Sunday 26 June 2022

The Accelerator's Showcase

Emily Roberts taking the Microphone from Olu
© 2022 Jane Lambert  All rights reserved


Jane Lambert

I mentioned the launch of the Menai Science Park's accelerator programme on 15 Feb 2022.  I returned to the science park on Thursday, 23 June 2022 for the accelerator's showcase before an audience that included angel and private equity investors.  The event took place in the park's atrium but was live-streamed over the internet using the hybrid events platform, Haia.

Haia was developed by a team led by Tom Burke who attended the accelerator programme. It was he who delivered the first pitch.  Tom had been one of the speakers at M-SParc's World Intellectual Property Day celebrations on 26 April 2022.  The progress that that already impressive business had achieved in less than 2 months is breathtaking.  It has recently transitioned from beta to a full-fledged contender in the fiercely competitive online conferencing market in which Zoom and Teams are already established.  By all accounts, Haia is more than holding its own.

The accelerator's first cohort consisted of eight projects several of which were represented at the showcase.  As well as Haia, the presentations included a system for monitoring calving, a language learning database that included learning mediums other than English, a device for spotting and booking self-storage space near a given location and the manufacture of bio-degradable packaging materials from seaweed and many other great ideas.  The showcase was compered expertly by the science park's operations and customer services manager, Emily Roberts who has overseen successfully all the events in which I have been involved.

At the start of the event, the park's managing director, Pryderi ap Phisiart, announced the launch of the science park's angel network.  I can't overstress the importance of that development because angels facilitate the leap from incubator to market.  Raising funds was the theme of last year's World Intellectual Property Day and Wales Enterprise Day celebrations and Emily plans to build on that theme at this year's Wales Enterprise Day. 

I spoke to several of the investors over a feast of jerk chicken (cyw iâr jerk) and rice and peas (reis a phys) from a trailer that offered "bwyd bendigedig" or Welsh Caribbean food lubricated by cocktails and soft drinks from an adjoining converted horse box.  The investors were impressed by what they had seen and several told me that they had brought their chequebooks.

Both businesses and their investors require the best possible legal, accounting and other professional services.  When M-SParc opened on 1 March 2018 tenants had to look east to Manchester, Liverpool or Chester for such advice and representation or south to Cardiff, Newport or Swansea.  Not any more. There is a cluster of experts that includes patent attorney Sean Thomas who has returned to Anglesey, specialist solicitors Andrea Knox and Jonty Gordon, IP tax accountants Steve Livingston, patent strategist and valuer Alison Orr, venture capitalist Ed French and IP insurer Ian Wishart.

I was reminded of the importance of M-SParc on Friday morning when I watched the film on the history of Nant Gwrtheyrn in its heritage centre.  The Nant was once a prosperous port that exported granite blocks known as "setts" for roadbuilding.  Workers from across the United Kingdom and beyond were attracted to the port and adjoining quarry  A photo of some of the maidens of the Nant shows them adorned in the latest styles long before the fashions reached the rest of the Llŷn peninsula. Sadly. demand for setts diminished as private car ownership expanded.  The Nant declined.  Its people moved away to find work elsewhere.  Eventually the settlement was abandoned. 

The history of Nant Gwrtheyrn is an allegory of the history of the region. The Nant was revived when it became a centre for teaching the Welsh language   M-SParc and other initiatives such as the Pontio Centre in Bangor are nurturing diversified knowledge-based industries that will provide employment not only for those already in the area but for many more from around the world.  Like the Caribbean food suppliers, these newcomers are contributing their customs and culture to Wales but in the process, they are becoming  Welsh.  Just like the English, Scots and Irish quarrymen and port workers who moved to Nant Gwrtheyrn 150 years ago.

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