Dylan Jones-Evans finds that the failed Technium initiative highights the need for more effective scrutiny of government policies

June 6th, 2013

The Triple Helix model, where government, academia and industry work together to create a vibrant innovation economy, is one of the new holy grails for policymakers around the world. And over the last three years, a team of researchers at the University of Wales has been examining this process within the Welsh economy and recently completed a series of case studies on this process.

One of the more fascinating examples we examined was that of the Technium programme. This was established at the beginning of the last decade to provide office space and support for high technology firms to commercialise university research and turn this into thousands of highly paid jobs within technology-based firms in Wales.

Unfortunately, such ambitious plans did not materialise and whilst ten Techniums were built across Wales at a massive cost to the public purse, they ended up largely unoccupied and expensive to maintain. Indeed, an evaluation of the Technium programmes carried out by the consultancy firm DTZ revealed that each job generated by the project cost an average of £190,000 of public money and occupancy rates at the Pembrokeshire Technium were as low as four per cent.

Given this, and after much consideration, the Welsh Government finally pulled the plug on the initiative in 2010 and closed six down. So what went wrong?

Whilst there have been various critiques of the Technium concept from academics and business people, perhaps the most detailed comes from the evaluation by DTZ which noted a number of key flaws to the whole concept.

The first was the lack of any clear rationale for the roll-out of the programme beyond the first incubator in Swansea. One has to wonder why the Welsh Development Agency had then gone ahead with building Techniums across Wales before a ‘working prototype’ had been fully tested?

Secondly, there were no explicit objectives for the Technium programme and it would seem that the only rationale was to build as many of these as possible before the European funding ran out. Certainly, there seemed to be little consideration of whether there was demand, either from the local business community or from the universities, for this type of building. This particular critique, from the Western Mail in 2005, seems to hit the nail firmly on the head as to the serious problems in the programme event then.

Thirdly, it would seem that the monitoring and evaluation of the programme by Technium managers was practically non-existent which, given that many of those involved had very little experience of managing such projects, is not surprising.

But it would also seem that this failure on the ground was not noticed by those higher up within the system. As the former Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies pointed out, civil servants at the time did not keep Ministers informed on the performance of the programme or on major decisions being taken which led to serious issues over its management.

Finally, occupancy rates were low and the provision of business support and its take up was minimal which would be expected if, as critics have pointed out, Techniums were actually not in any way innovative in their concept or, more importantly, in their execution.

Whilst space within each property was targeted towards innovative businesses, there was no real support provided on site to any of the firms located there, which is a critical element of what we see within successful incubator programmes around the world where financial and management advice is as important, if not more important, than the physical space in which the companies are based.

In fact, the recent success of cheap entrepreneurial spaces such as Indycube across Wales shows that spending a fortune on buildings is not the way to develop more entrepreneurial businesses, especially when it was clear that there was actually little connection between the Techniums and the wider innovation system in Wales.

So was it a waste of money? Cardiff University’s Professor Kevin Morgan thinks so. As one of the more strident critics of the whole Technium programme, he believes that the question remains as to why there has been no public inquest into the “failure of an experiment that cost around £111 million”. And he has a good point, given some of the exaggerated claims made by some over the alleged success of Techniums that are now seen to be, at best, misleading.

I suppose if we had seen a Google or a Nokia emerging from one of the Techniums during the last ten years, the failure of the rest of the programme would have been forgotten. But that was highly unlikely to happen when there was preference in spending nearly a hundred million pounds of taxpayers’ money on shiny new buildings rather than focusing on attracting the best scientists to Wales whilst, at the same time, encouraging a greater entrepreneurial spirit amongst students and graduates as they do in the great universities of Stanford, Cambridge and MIT.

Ten years ago, in a speech at a science and technology conference at the Celtic Manor, I questioned whether Wales “had enough science to commercialise within its public and private sectors that will fill all those Techniums with high technology businesses that will take make Wales a smarter wealthier nation?”

In fact, I said then that it was pointless concentrating public funding on commercialisation activities whilst the R and D base in academic institutions and private sector organisations was declining or at best, standing still. In the end, you cannot commercialise technology if there is little relevant technology to commercialise.

That is what those who put the Technium concept together at the time forgot but what is thankfully now slowly being rectified through programmes such as Ser Cymru that aims to attract the best brains in the World to Wales.

The shame is that it took a decade and nearly a hundred million pounds to learn that lesson but it is one that I hope the Welsh Government will take to heart from the failed experiment of the Techniums as it looks to implement its new innovation strategy over the next few years.

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Professor Dylan Jones-Evans is Director of Enterprise and Innovation at the University of Wales and Chairman of the Welsh Conservatives' Economic Commission.

27 Responses to:“Learning lessons from Welsh flagship policy”

  1. Steve Davies says:

    Cardiff criticises Swansea, and displays a photo of Swansea University Technium to highlight the fact. What a shock. Or is it a strange form of jealousy? The author, Dylan Jones-Evans, is the perfect example of the carping, no-action ‘professional’ types who strangle development in our nation. Constant criticism achieves nothing Dylan. Added to this we have Kevin Morgan, another who relishes in sniping from the sides. It is not woolly moaning that our nation requires gentlemen. It is answers and solutions to some of the structural problems that centuries of British nationalism, which the aforementioned two wholeheartedly support, has brought. Add in rampant, exploitative capitalism and no wonder we are a ‘basket case’, as Professors Jones-Evans, Morgan, and their City-Region friends, take pleasure in labelling us whenever they are allowed media space. Time to grow up, glimpse the real world, and move on. Techniums aren’t / weren’t perfect, but they were at least a practical effort to implement change. Take a note you ivory tower residers!

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  2. David says:

    Wot! No mention of Finland which the Prof likes to hold up as a shining example. He does mind you manage to slot in their most well known of companies ie Nokia. Wales will never have a strong economy when politicians like Prof D J-Evans view us as a mere appendage to England. Finland learnt that lesson years ago ie being ruled my a larger neighbour was not good for it’s national well-being. It’s a shame Prof Evans cannot learn this salutary lesson from them.

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  3. Jon Jones says:

    A quite amazing outpouring of vitriol there Steve Davis. Dylan Jones-Evans, although I don’t subscribe to all that he says, is nevertheless one of the few people analysing exactly how we conduct our attempts at enterprise generation.

    The truth of the matter is that we in Wales cannot afford insularity and yet, at every turn, we hear Nationalists trying to close down the border of Wales and block the arrival of those people who might bring all sorts of valuable expertise. It is naive to think that we can just “Build it and they will come” in the technical field forward thinking countries buy brains not bricks and mortar……just as the USA collected German rocket scientists after WW2.

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  4. Jacques Protic says:

    Prof Jones-Evans does have a valid point based on my experience from nearly a life time in innovation and science. The Welsh Government does not understand the real needs of people who often put everything on the line to move forward innovative ideas or concepts. Having fancy premises demanding commercial and market rate rent with little or no support in areas that matter was doomed to failure right from the outset.

    Also, I do not share Steve Davis’s views as stated in his comment and the issues Prof Jones-Evans raised should not be seen as Cardiff versus Swansea. People should take heed and a reality check that under the existing academic structure Wales has little to offer in terms of ground breaking innovation in any field.

    As it stands now in Wales, and for that matter throughout the UK’s academia, any intellectual property developed by individuals in the said institutions is strictly in the domain or the ownership of each University, therefore little incentive for hard pushed academics to make a real effort as there are many conflicting issues that they need to address, balance and see to.

    For any innovation to have a value it needs to have patent protection and the costs involved in protecting intellectual property are huge. Whilst the Welsh Government does understand this there is very little in terms of tangible help certainly for individuals acting or working outside academia.

    The Welsh Government should understand that most Intellectual Property developed in academia is often in form of largely unproven concepts but with good probability that it has a ‘market potential’ and is often sold to the commercial world on the cheap. Again, because there is no funding to move the concepts to ‘nearly market ready’ as this would cost huge moneys by any standards.

    Don’t have time to write an essay on this but if Wales wants to create a culture of innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship it needs to plug the funding gap for the Intellectual Property (IP) protection and also give incentives to academics to share in any benefits of the IP they may have developed whilst in employment of their respective Universities – All other considerations in my view are secondary in terms of importance!

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  5. Steve Davies says:

    Jon: As someone who has run businesses and developed products across Europe and Asia, I get completely fed up with the negativity that our so-called academic experts pour forth on a daily basis. Similarly, the anti-Welsh attitude of many contributors to Click on Wales is startling. As I mentioned earlier, we have to look at practical ways to implement change and the Techniums at least attempted this. What we need to do is think in the Welsh national interest; something I know that many people in Wales find abhorrent. But this approach to taking national expertise and enthusiasm, and then interacting with the rest of the world, is the norm in most economically developing countries. Sadly, the naysayers in our nation are deliberately blocking our progress for ideological reasons.

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  6. Jon Jones says:

    I take it that you are the Steve Davies who was director of Swansea Technium and therefore feel that there is some personal slight intended by Prof. Jones Evans. Nevertheless, you don’t come across as the sort of person with an attitude which would be an asset to diplomatic relations with the world… and certainly not Britain. The impression I got was that you couldn’t come to terms with the failure of a project that you were responsible for, disliked Britain and Capitalism and were lashing out at some justified criticism.

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  7. Steve Davies says:

    Totally incorrect on all counts Jon. I have never worked for Technium, and have no links with those organisations, but I am a succesful business man who is proud to be Welsh – oops, sorry! I should apologise – and I have worked suuccesfully across the globe, by adhering to ethical codes of business and commercial practice. I enthusiastically promote Wales wherever I go – again I apolgise – and I have also financially supported many Welsh ‘start ups’. I am deeply sorry that you find this so distasteful.

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  8. A Banker says says:

    The facts surrounding this project are simple and were spelt out over 6 years ago. For those interested might I suggest you follow this link;
    http://www.assemblywales.org/commercialisation_in_wales_-_gibson_review.pdf
    This takes you to the Report prepared by the Independent Task and Finish Group that reviewed commercialisation of IP in Wales. Paragraphs 17 to 22 are key.

    The Technium programme cost a lot of money, certainly in excess of £85 million, although it is difficult to say by how much precisely because the relevant performance data was not collected. As conceived Techniums had merit but instead of an intellectual property play they became a property play. This was the wrong approach and as a result the Group concluded “progress in meeting the intended objectives has been mixed” and “quality of advice and support given to companies….appears more apparent than real.”

    There is not much more to say, other than to add in response to Steve Davies’ comments I am sure Kevin Morgan can look after himself but should he care to cast doubt on the commercial acumen of the team behind the Task and Finish Group Report and therefore its conclusions he might like to reflect on this. All the members of the Group have excellent commercial credentials. Indeed the Group’s Chair is a member of a small world class team that has created over $10(Canadian) billion of value through its founding of and support for technology enterprises.

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  9. Dylan Jones-Evans says:

    Thanks for some of the comments above, especially from the Banker who has hit the nail firmly on the head. In fact, the chair of the task and finish group he mentions was on the same platform as myself at the Celtic Manor conference a decade ago and, as you can imagine, we had an interesting discussion on the subject!

    Unfortunately, I have had several emails and texts today suggesting that Steve Davies is not in fact who he says he is and that the comments above actually come from someone associated closely with the development of the Technium programme and who is, not surprisingly, not happy at the contents of the article.

    One said that he could only admire Steve Davies for getting up at 7.47am to post a detailed comment on a project that he has never worked for and claims he has no links with. Another was in awe at his ability to be able to name the Swansea University Technium within the picture above when many of us wouldn’t have a clue what it looks like!

    Naturally I said that was unfair and that anyone who believes in the Technium network would only be too willing to put their name to such comments. However, in order to settle this argument and reinforce my faith in human nature, I will put up £100 for a charity of his choice if Steve Davies is prepared to let us have the names of all of the businesses he has run over the years as well as the ‘many Welsh start-ups’ he has funded. I think that would at least put to bed the doubts of some of my colleagues over what seems to be a genuine concern over my article on the Technium programme.

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  10. Mark Jones says:

    It is remarkable to observe how the acolytes of the British State all rally round and slap each other on the back. It is this attitude that has kept our nation down for decades. Though they pretend to disagree, Labour and the Tories will always back each other, as we’ve come to expect since the ‘years of consensus’. As an active, and moderately successful, entrepreneur, who has tried as much as possible to stay clear of the Cardiff Bay ‘Old Boy’ network, I have always maintained that our greatest asset is our people and our ideas. Wales is bursting with talent but there are too many people living here who disparage it at every moment, and there are those academics and policy experts who wouldn’t know macro from micro. I’ve been in their company on a few occasions and they genuinely frighten me with their antediluvian centralist perspectives.

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  11. R.Tredwyn says:

    Yeah. The techniums were a grade one cock-up and it doesn’t matter that the intentions were good. We can’t afford to chuck away £85 million just because someone meant well. Cardiff versus Swansea has nothing to do with it. The Welsh government is going to repeat the folly in Cardiff by building office blocks – it has just announced as much. This policy is based on the same in-depth analysis and market research as the techniums, i.e. none. The real trouble is we have a bunch of incompetents in government who cannot be removed because of the tribal voting patterns of the Welsh electorate. I’m a life-long Labour supporter who has to admit that Wales needs to chuck Labour out. Any alternative would be better than a one-party state.

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  12. Robin says:

    Steve Davies certainly does not speak for Swansea on the Technium projects and many of us associated with Swansea University remain embarrassed that we were intricately involved in this fiasco.

    The question that should be asked is whether the Institute of Life Sciences is also a white elephant ready to fail? As it was developed and managed by some of the same people who put the Technium concept together, it would not be a surprise to anyone working in Singleton Park that it also turns out to be a waste of money. One can only hope to god that these ‘visionaries’ do not become involved with the second campus.

    Kevin Morgan is spot on. It is incredible that there has been no formal inquest into the waste of the millions of pounds of European funding on the Technium project. It is high time for one of our Assembly members to call for such an inquest. The £100m wasted on these vanity projects makes the spending on the martial arts centre in north Wales pale into insignificance.

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  13. Robin says:

    Unfortunately, it would seem that Swansea University is still peddling the Technium concept around the World through its “international icons”

    http://benanews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/international-visitor.html

    (Report comment)

  14. Danny Boyo says:

    The Technium farce was called out years ago:

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/incubating-pros-and-cons-2391365

    (Report comment)

  15. Chris Williams says:

    Dylan Jones-Evans: Professors may have the luxury of lying in bed, and penning the odd article but, in the real world, many people are awake and getting on with their working lives. To insult Steve Davies by implying that his 7.47 entry on this website was somehow abnormal is quite pathetic. Your ensuing comments also smack of Big Bother tactics. Whether you agree or disagree with Steve Davies’ comments, attempting to ‘out’ him and ridicule him shows that you, and the people you claim contacted you, are operating at a fairly shallow and bitter level. Though I am now retired, I worked at several universities during my career, including spells at both Cardiff University and Swansea University. I appreciate the enmity between these institutions and I know that Cardiff, especially, were always keen to disparage anything emerging from Swansea. Ir appears that the IWA, and its coterie of apologists and stiflers, are keen to continue this sad tradition.

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  16. Jon Jones says:

    “The question that should be asked is whether the Institute of Life Sciences is also a white elephant ready to fail?”

    Perhaps you could explain why that might be the case Robin.

    I see that the “International icon” that you refer to above is Prof Marc Clement. What was his relationship to the Technium project…..if any?

    I can only find this recent reference to him:
    “A Swansea University spokesperson said: “We are pleased to confirm that Professor Marc Clement has exercised his option to return to work at Swansea.

    “He played an important and very successful role in helping to deliver the Institute of Life Science,”…………

    “The university declined to comment when asked if his option to return was legally binding. The University of Wales said it was not policy to confirm whether Prof Clement had been made redundant or not.”

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  17. Robin says:

    Dear Jon Jones,

    If you wish to know more, then read this article which explains the role of Professor Clement, in his own words, in the Technium programme.

    http://www.walesworldclass.com/images/chapters_2009/16_Learning%20curve.pdf

    “Quietly spoken and selfdeprecating, Marc Clement refuses to claim the status of world-class researcher. His strengths, he contends, lie in working with others, putting together effective partnerships which can deliver real results. Certainly the close interest he shows in our conversation suggests both respect for the views of others and an inclination towards teamwork. The projects he is most proud of exemplify this partnership approach – setting up the Technium network of business incubation centres (of which there are now ten around Wales); opening the Institute of Life Sciences at Swansea University, during his time there as Chair of Innovation – persuading both the Welsh Assembly Government and IBM to become involved; and developing the Boots Innovation Centre. Marc’s vision for the Technium concept – to support the knowledge economy, to create an environment and culture where people could create businesses – was shared by Stephen Davies of the Welsh Development Agency; together they wrote the bid for a project which, in its first two years alone, attracted close to £50m ofinvestment in the Welsh economic infrastructure.”

    What is the net result of all this vision for Swansea University and Wales?

    Techniums, gone.

    IBM, gone.

    Boots Centre for Innovation, gone

    and the Institute of Life Sciences…

    But we can all take heart that they were “at least a practical effort to implement change” although at a cost to the taxpayer of hundreds of millions of pounds.

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  18. Mark says:

    Just a thought…..

    Buildings don’t commercialise IP….people do. The art of turning some smart IP into a business proposition that can raise money at a price the market will pay is the ultimate challenge and a skill all too hard to find. It takes personal risk, commitment, tenacity, determination, etc as most HE IP is well defined technically but in general far less so commercially. Finding and incentivising people who can turn the smart idea into an investable business proposition is not easy.

    Also, it is almost always the case that when a University “drag out” company exits, (which is rare) its value is nearly always based upon IP created by the company during its development and only rarely on the IP that was originally sourced at the University….. This is not a “straight line” well defined process; in all cases this rule applies “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. I have an insight and the scars to back up my assertion…

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  19. Dylan Jones-Evans says:

    First of all we get “Steve Davies” and now “Chris Williams”. You couldn”t make it up.

    Both of them

    - fail to address any of the substantive issues in the article itself and instead resort to personal abuse
    - assume professional titles such as “successful businessman” or “academic” as if it attaches some credibility to their diatribe. I suppose “project officer” wouldn’t cut it, would it?
    - try and turn the discussion into a completely different debate, such as Swansea vs Cardiff, to elicit some sympathy even though neither city have anything to do with the article and seven of the Techniums were in other locations
    - forget the characters assumed need to be credible – i.e. no half respectable businessman would give a toss about the Techniums and very few academics would resort to self abuse by calling a colleague lazy and out of touch with the real world.

    You would have thought anyone who felt so passionately about the Techniums would have no problems about making the case for them publicly but I suppose that’s difficult to do when you’ve p*****d up £100m of public money up against the wall. Perhaps it is time for a full public inquiry into how this mess happened – Vorsprung Durch Technium eh!

    Looking forward to similar contributions from “Steve Williams” and “Chris Davies” tomorrow.

    P.S. the £100 bet still stands but I think my money is safe….

    (Report comment)

  20. Danny Boyo says:

    @Jon Jones I don’t think you looked very hard for a link between Prof Clement and Techniums. A cursory google search reveals numerous examples!

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=marc+clement+technium&rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB504GB505&oq=marc+clement+technium&aqs=chrome.0.57j62l3.5312j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#safe=off&rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB504GB505&sclient=psy-ab&q=%22marc+clement%22+technium&oq=%22marc+clement%22+technium&gs_l=serp.3…6299.8582.0.8827.2.2.0.0.0.0.84.150.2.2.0.ernk_timediscountc..0.0.0..1.1.16.psy-ab.WnnGBWapDSs&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=4fb79e8f110b98fc&biw=1266&bih=679

    For example, Prof Clement is described as “the man at the centre of the Technium concept” here: http://www.itwales.com/999206.htm

    Earlier this year he was described as the “founder of Technium concept” by a Malaysian site after a recent visit by him: http://benanews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/international-visitor.html

    Perhaps more interestingly, he and a gentleman named Stephen Davies (who I’m sure couldn’t possibly be the poster above) co-authored a paper on the concept in 2002 at the Seventh International Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics, available here: http://proceedings.spiedigitallibrary.org/proceeding.aspx?articleid=903060

    It is also worth noting that Dr Gareth Davies, a former PhD student of Prof Clement, co-authored a journal article on the Technium concept available here: http://econpapers.repec.org/article/tafregstd/v_3a42_3ay_3a2008_3ai_3a2_3ap_3a281-293.htm

    Dr Davies also worked with Prof Clement at Swansea University at the Institute of Innovation (IN2) before following him to the University of Wales and then back to Swansea University again so there is a clear link between the two.

    Does that help clear up things about Prof Clement’s role in Techniums?

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  21. Jon Jones says:

    I’m grateful to Robin and Danny Boyo for enlightening me….I did, of course, find quite a lot about the link between the Technium project and Prof Clement but it sounds much better coming from you both. For some reason any remark I make is leapt on by the same group of Nationalists and turned into a personal attack.

    I am still astonished by the personalised and vitriolic attacks on Prof. Dylan Jones-Evans though. It seems increasingly likely that Steve Davies or “SteveDavies” is not the reputable international entrepreneur and Welsh “Dragon” bravely risking his finance on budding entrepreneurs that he claims to be. What a shame, Wales needs men like that.
    As for the enmity between Cardiff and Swansea Universities; I know nought of this

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  22. John R Walker says:

    The last number I recall seeing when the plug was pulled on the Technium farce was an “identifiable loss” of £125 million. But if anything resembling normal cost accounting practices were in place in Universities and the rest of the public sector, and knowing how these collaborative ventures are run, it is not unreasonable to consider that the total losses, if all the expenditure across all the cost centres over the lifetime of the project could be correctly attributed, would probably be nearer to £400m.

    Has anybody attempted to calculate the costs to the private sector of trying to deal with the disfunctional public sector Technium Project? It was painfully obvious during our long-winded, and ultimately abortive, attempts to get the North Wales Software Co-operative off the ground that the costs and time input by the private sector participants were not considered to have any value as the suits racked up countless hours of Objective 1 ‘match funding’ for their departmental projects while we paid all our own overheads during years of ‘groundhog day’ meetings where we kept going over the same stuff over and over again as some organisation from the public sector contrived to send a different unbriefed talking head to every meeting. To put it bluntly, with a couple of notable exceptions, it was like dealing with children with no apparent grasp of private sector realities. Eventually the public sector choices led to the project crashing and burning due to an unviable Objective 1 application on our behalf which was thrown out by WEFO because it did not comply with the rules. “Leave it to us” they said – “we know what we’re doing”. But they destroyed our will to continue and left a legacy of mistrust…

    Not long after our private sector software venture had been sunk without trace the CAST project arose from Bangor University and became part of the Technium Project – although it was laughingly obvious that the rationale put forward for CAST at the time was technically and commercially unviable, and so it turned out to be.

    “The Triple Helix model, where government, academia and industry work together to create a vibrant innovation economy, is one of the new holy grails..”

    There is a fundamental disconnect between the mindset in the public and private sectors – especially the small business end of the private sector which most needs support to bring original ideas to market. That was the beauty of the WDA in its early days – the private sector was mentored by others from the private sector. We spoke the same language and thought the same way. The Bangor WDA office seemed to have just 2 staff – then we were back talking to people we could understand. Once the suits arrogantly and wrongly thought they could assume the same role the system fell apart due to mutual incompatibility.

    So the evidence suggests that ‘holy grail’ is the right description – a myth that will never be achieved.

    But that isn’t going to stop people who have spent their entire working lives in the public sector from thinking they know best, writing their reports, building their ‘empires’, and continuing to get it wrong… AVOID!

    If people have original ideas I would say stay as far away from public sector ‘business advisors’ and academics as you can. (Comment removed by editor) Stick with the private sector – even if it means licencing your idea to a bigger company – and try to find the support you need from the growing network of ‘business angel’ operations.

    That’s the lesson a lot of us have learned from two decades of failing to find the Holy Grail. The other lesson many of us have learned is that Wales is simply a bad, and a deteriorating, place to do business in any case. Many of us are too close to retirement to make it worth moving out – but that is what we would like to do and that is what we recommend people starting out in business should do. Might as well say it – it’s the simple truth!

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  23. Barry Phillips says:

    CAST, Centre for Advance Software Technology – Technium Bangor and the public sector business advisers in Wales, What a joke, Wales gives the impression it is only open to public sector, Gwynedd definitely is and they are not open to listening to small local businesses unless inside their little click.

    For our children’s future attitudes need to change otherwise we will keep on the direction we are going – Down, we need to learn by our mistakes and work together.

    My business which is based in Bangor attended board presentations in Liverpool and Manchester because of lack of any feedback or assistance from Wales. For over six months I had an application in with Finance Wales with no feed back, nothing, wouldn’t even reply to my calls so I applied to North West England and within four weeks I had to attend two presentations in front of accountants, solicitors, successful business people and university staff. The outcome, we were offered substantial funding, assistance from two large accountancy companies and office space with Campus Ventures in Manchester and The Hot House in Liverpool, I still have the unsigned contracts which I didn’t take up because just as I was about to sign, I told my story to a representative of Wales International Trade at my last business software meeting that I organised to get interest in a proposed Software Co-operative, the outcome was I was promised if I stay they would get PWC to help but what a joke that was – no help, no funding, no office space unless I pay more rent than an office would cost me in London and I am still in the same position after all these years – great product but no funds to help market it.

    The work a number of companies including my own put into trying to form a software co-operative appeared to us to have been high jacked (comment removed by editor)

    This public sector obsession in Wales needs to change and we need to bring in accountability. I have other horror stories on the treatment my business alone has suffered by staying in Wales at the hands of the University and Gwynedd Council, you need to face mistakes even if the truth hurts, especially when you don’t have any answers to specific allegations.

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  24. Jon Jones says:

    My sympathy to both of you John and Barry. The company that I am involved with tried unsuccessfully for several years to get help with a premises in Gwynedd. In the middle of this time Alun Ffred proudly announced millions of pounds of grants to the URDD in Gwynedd to set up in direct competition to our own venture. Yippee!!

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  25. Greg Bearing says:

    Several posts here have mentioned the Institute of Life Science at Swansea University – there is now a Life Science 2 of course, so could this be a double whammy? At double the cost?
    Robin rightly points to previuos faied initiatives spawned by the University to great applause and trumpeting! Ask whatever happened to the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications and the hi-tech laser equipment supposedly bought to enable the Institute to work with Nokia, Sony, Ericksonn etc, a figure of £30m was bandied around at that time. So where are those companies and the institute now< which incidentally was supposed to have occupied the majority of the Digital Technium?
    Now of course the university is heavily committed to another white elephant – the sexond campus with Rolls Royce, BAE et al all involved, so the university says. Check that one out and discover the viability of a committment to spend Government and EU funds wisely. These projects all seem to be the satifying of VC's and egocentric Profs inflated egos – yet the politicians and grey suits still listen to them!!!! Why????

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  26. Henry Wilson says:

    Greg: What defeatist nonsense. It is called planning and moving forward. Have a look at what other universities are doing: building and progressing! It appears that a lot of people – especially Cardiff-based academics and the business community – hate anything that Swansea does. I know, as I used to work among them.

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  27. Greg Bearing says:

    Henry, building and progressing – yes! Wasting public funds – no. This is not about a Cardiff/Swansea divide, I work in both cities, so………………..!

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