Wednesday, March 7, 2012
INNOVATION IN WALES - 3D EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
Attended by representatives from all political parties as well as celebrities from Gavin and Steacy and our rugby captain Sam Warburton, it was a wonderfully eclectic evening for all present.
However, what was most pleasing to me about the event was the presence of a large number of Wales Fast Growth 50 firms, the companies creating wealth and employment across the economy, including a number from North Wales.
One of those present was Anas Mawla, founder of Gaia Technologies of Bangor. A highly innovative business, it assists schools to make the most effective use of information technology in order to improve learning experiences and provide a more stimulating environment for young people in the classroom.
The story of Gaia is one that many young entrepreneurial graduates today should aspire to. Anas Mawla and his brother Ayad graduated from Bangor University’s Electronics Department where they studied Computer System engineering. Together with Katerina Patochea, herself a graduate of the Bangor University Marine Biology Dept, they borrowed £800 from Katarina’s credit cards and started the business while still enrolled as students.
Today, Gaia employs over 80 highly skilled and talented individuals and is forecasting that its annual turnover growth will reach £24m in the next two years. I recently visited Anas at his offices in Parc Menai and was struck by the commitment of the company to the local region. In fact, the key motivation for establishing a computing business in North Wales was their desire to contribute to where they live by employing and develop skilled IT graduates, as well as using the company to leverage in additional resources and interest to the region.
Such dedication demonstrates that great businesses can be grown anywhere regardless of location and the company is committed to further developments in the Gwynedd area through building on a service that realistically budgeted, innovative and friendly. What was most exciting about the company was the way that they have developed 3D technology for the educational market, with the funding of this innovation coming from Gaia’s own surpluses.
All cinemagoers will know about the 3-D revolution started by James Cameron in his groundbreaking film Avatar. However, the real application of 3-D technology is not in the movies but in education, especially as some subjects are far easier to teach if you can visualise them. As someone who thought he had seen it all, putting on a pair of 3D glasses at Gaia’s headquarters in Bangor was an incredible experience.
In history, you could walk down a street in plague-infested London in 1665, find yourself in the World War 1 trenches or see ancient Rome in all its glory. In science and engineering, there were 3-D depictions of various creatures, the inner workings of a sports car and even the doomed nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan. It is an amazing learning experience that allows students to enhance their understanding of difficult subjects by learning through observation and investigation rather than by instruction. It also helps teachers simplify complex issues making them easier to understand and speeding up the learning process.
Simply put, it is a fantastic technology within a highly innovative business that is currently the World leader in the generation of 3D interactive images for the education sector and, most importantly, is based in Bangor not Silicon Valley!
We should be exceptionally proud of a company such as Gaia that is not only a world-beater, but is committed to the local economy and I am sure we will all be following their developments with interest as they take the best of North Wales out to the World over the next few years.