the creation of a new devolved government in the form of the National Assembly for Wales. For example, some would argue that there is a strong case for only two councils in North Wales, as was previously the case under Gwynedd and Clwyd prior to 1996, as this would ensure efficiencies and economies of scale that would save money and, in the long run, cut council taxes.

Given the current economic crisis, I believe this issue is as critical to Welsh public life as the current convention on further powers for the Assembly. The question is whether the Assembly has the powers to do this and, more importantly, the political will?

Recently, Assembly ministers stated that they did not envisage any local government reorganisation prior to the next elections in 2011. However, as far as I am aware, the 2006 Government of Wales Act states it is the Assembly Government, and not the UK parliament, that is responsible for the establishment of councils. Therefore, with the growing dispute between the two levels of democracy in Wales and growing demand for better use of public funds, it may be time for AMs to bite the bullet and put such an argument to the Welsh electorate. Certainly, it would finally give us a system of government at a local and national level that reflects the new Wales."

I am surprised that Carl Sargeant, given his strong opinions, has not called for a reduction in the number of local authorities in Wales and that he uses the excuse that of a "high one-off costs of a full-blown reorganisation".

If he were to keep senior executives in gold plated posts, as his colleague Edwina Hart did recently with the reorganisation of local health boards, then of course the costs would be high post-reorganisation. However, if he could show the long term cost benefits to the public purse, then I am sure such a reorganisation, if it provided a real long term settlement for Welsh local government for a generation, would work.

Perhaps it does not suit the political ambitions of the Labour Party to see the number of councils reduced to eight or nine across Wales. Alternatively, could this create a number of mini-Assemblies with the local clout to challenge the main body down in Cardiff Bay?

Given the reluctance by Labour to fully implement a change, I wonder if any of the other political parties in Wales will have the courage to make the reduction in local authorities a key policy at the next Assembly elections?

At the very least, they could call for a review of the situation to ensure that expert opinion, rather than political expediency, advises any future decision on the role of local government in Wales.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University has just released another important report which should be of significance to policymakers in Wales.

Entitled "The Seaside Tourist Industry in England and Wales Employment, economic output,
location and trends", it examines the myth behind the decline of British seaside resorts and, significantly, has some pertinent facts about the situation here in Wales.

In Wales, 20,800 jobs are directly supported by seaside tourism, which generates around £280 million in economic output every year.

During the last decade, seaside tourism employment has, contrary to popular myth, actually increased by 1,300 jobs in Wales. However, this is modest compared to the South West of England, which has experienced for more than half of the estimated growth in seaside tourism jobs in England and Wales.

Th principal seaside resorts in Wales (i.e. places with a population of at least 10,000 where seaside tourism is a significant component of the local economy) remain Llandudno/Colwyn Bay/Conwy (4,600 seaside tourism jobs) and Rhyl/Prestatyn (1,900 seaside tourism jobs).

However, one mustn’t forget that much of West Wales (both North and South) is highly dependent on seaside tourism as the main source of private sector employment and wealth creation.

For example, seaside tourism share of direct employment within some of these towns as a percentage of all jobs is as follows:

  • Borth (73%)
  • New Quay (59%)
  • St David’s (57%)
  • Abersoch (57%)
  • Tenby (53%)
  • Barmouth (49%)
  • Saundersfoot (49%)
  • Harlech (44%)
  • Porthmadog (43%)
  • Benllech (34%)
  • Criccieth (33%)
  • Aberaeron (29%)
  • Pwllheli (23%)
  • Fishguard (21%)
This, of course, does not take into account the number of indirect jobs which are, in turn, dependent on seaside tourism, and the authors also speculate that, through indirect jobs, multiplier effect of these jobs and other factors, there may be up to a further 40,000 jobs being generated within Wales as a result of seaside tourism.

Hopefully, I will have time to examine the individual implications for each of these towns at a later date.

According to the report, there are a number of important conclusions for the Welsh seaside tourism industry. First of all, it suggests that, unlike popular myths, the Welsh seaside tourist industry is not in the terminal decline painted by the popular press, although some regions, such as the South West of England, seem to be doing better than us in terms of job creation.

More importantly, it shows that, far from being on its last legs, the seaside tourist industry is still alive and well and, handled appropriately, should probably have a long future too.

As the authors state,

“What the figures in this report show is that the large British seaside tourist industry is deserving of policy attention – and probably support – in its own right. The industry is an important national asset. Furthermore, in so far as British seaside resorts are in competition with destinations abroad (which must to some extent be the case) an extra visitor to the British seaside rather than abroad is good for the national economy as whole. Because air travel carries a large carbon footprint, an extra UK visitor to the British seaside is also likely to be good news for the environment. That a large seaside tourist industry has survived and adapted should be good news, not just for seaside towns but also for UK plc. The challenge is to ensure that it delivers its full potential in the coming years”.

And for UK PLC, read Wales PLC too. The question is what our politicians and policymakers are going to do to ensure a sustainable future for an industry that remains critically important to some parts of Wales that would find it difficult to attract other types of jobs in the future.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


In a visit to North Wales last week, the Labour leadership candidate David Milliband allegedly

"emphasised the need for an alert, fighting opposition keen to protect Wales’ vital manufacturing base and the future of companies like Airbus.

Perhaps someone in his entourage should point out to him that the relative importance of manufacturing to the Welsh economy actually rose from 27 per cent to 28 per cent during the last Conservative administration between 1992 and 1997.

In contrast, it had declined to 18 per cent of the nation’s economic output since Labour came to power in 1997.

That is probably the most damning indictment of Labour’s economic and industrial policies in Wales during the last twelve years.

Whilst manufacturing grew by 31 per cent in the five years between 1992 and 1997 under John Major's Government, it has shrunk under the three consecutive Labour Governments we have had since.

I fully expect Peter Hain's rewriting of Welsh history to continue but you would expect that the favourite for the leadership of Her Majesty's opposition would at least get his facts right before making public utterances that undermine his credibility.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Much of the focus from Tuesday’s budget has been on those measures, such as the increase in VAT, that George Osborne has put into place to deal with the economic mess left by the last Labour Government and to cut a government deficit that is currently running at 12.7 per cent of GDP, the largest of any major economy.

What many commentators on the left of the political spectrum seem to have conveniently ignored is the simple fact that if you spend more than you can earn, then those lending you the money will charge you interest on those borrowings and this will accumulate over time, much in the same way that an unpaid credit card will accumulate interest payments on any outstanding capital.

Therefore, running high deficits every year since 2001 - when Gordon Brown abandoned the previous Conservative government’s fiscal plans - has left us with an overall debt of a trillion pounds, on which we currently pay over £44 billion in interest every year.

The Labour Party and its supporters seem to conveniently ignore the fact that if George Osborne had kept to the previous government’s spending plans, the interest paid to service the government debt would have increased to over £70 billion by 2015. To put this into context, that is equivalent to twice the amount raised by corporation tax every year, more than twice what the UK Government spends on social services and nearly five times the annual budget of the Welsh Assembly Government.

In addition, any failure to deal with the ballooning public sector would have inevitably have led to those who are lending the money to the UK, as has happened to other European countries who had failed to deal sufficiently with their deficits, to downgrade the UK’s credit rating.

As a result, the interest rates at which the government pays the debt would then have risen, much in the same way that a bank charges those businesses that it considers to be at risk certain percentage points above the base rate. This would cost the economy tens of billions of pounds in extra interest charges, thus compounding the problem and sending this country into a serious depression.

Under such circumstances, did the Chancellor have any alternative? Clearly those in the Labour Party who have encouraged a growth in the public sector paid for by increasing government debt over the last decade think not. Certainly it has become politically expedient for the Labour Party to complain about the potential loss of jobs in the public sector but compare that with their silence during the recession when over 45,000 jobs were lost in the private sector in Wales.

Like those who keep spending on a lifestyle that they cannot afford, they keep pretending that everything is fine, that they can continue to increase their outgoings without any consequences for their actions, forgetting that not only is the debt on that interest owed increasing but there comes a time when that money will have to be paid back.

That is the reality of the situation. Whilst the Welsh branch of the Guardinistas may not agree with Osborne’s decisions, a YouGov poll taken after the budget showed that 53 per cent of the general public believe that the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the deficit will be good for the economy as opposed to 28 per cent who think it would be bad for the UK.

Perhaps the boldest move in Osborne’s budget, and one that has been conveniently ignored by left-leaning commentators in Wales and elsewhere, has been those changes to ensure that the private sector is given every support to replace government as the driver of the economy and create jobs and prosperity over the next five years.

For example, these include a corporation tax reduction to 27 per cent next year and which will be cut by one percentage point a year for next three years to 24 per cent. This compares to a corporation tax rate of 33 per cent for France, 30 per cent for Germany and 37 per cent for Italy. This will give the UK, with the exception of Ireland, the most competitive tax regime in the whole of Western Europe and yet again ensuring that this country becomes a magnet for inward investment as the world economy recovers.

Secondly, there is the reduction in small companies’ corporation tax rate cut to 20 per cent, reversing the increase to 22 per cent intended under Alistair Darling’s last budget. With over 4.7 million small businesses in the UK, it is clear that government needs to ensure that firms can invest more of their income in their own development rather than taking that money away from them. In previous recessions, small firms have been the engine of employment growth and this new fiscal policy will boost this potential at a time when it is needed the most.

Those who are ready to take the risk and start their own business have also been given a major incentive with the 10 per cent Capital Gains Tax rate for entrepreneurs extended to first £5 million of qualifying gains. The Chancellor will also offer new firms based outside the three most prosperous regions in the UK a £900 million tax break. This means that any new venture set up outside London, the South East of England and East England will not have to pay employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the first ten employees taken on during its first year in business.

Apart from the fact that this will help those starting a business through the critical first twelve months of development where cash is key to survival, this groundbreaking measure will be the first time in living memory where a UK Government has applied its fiscal policy on a regional basis, a measure that may begin to address the widening regional disparities in wealth that have grown under thirteen years of a Labour Government.

Whilst those are the headlines for the business side of the budget, there are other important measures hidden away in the Treasury’s published document.

These include increasing the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) facility (which supports lending to viable small businesses that lack sufficient collateral or the financial track record to access a normal commercial loan) by £200 million, which will support additional lending of up to £700 million for small businesses until 31 March 2011. The Government will also continue with the proposed £237 million Enterprise Capital Fund to support small businesses with high growth potential and provide an extra £37.5 million in equity finance.

A Green Paper on business finance will be published before the summer recess that will consider the broad range of finance options for businesses of different sizes including bank lending, equity and corporate debt. There will also be detailed proposals put forward, after the Autumn spending review, to create of a Green Investment Bank to help the UK meet the low-carbon investment challenge, and the government will consult with business to review the taxation of intellectual property, the support R&D tax credits provide for innovation and the proposals of the Dyson Review.

These are all measures that can make a real difference to the engine room of the UK economy over the next five years, namely the business sector.

In Wales, those in power have a simple choice. They can either complain from the margins whilst the rest of the country gets on with dealing with this budget or they can create a clear and constructive strategy that will take advantage of the opportunities to grow the Welsh economy.

Let’s examine the reductions in corporation tax and the potential benefit to the Welsh economy. During the last few weeks, there have been rumours that International Business Wales will be a sacrificial lamb when WAG’s Economic Renewal Programme is launched at the beginning of next month. If this is true, this is exactly the last thing the Welsh economy needs when the UK Government is using corporation tax reductions as a magnet to attract inward investment, especially given the demise of the regional development agencies in England.

We should also be taking advantage of other schemes for the benefit of Wales. Why, for example, can’t WAG agree a target for Welsh banks to engage with the Enterprise Guarantee Fund and bring in its own public development bank, Finance Wales, to support this programme? Why can’t WAG ensure that we take full advantage of the £270 million available for high growth companies through the Enterprise Capital Fund. Through my involvement with the Fast Growth 50 for the last 12 years, I know that there are plenty of high potential Welsh companies that need funding for further growth and development. If fifty firms can generate an additional £300 million of sales in two years and be responsible for 15 per cent of all private sector jobs in Wales, imagine what they could do with the right financial support.

Wales also has a real opportunity to become the primary “green region” for the UK. As the Centre for Alternative Technology stated earlier this week, thousands of jobs for young people can be created in the cleantech sector and again, we must ensure, through representations from Cardiff Bay and Westminster, that Wales is perfectly placed to take advantage of the Green Investment Fund.

Finally, George Osborne has promised a review in the autumn of measures to help rebalance the Northern Irish economy, which would "examine mechanisms for changing the corporation tax rate". Given that this comes on the back of a report prepared by a group of Northern Irish economists, isn’t it time a similar case was made for Wales from across the political spectrum. The IWA itself could co-ordinate such a critical review during the next few months. After all, a precedent has already been established by this government for regional fiscal policy with the reduction in NICs for new firms so why not extend this to other instruments such as corporation tax.

Therefore, for Wales, the choice is simple.

We can either continue to complain from the sidelines and become increasingly marginalised within the UK economy or we can grasp the opportunities presented to us firmly in both hands and use these to develop an entrepreneurial innovative economy fit for the 21st Century. Given the fact that successive Labour Governments at both Cardiff Bay and Westminster have ensured that the gap in economic prosperity between Wales and the rest of the UK has widened during the last thirteen years, that choice is a no-brainer.

(This article appears on the IWA website, Click for Wales)


Last week, we began the search for the twelfth Wales Fast Growth 50 list, the annual project which celebrates the best of Welsh entrepreneurship by identifying the fastest growing firms in Wales.

However, by its very nature, the Fast Growth 50 project throws up an interesting conundrum for policymakers in Wales?

Currently the generalist approach adopted by the Welsh Assembly Government towards business support is one which focuses on quantity, not quality; one which tries to address the needs of the many and not the few.

Of course, some will argue that we shouldn’t put our efforts into those few companies that grow and it would be better to focus on all of the 200,000 businesses in Wales in terms of developing the economy.

That may seem logical but the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of businesses simply do not grow or, more importantly, want to grow. As a result, focusing only on the wider small business population may not result in greater employment growth at a time when the country needs more jobs to be created within the private sector.

In contrast, high-growth entrepreneurs are the real force behind job creation.

As detailed academic research studies have shown, they have been responsible for some 70 per cent of US employment growth in the early 1990s and a UK study found that 4 per cent of the new firms formed in a given year accounted for 50 per cent of all the jobs created a decade later.

More recently, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that 5 per cent of start-ups create 75 per cent of the jobs in any cohort of small firms.

The Welsh Fast Growth 50 project certainly seems to support this evidence. For example, last year’s 50 fastest growing firms in Wales created around 1900 new jobs, doubling their workforce over two years.

If we take this in context of the entire Welsh economy, government statistics show that number of people employed in the private sector in Wales increased by around 12,000 people in the period 2006-2008. Therefore, last year's Fast Growth 50 were responsible for around 15 per cent of all new private sector jobs in Wales during this two year period, a remarkable achievement that shows the importance of supporting these businesses during a recession.

This demonstrates the massive potential that exists within the Welsh economy, a trend that the Fast Growth 50 project has been observing every year since 1999. Given this, it beggars belief that Welsh policymakers have generally shown a lack of interest in utilising the Fast Growth 50 as a vehicle for encouraging growth within the economy over the last twelve years. That is a shame as these are all great companies that, with the right support, could grow to become world class players.

Whilst the overall turnover will probably decrease this year due to the worst recession since the 1920s, I still expect that this year's FG50 list in Wales will have grown by at least 50 per cent during the period 2007-2009. That would be an incredible achievement given the economic downturn suffered during the last two years and a real testament to the entrepreneurial talent and drive that exists within this nation’s businesses.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Home Sales Drop By Coupon Rate Value After Discount Tax Credit Expired

Home sales of existing homes have fallen in May by over 2 percent. This is no doubt a result of the non existent tax credit incentive that has expired. The drop in sales was 2.2% as if 2.2% of the buyers that were present last month had dropped off the market. The discount or "coupon" for first time home buyers was also dropped from the market. The use of coupons or the coupon rate is known to keep pace @ 2.2%. Hmmmmm....

These home sales figures were of course issued by the National Association of Realtors.

The doom Sayer or analysts as we once knew them are calling for a housing price tumble next month arguing that with out the incentives of the housing tax credit all hell could break out next month.

For those of you who are not familiar with the tax credit it was a 8,000 credit for new home buyers.

From the low in home sales in 2009 we have climbed about half way back up towards the pinnacle.

In my humble opinion this is about right and any more to soon would be to much. Lets face it there were to many sales prior to the housing crash and financial hardship that swept this country.

Also I can only say no duh... with the credit gone folks are gonna be 8000 short in many cases. thus a drop. the drop was at the coupon rate which is kinda logical.

I say stop crying. Yes we miss the government financial incentives. But it is ok.

Another interesting point that i read from AP was that in May 31% of sales were via a short sale.

Interesting point number two was that 46% of home buyers were new home buyers.

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With all the headlines being focused on the increase in VAT in today’s budget, it is easy to forget that if the economy is to grow, then it was critical for George Osborne to put measures into place that will help businesses to create jobs and prosperity over the next five years.

Thankfully, he has taken a leap forward in doing this by cutting the levels of tax burdens on businesses that will, hopefully, help them to develop and, most importantly, create jobs in the economy over the next Parliament.

These include:

  • Corporation tax cut to 27 per cent next year and to be cut by 1 percentage point a year for next three years to 24 per cent
  • Small companies’ corporation tax rate cut to 20 per cent
    10 per cent Capital Gains Tax rate for entrepreneurs extended to first £5 million of qualifying gains
  • Increasing the threshold for employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) by £21 a week above indexation which will mean that the number of employees for whom employers pay no NICs will rise by 650,000.
  • Exempting new businesses which start up in outside of the South East of England, East of England and London areas from paying the first £5,000 of Class 1 employer NICs due in the first twelve months of employment - this will apply for each of the first 10 employees hired in the first year of business

Whilst those are the headlines for business side of the budget, there are other important measures hidden away in the Treasury’s published document.

These include:

  • Increasing the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) facility (which supports lending to viable small businesses that lack sufficient collateral or the financial track record to access a normal commercial loan) by £200 million, which will support additional lending of up to £700 million for small businesses until 31 March 2011. In addition, a processing target of 20 business days will be introduced for all major lenders participating in the EFG.
  • Launching a new Enterprise Capital Fund to support small businesses with high growth potential, a fund which will form part of the existing £237 million programme of Enterprise Capital Funds and provide an extra £37.5 million in equity finance. It will be funded through a £25 million Government contribution and £12.5 million in private co-investment.
  • Publishing a Green Paper on business finance before the summer recess which will consider the broad range of finance options for businesses of different sizes including bank lending, equity and corporate debt.
  • Putting forward detailed proposals, after the Autumn spending review, on the creation of a Green Investment Bank to help the UK meet the low-carbon investment challenge.
  • Consulting with business to review the taxation of intellectual property, the support R&D tax credits provide for innovation and the proposals of the Dyson Review.

George Osborne also promised to look at the corporation tax regime in Northern Ireland and promised a review in the autumn of measures to help rebalance the Northern Irish economy, which would "examine mechanisms for changing the corporation tax rate".

I can only hope that any such review also considers Wales which is, after all, the poorest region in the UK.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Whilst the focus from this week’s budget will be on the reductions in public expenditure, it is worth noting that George Osborne will also offer new firms based outside the three most prosperous regions in the UK a £900 million tax break.

Focusing a pre-election promise on those regions hardest hit by the recession, the Chancellor will announce that any company set up outside London, the South East of England and East England will not have to pay employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the first ten employees taken on during its first year in business

In a long overdue intervention that previous governments have avoided, this will be one of the first taxation measures developed that will directly help those entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a business by reducing their outgoings during the critical first twelve months.

With the Assembly Government calling for a growth in the private sector to combat our dependence on the public sector, this measure could help to stimulate greater levels of new business creation within the Welsh economy, which has declined considerably during recent years.

For example, whilst the average decline in the number of new business births across the UK as a whole between 2004 and 2008 was 3.5 per cent, in Wales it was 19.4 per cent - the worst performance of any region of the UK

This catastrophic decline in the number of new firms being created by local entrepreneurs has had serious consequences for the economy.

In terms of employment, this decline has meant that 6,270 fewer businesses have been created in Wales since 2004, impacting directly upon the number of new jobs within the private sector.

If we assume that each of these ‘lost’ businesses only generates, on average £50,000 of sales every year then, taking survival rates into account, the turnover lost to the Welsh economy has been around £600 million since 2004 (and this was before the recession hit this nation hard).

It is also expected that George Osborne will confirm in the budget the scrapping of Labour's planned increase in employer NICs and propose ‘road map’ to cut corporation tax and the raising of income tax thresholds towards £10,000 by the end of this Parliament.

Given that the reduction in NICs for new firms has been regionally focused, one can only hope that other future tax measures may also focus on those parts of the UK in greatest need of support i.e. those areas that are overly dependent on the public sector and desperately need private sector jobs.

With Wales remaining at the bottom of the UK prosperity league table, any measure that directly helps those managing Welsh businesses cannot come quickly enough

I also hope that George Osborne will consider whether there should be different rates of corporation tax across the regions, as that could stimulate job growth in areas such as the North East, Northern Ireland and, most importantly, for Wales.

The case has already been made for Northern Ireland before the last general election with local economists showing that, with reduced rates of corporation tax, an additional 90,000 jobs could be created in that region (political anoraks can read the recent debate on the subject here).

Alternatively, he could introduce a lower rate of corporation tax for the manufacturing sector, a move that would benefit Wales enormously as we are more dependent on this sector than any other.

It may also encourage overseas companies to relocate to areas such as Anglesey that are in desperate need of employment whilst securing existing manufacturing investments in our industrial heartlands of Deeside and Wrexham.

Certainly, if there are reductions in public sector expenditure later this week, this needs to be balanced by measures to stimulate economic growth, especially within the less prosperous regions of the UK, and these policies to help new firms are definitely a first step in the right direction.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Rhodri Morgan is joining the Western Mail as a weekly columnist and will write for the paper every Saturday.

The former First Minister said that he was looking forward to his new role immensely.

To quote,

“I’m going to take a very varied approach. Some of the time I will be looking forward over the next 10 years and sometimes I will be looking back over the past 10 years, when I’ve been so involved in leading Welsh political life. I’ll also be looking at all the things in Wales that don’t involve politics directly.”

According to the Western Mail, he has never had a newspaper column before.

Having been a columnist for the Western Mail since 2004, it is far more work than you think to come up with a different piece every week.

However, someone who has his amazing memory and the ability to quote every fact under the sun should have little problem in producing something that will be enjoyable to read and well written.

The danger, of course, is that the column will merely become a weekly advert for the Labour Party and the policies of the Welsh Assembly Government. If the former First Minister can avoid that temptation and take a more objective view of Welsh life through his vast experience and knowledge of Welsh life, then the column will be an outstanding success.

One thing I am sure of is that there will be completely differing viewpoints from the Western Mail's two Saturday columnists when it comes to the state of the Welsh economy.

Should be fun!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The search starts today for the twelfth Wales Fast Growth 50, the annual project which celebrates the best of Welsh entrepreneurship.

First published by the Western Mail in 1999, this unique initiative has become firmly established as the list of business success which businesses across Wales aspire to.

Last year’s winning company was Unit Engineers and Constructors Ltd of Pembrokeshire which, since being established in 2004, had grown to an annual turnover of over £17 million in 2008.

Overall, last year’s Fast Growth 50 collectively generated £292 million of additional sales in two years at an average growth rate of 107 per cent, and created over 1900 new jobs.

This demonstrates the massive potential that exists within the Welsh economy, a trend that the Fast Growth 50 project has been observing every year since 1999.

Wales has some great companies that, with the right support, could grow to become world class players.

Since the first publication appeared twelve years ago, 351 firms have appeared on the eleven previous lists published in the Western Mail. Together, these fast growth companies have created around 16,000 jobs and generated over £4 billion of additional turnover into the Welsh economy, much of which is spent on local goods and services.

Whilst I expect that the overall turnover will decrease this year due to the worst recession since the 1920s, I still expect that this year's FG50 list in Wales will have grown by at least 50 per cent during the period 2007-2009.

The 2010 list of the fastest growing firms in Wales will appear in a special supplement, which will be published by the Western Mail on Wednesday, November 3rd 2010.

There will also be a special anniversary dinner which will take place at the Holland House Hotel on October 29th 2010. This exclusive event, which is open to only the award sponsors and fast growth firms, has become one of the most prestigious in the Welsh business calendar and, yet again, promises to be a showcase of the best of Welsh enterprise for all attending.

Awards will be presented to the fastest growing firms in each of the key sectors of the Welsh economy, as well as individual awards for sustainable long term growth.

This year, the award for the fastest growing firm in Wales will be sponsored by Capital Law, one of Wales’ most innovative and forward thinking legal firms.

Last week, I was interviewed by Sion barry, business editor of the Western mail, about this year's competition and other thoughts on Welsh business. The interview is below:


To qualify for the Fast Growth 50 2010 competition, firms should:

- Be independent and privately held (not a subsidiary or branch plant of another company)
- Had sales of at least £250,000 in 2007
- Be based in Wales

Rankings will be based on percentage growth of revenues from 2007 to 2009. The closing date for entries is July 16th 2010.

For further information on how to enter, go to

Monday, June 14, 2010


....comes from Thomas Friedman, the US business columnist.

Writing in the New York Times about what can be done to create jobs that will drag the US economy back into growth, he states,

“Good jobs, in bulk, don’t come from government. They come from risk-takers starting businesses, businesses that make people’s lives healthier, more productive, more comfortable or more entertained, with services and products that can be sold around the world.”

Quoting one of the leading innovation specialists in the World, he goes on to state that this could be one of the best time for innovators for three main reasons:

“First, although competition is increasingly intense, our global economy opens up huge new market opportunities. Second, most technologies — since they are increasingly based on ideas and bits and not on atoms and muscle — are improving at rapid, exponential rates. And third, these two forces — huge, competitive markets and rapid technological change — are opening up one major new opportunity after another. It is a time of abundance, not scarcity — assuming we do the right things with a real national growth strategy. If we do not, it rapidly becomes a world of scarcity.”

It is also worth reading the comments section of the article - full of passion, debate and knowledge that puts the comments sections of UK papers to shame.


According to the latest data from the UK Government, the total value of UK exports for the 12 months ending March 2010 was £231 billion - a decrease of £13 billion (5.3 per cent) compared to the 12 months ending March 2009.

During the same period the total value of exports for England fell by 4.8 per cent to £168.5 billion.

The largest percentage change in the English regions for this period was for the Yorkshire and Humber region that decreased by 10.9 per cent to £12 billion. Scottish exports rose by 3.5 per cent to £14.8 billion, and exports from Northern Ireland fell by 17.4 per cent to £5 billion.

Exports from Wales fell by 16.8 per cent to £8.8 billion, the worst performance by far of any UK region.

I have written previously on Wales’ dismal exporting performance, a situation that WAG is simply not taking seriously.

Instead, the Minister and his policy team seem to believe that international business is simply about about bringing foreign companies into Wales rather than building up the internationalisation activities of those indigenous businesses already here.

Wales, with only 1264 exporting firms in 2010, accounts for only 2.7 per cent of the total number of exporters in the UK.

I would expect, at the very least, for any new economic renewal programme to focus on doubling that figure over the next decade, and ensuring that we at least punch at our weight in terms of export performance.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


According to the IOD, the combination of the small business rate of corporation tax, national insurance, business rates, fuel and stamp duties and renewable energy levies add up to an effective tax burden of more than 40 per cent for small businesses.

Worst still, the report has estimated that the average small business is working to generate profits for the state from January 1st to May 21st every year i.e. nearly five months of profits are being paid to government and not to reinvest in the business or, worst still, to create growth and employment.

Whilst a programme of reductions in public expenditure will no doubt help to bring done the government debt, we also need to ensure that we have economic growth that is driven by those entrepreneurial businesses that can create employment in the private sector at a time when public sector jobs will be reduced.

However, how is that possible when government takes more and more money from the business sector and provides little, if any, incentive, for it to invest to develop its potential?

One just hopes that George Osbourne will listen to these concerns and act accordingly when his budget is announced later this month.

Friday, June 11, 2010


On November 28th 1660, a group of scientists came together in London to hear the young Christopher Wren give a lecture on astronomy. In the discussion that followed, a collective decision was made to form what became the cradle of scientific thought and discovery in the United Kingdom, namely the Royal Society.

Since then, similar societies have been set up in Scotland (the Royal Society of Edinburgh) and in Ireland (the Royal Irish Academy) which were formed to bring together the best scientists in both nations for the advancement and recognition of learning, as well as the promotion of excellence in scholarship and research.

Yet despite the fact that Wales produced world leadership in areas of science and technology that provided the foundation for the industrial revolution, there has never been a national academy in Wales. Indeed, this nation has been alone in the developed world as having no academy of scholars to support its academic, intellectual and civic life.

The absence of such an organisation has meant that the people, politicians, policymakers and businesses of Wales did not have access to well-researched, scholarly and objective advice on issues of key importance in the way that those in other countries do.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case and last month, the Learned Society for Wales was launched in Cardiff.

With sixty founding fellows, presided over by the redoubtable Sir John Cadogan, former head of the UK Research Councils, it is an organisation whose potential contribution to the Welsh nation could be immeasurable, especially as the absence of a learned society in Wales has reflected badly on the country's intellectual image.

It hopes to open a library, publish a journal, award research funding and even conduct research in its own right in areas that are of direct interest to Wales.

The creation of the Learned Society for Wales could not have come at more opportune time. Certainly, in its absence, the Welsh Assembly Government has taken over ten years to decide upon a Chief Scientist. Would it have prevaricated over the appointment of a post to guide science and technology, which is de rigueur in every other modern democratic institution, if the Society had been active?

As its first president noted at the launch, the Learning Society is not only a radical initiator of beneficial outcomes but also a force for inhibiting damaging decisions based only on belief. Indeed, Sir John Cadogan recognised that whilst the Society’s advice might well be ignored, at least its opinions will be there for all to see.

However, probably the most important aspect of the new body is to celebrate, recognise, safeguard and encourage excellence in every one of the scholarly disciplines and in the professions, industry and commerce, the Arts and Public Service.

Only when this is achieved, as Sir John noted in his own inimitable style, Wales should come to widely be seen, justifiably as a Small but Clever country, rather than as a political soundbite.

For Wales, the Learned Society can be a resource to revolutionise scholarly activity across the nation and potentially begin a renaissance in science and technology - the very aims of the first Royal Society over three and half centuries ago.

The fact that Wales has never had its own scholarly association does not detract from the fact that all of its founding fellows have great international distinction and have made their mark globally in their required field.

Indeed, the Learned Society is the perfect vehicle for tapping into the presence both inside and outside Wales of distinguished scientists and technologists of Welsh extraction or affiliation.

Given the absence of any similar organisation to take advantage of the talents of the Welsh diaspora, there is finally a conduit by which those who have left the country of their birth are able to further the ambitions of the Welsh nation.

Last month, the Minister for Education sparked a debate about the role of universities within a devolved Wales.

Whilst some will not agree with his views, I cannot but admire an individual who, unlike his predecessors, is ready to lift his head above the parapet and stimulate a proper debate about the future of Higher Education and its role in the Welsh economy and society.

Certainly, there needs to be a frank and open exchange of views between all sides on this matter. I can only hope that rather than quietly acquiescing to politicians, those leading our universities will finally realise that they need to lead the policy debate about the future of the sector, not follow. Indeed, the question is whether all the universities in the sector can finally come together to defend Higher Education and demand that government works alongside rather than against it or, worse still, ignoring it.

If government, academia and industry can work together as one in small countries such as Singapore, Sweden and Finland to develop some of the most competitive economies in the world, then why not here?

Whatever the leaders of Higher Education do over the next few months to respond to the political challenges, at least the Learned Society will be a formidable defender of Welsh scholarship, learning and research.

As Sir John Cadogan recently pointed out, “Wales has never had an independent champion for - and defender of - those very activities and functions which must surely underpin the notion of Welsh Cleverness. The Learned Society of Wales intends to fill that chasm”.

It may be three hundred fifty years late in arriving but I am confident that the Learned Society will more than make up for lost time in the very near future.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Rumours reach me of major changes at the top of the Department of Economy and Transport.

It would seem that Sharon Linnard, who is de facto “chief executive” of economic development, is being moved sideways to a post within the health portfolio.

Given that there is a general admittance that the economic development department in Wales has, at best, been stuttering to perform properly, is this finally an admittance, by the Minister that things need to change drastically prior to the publication of his ‘economic renewal programme’?

Given that many in the business world in Wales have been highly critical of the way that business support has evolved into a bureaucratic nightmare since the WDA was abolished, one has to ask why it has taken the Minister so long to make these changes?

The question, of course, is whom the Minister will choose to replace Ms Linnard?

If he was really bold, he would go out to general advert and try and attract the best person in the field of economic development. With the regional development agencies under threat in England, I am sure there would be plenty of suitably qualified candidates.

However, with no money left for recruitment and given that “safety first” seems more of a middle name to the Minister than “Wyn”, I fully expect that it will be one of the existing DE&T staff who will be promoted to the post, although given the less than stellar performance by the department during a recession, is that the sort of person that Wales needs to lead the economy into growth during the next few years?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Today, it is reported in the Western Mail that Carwyn Jones will offer “stand up for Wales” and come up with “a positive programme in the run up to next year’s Assembly election”


Is the same First Minister who stood up for Wales last February when Liam Byrne, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated unequivocally that:

“Wales is well funded. Identifiable public spending per head in Wales is 14% above England and in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, the Welsh Assembly Government received an annual average real terms increase of 2.4% compared to the UK average of 2.1%... The Government has no plans to change the Barnett formula.”

If I remember correctly, there was total silence from the First Minister on this matter at the time.

Indeed, it is worth remembering that after thirteen years of power, Labour did nothing to change the current funding system and, despite Gerry Holtham’s review, it is doubtful that a thorough review of Barnett would have been prioritised by Labour in Westminster if they had won the election, as David Jones pointed out last November.

In fact, the First Minister said back in April that “The (Labour) manifesto doesn’t include a commitment to scrap Barnett, but it will have to be considered at a UK level.”

Hardly a commitment to change!

This ambivalence shouldn’t be too surprising as during an interview that Carwyn Jones had with the Times Educational Supplement back in 2007, it was reported that he was “rejecting a review of the Barnett formula, which determines public spending in Wales.

It is also easy to forget that whilst it is easy to condemn the current coalition government for implementing a reduction in budgets, the One-Wales Government had already started a programme of cuts in Wales during the last parliament.

As Andrew Davies warned as far back as February last year, “the years of plenty have come to an end, and we need to be planning for some lean years coming ahead".

Despite this, I don’t remember any of the Labour-Plaid Government at the time, including the current First Minister, “standing up for Wales” and objecting to the £500 million budget cuts that were made to the Welsh budget as a result.

With 133,000 people currently unemployed in Wales, can the First Minister show us how his government has “stood up for Wales” during the two years in which 57,000 more people are without a job as compared to 2008? (and no, I don't include Pro-Act in this).

This is despite the fact that Wales, unlike any other region of the UK with the exception of Cornwall, has been getting an additional funding package of nearly £300 million per annum in European Structural Convergence Funds since 2000.

Let us not forget that Wales, and the UK, wouldn’t be facing the current financial mess if the Labour Party’s policies during the last thirteen years hadn’t led us to a position where we are currently paying interest rate on our national debt that is nearly FIVE TIMES the block grant that the Assembly receives from Westminster every year.

Does anyone really think that if this situation had continued, Wales would be in a better position?

Without immediate action, it is inevitable that the UK would have lost all fiscal credibility with the markets from which it has borrowed hundreds of billions of pounds.

As a result, our credit rating would have been downgraded, the rate at which we pay interest on our loans would have increased, and there would have been even less money in the budget for public spending, especially within Wales.

That is the simple truth of the current situation this country finds itself in.

Of course it is Labour’s job to act as an opposition, but at least there should be a more balanced reporting stance from the Welsh press on the debate surrounding public sector expenditure reductions and the reasons why this situation has come about.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Last week, statistics from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply suggested that the UK manufacturing sector was enjoying a revival and was poised to lead the growth in the country’s economy over the next few years.

As Sir James Dyson noted in a report on revitalising the sector three months ago, it could, if supported properly by government, play a major part in the future growth of the UK economy.

To begin with Dyson suggested that it is critical for the UK economy to rebalance itself away from financial services and property, two sectors which did not generate as much added value as many had suggested.

Who can forget that it was a combination of the two sectors in the guise of sub-prime mortgages that led to the massive financial crisis that brought the global economy to the edge of bankruptcy?

With policymakers now looking for an export-led growth over the next few years, it is clear that manufacturing – which already accounts for half of the UK’s exports – can be doing far more, especially in hi-tech sectors.

Secondly, with manufacturing focused outside the south east of England, any growth in the sector will have a disproportionate effect on the less prosperous parts of the UK, including Wales.

While Boris Johnson may not agree with the downgrading of the financial services sector in the eyes of government policymakers, there is surely an opportunity here to move away from the over-reliance on financial services, which led to a concentration of economic activity in London, and towards a more balanced regional economy.

Finally, and most importantly, creating and supporting the right type of innovative manufacturing business can make us less susceptible to recession in the future.

As Dyson notes in his report: “Whatever it is that creates generic differences between innovators and non-innovators, the consequence is that the former are likely to be quicker, more flexible, more adaptable, and more capable in dealing with market pressures than the latter are.”

Of course, James Dyson isn’t the only one to highlight the importance of manufacturing.

Only last week, the First Minister was speaking about the importance of the sector to the Welsh economy and how the draft manufacturing strategy for Wales will drive the sector forwards.

One can only hope that he is more serious about developing the sector than his Labour colleagues in the last UK government, who presided over a decline in manufacturing from 28 per cent of the Welsh economy in 1997 to 18 per cent of the nation’s economic output.

Despite this reduction in the overall role of manufacturing, it retains a larger role in the Welsh economy than in many other regions. From global giants such as Airbus and Corus to thousands of small companies producing specialist goods across the country, there remains real potential within the manufacturing sector in Wales.

For example, the winner of the 2009 Fast Growth 50 project was the manufacturing company Unit Engineers and Constructors which, since starting in 2004, has grown to a turnover of more than £17m in 2008 and a workforce of 167 people.

Having recently visited its plant in Swansea, it was a delight to see heavy engineering and manufacturing back with a vengeance in Wales.

Given the company’s aim of growing to a £30m turnover within a five-year timetable, it shows that even traditional parts of the Welsh manufacturing industry have a real future if they produce a quality product delivered on time and within budget.

With the 2010 Fast Growth 50 project being launched next week, will another manufacturer succeed Unit Engineers and Constructors as the fastest growing company in Wales?

And could this revival herald a new golden age for manufacturing again?

If companies have the right management, the right products and the right skills in place, and the exchange rate remains competitive to drive export activity, then why not?

More importantly, Wales, with the right support from governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, could be leading such developments given that we have some great manufacturing companies, both large and small, that could help drive forward both the Welsh and the UK economy over the next decade.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Yesterday, Welsh universities warned of an impending crisis because of the shortage of available places in higher education later this summer.

With applications up by a third in some institutions such as Glyndwr University in Wrexham and Swansea Metropolitan University, it has been estimated that there could be tens of thousands of applicants who will be refused entry despite having the right A-level results.

This is because universities, due to funding restrictions, are being stopped by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) from taking on more students despite the surplus in applications.

Indeed, Bangor University has been told to reduce its intake by up to 17 per cent for the next academic year.

What on earth is going on?

Our politicians will scramble to proclaim Wales as a small and clever country and yet the key ingredient for any knowledge economy – the graduates we produce – is being restricted, with the state of the public purse conveniently used as an excuse by those in power.

This is despite the promise by Carwyn Jones to increase spending on education by at least one per cent above Wales' block grant from the Treasury.

Worst of all, it would seem that civil servants within WAG have resorted to an elitist view of higher education, with one stating that if Welsh universities recruited more people, then it would affect their capacity to provide high quality provision.

Incredibly, this follows a speech by the Education Minister who said that universities weren’t doing enough to open their doors to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Of course, when money is tight, spending priorities need to be examined carefully to see whether the funds are being directed in the best way possible.

Let’s take the example of Pontio - the new Arts and Innovation Centre in Bangor.

Having been up in North Wales last weekend and met up with former colleagues at Bangor University, there is widespread disappointment that this 'vanity' project, as one called it, is going ahead when lecturing posts are allegedly under threat. Indeed, the crisis facing the Welsh language departments has been quietly shelved and, as usual, the Welsh press has lost complete interest in pursuing this story further.

In more prosperous times, it could be a worthy project but with £35 million of public funding being given to its establishment, could that money be put to better use in opening up more university places to local North Wales students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, over the next three years?

Yes, that would be a difficult choice but surely, the role of any university, first and foremost, is to educate the young people of this nation?

That is why local working people - quarrymen, farmers, tradesmen - donated money they could barely afford to the public appeal to support the creation of the University of Wales in the late 19th Century.

The birth of devolution promised Wales a bright new dawn but what sort of future will this country have if we reduce the number of university places at a time when an additional 10,000 are being made available in England?

If we prioritise grand buildings before the education of our young people, then what sort of statement does that send out to the rest of the World about our commitment to education?

In Finland, where nearly three-quarters of young people go on to university, the stated aim of successive governments of all political persuasions has been that the welfare of a small nation must, first and foremost, be based on a highly educated and competent population. As a result, Finland is rated by international economists as being on a par with the USA as one of the most competitive nations in the World.

Yes, there are hard financial decisions to be made over the next few years but we must also look to the future of this nation.

If we put our young people first and foremost, then we can surely begin to develop the type of vibrant society and competitive economy that we all want and for which the working people of Wales sacrificed their savings over a hundred years ago.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Having spent the last week up in North Wales with the family, blogging has been light.

With the weather (with the exception of Tuesday) being absolutely fantastic, we had a glorious time.

The day we spent on the beach in Aberdaron (or rather on the outside terrace of the Ty Newydd Inn) was the highlight.

Good friends, fantastic local food, sparkling conversation, wonderful weather and a vista of 'creigiau Aberdaron' but, fortunately no wild waves of the sea!

We were fortunate to have some of our friends from Cardiff up on the Llyn Peninsula with us, but it surprises me how few South Walians actually bother making the journey up to North Wales and instead choose Devon and the hell of the M5 on bank holidays. Certainly, if they had experienced the Llyn Peninsula this weekend, they would even consider going over the border again for their holidays. Yes it is a four hour journey but well worth the trip, particularly given the beauty of mid-wales on a sunny day.

And talking of mid-Wales, I cut my holiday short to attend our first Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship summer school in the sublime setting of Gregynog Hall. With nearly 80 attendees - academics, students and companies - the two day event has been an outstanding success.

We have been fortunate enough to get Steve Brown, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to lead some of the workshops and bring that special MIT magic to the attendees.

With the University of Wales Global Academy having already established an exchange agreement with MIT's Industrial Liaison Programme, we fully expect that all the companies attending this week will be linking up with one of the World's top academic institutions in the near future.

Certainly, our hope of bringing the best of the World to Wales and taking the best of Wales to the World may be finally be gathering momentum.