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Digital future a ‘game changer’ for Wales

27 September 2019

Launch review Phil Brown
(Left to right): Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport; Professor Phil Brown; Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport, and Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government

A Cardiff University professor who led a Wales-wide review of digital innovation is calling for far-reaching reforms to deliver economic transformation for a better future of work.

Professor Phillip Brown, Distinguished Research Professor, School of Social Sciences, chaired an Expert Panel of influential business leaders, academics, practitioners and entrepreneurs in digital innovation.

The Digital Innovation Review was commissioned by the Welsh Government to explore the opportunities and challenges presented by digital innovation and their likely impact in Wales in the future.

Published by Welsh Government, the final report sets out what practical and long-term actions Wales can take to meet the challenges of digital innovation and the opportunities they present.

It is being predicted that developments in technology will make a major difference on the way we live and work. The findings of the report explore how advancements in automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things and large-scale data will have an impact.

Recommendations in the review include the possibility of establishing an Artificial Intelligence Institute for Wales and strengthening analysis on demand for skills and future job opportunities.

“I hope this report acts as a catalyst to ignite a national conversation on what digital innovation means for the people and communities of Wales, not just the high-tech innovative businesses of the future.”

Professor Phillip Brown Distinguished Research Professor

The Expert Panel recommends Welsh Government should:

  • Support the creation of six Industrial Innovation Clusters (IICs) to develop Industrial Transformation Roadmaps (ITRs) that identify current strengths and potential digital innovation at a regional, national and international level.
  • An AI Institute for the Future Economy to help Wales position itself as a globally digital nation and facilitate a more integrated approach to the application of leading-edge research in AI across Wales.
  • Integrate existing business, skills and innovation support to form a single business diagnostic and transformation process, and ensure the Welsh Government and its agencies have the appropriate expert capacity to support the transformation needs of both service-based industries.
  • Align the Welsh Government’s International Strategy and marketing activities to the principles of Wales 4.0 and the six IICs, as part of an outward looking approach to ensure Wales’ international engagement work is supported by more sophisticated data analytics and real-time information which can identify potential international partners and networks.
  • Conduct a range of reforms aimed at building capacity within post-compulsory education to deliver the step-change required in preparing for work in an age of lifelong learning.
  • Substantially increase the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund to support a series of Smart Places Wales demonstrators aimed at mainstreaming new digital architecture to deliver a better quality of working and community life.
  • Establish a new Lab for Work@Wales4.0 to act as a central resource for industry, government and social partners to gain insight on future trends concerning technology and its impact on the economy and work.

Three Welsh Government ministers attended the launch of the report at Tramshed Tech, Cardiff.

Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: “It’s clear that digital innovation will play a huge role in not only ensuring Wales’ economic and work landscape is fit for the future, but that we’re exploiting opportunities new technologies present to continue building an economy that is ambitious, innovative and inclusive for all.

“I would like to thank Professor Phillip Brown, his Expert Panel and all of the organisations and individuals for their work. Their knowledge and expertise has been vital in shaping this report which I will consider very carefully.”

Professor Phillip Brown said: “Digital innovation can be a game changer for Wales but it’s important to remember that technology is not fate. We can only truly harness the positive influence of digital innovation if we adopt a different way of thinking and dare to do things differently.

“I hope this report acts as a catalyst to ignite a national conversation on what digital innovation means for the people and communities of Wales, not just the high-tech innovative businesses of the future.”

Wales is already home to some of the most innovative and highly regarded tech, cyber, fintech and semiconductor companies in the world offering Welsh businesses a new opportunity to be at the cutting edge in using technology to enhance people’s lives.

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