BUSINESS

Welsh agency scouting for partners in IT, SME sectors

CHENNAI OCT. 5. Welsh Development Agency (WDA), which has played a major role in transforming Wales (the U.K.) from a coal mining belt into a major hub of knowledge-led industries in Europe, is looking for entrepreneurs in the information technology (IT) and other new economy sectors in India for partnering innovative ventures in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment and providing services to global companies.

As a promoter of inward investment into Wales, the WDA hopes that eventually it would be able to attract Indian entrepreneurs to set up an operational base in Wales to access the 15-nation European Union market, which is set to expand in the next few years with the entry of several East European countries and emerge as a market that exceeds the U.S. and Japan put together in purchasing power.

What are the USP's that Wales offers to knowledge entrepreneurs? As explained by David Muxworthy, Vice-President (Business Development) of the WDA, in a chat with The Hindu here, its 100 per cent digitised telecommunication and IT infrastructure is already exploited companies like Sony, Matsushita and British Telecom with their own facilities. Ford (engine design), Toyota and Bosch were among 150 companies in the automotive sector operating in Wales.

Pure Wafer, Europe's largest hi-tech start-up company, and Surface Technology Systems have recently floated capital on the alternative investment market. Yes Television, operators of Europe's first video-on-demand service, is located at Scott Harbour in Cardiff Bay. Agilent, a technology leader, has set up a waterfront facility in Swansea, taking advantage of Wales's Technium Initiative, which is a network of incubators directly linking companies' R & D functions with acknowledged centres of academic excellence. ICN Pharmaceuticals has established a photonics R &D facility in the Swansea Technium. The Technium Initiative aims at establishing 20 such networks.

Wales is now home to 260 `new media' companies such as Ubiquity Software, winner of the European Technology Forum's Innovator of the Year Award. Wales is fully geared to meet requirements of firms operating in sectors such as multi-media, biotechnology, advanced materials and instrumentation for large flat sites, immediate access to port and substantial power supplies. "The WDA's specialisation in land reclamation, necessitated by the transformation of the region from coal and metallurgy to the new economy, has been valuable in development of facilities," said Mr. Muxworthy, who is attached to the Singapore office of the WDA.

The academic network in Wales includes the University of Wales, Cardiff, which has an e-commerce specialisation centre, the University of Glamorgan which specialises in Java and the University of Wales College in Newport focussing on web design.

The WDA works in collaboration with Eurofind, which specialises in locating partners for companies in Europe, assists investors and entrepreneurs in developing and implementing business models and offers escort services. R. N. Raja, Managing Partner of Cardiff-based Eurofind, said SMEs, be they in India or the U.S. or Europe, were capable of technological innovation but would find it difficult on their own to find global companies which could use their expertise. Firms like Eurofind filled in this gap by facilitating partnering. Mr. Raja said there was a "huge business opportunity in Europe waiting to be tapped by Indian professionals and entrepreneurs". Traditionally, SMEs in the knowledge industries looked to the U.S. market. However, the European market was more potent than the U.S. market and was growing. "Finding business in Europe is critical to attracting new customers, providing value and enabling sustainable growth," he said.

Eurofind's programmes had been designed to help entrepreneurs expand their business without involving additional infrastructure costs and overheads, he added.

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