South Wales town Ebbw Vale will host £20 million cyber security R&D centre

The 'Valleys' town will benefit from national Tech Valley Project with Thales tech centre

Welsh valley seen from the air

A major tech company is setting up a 20 million research and development centre in a town in South Wales that will help to rejuvenate the area.

French-owned Thales, which builds electrical equipment for cyber security, aerospace and transport industries, has planned a technology hub at The Works in Ebbw Vale, the largest town of Blaenau Gwent county and right at the heart of the country's Tech Valleys project.

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The Tech Valleys project is an initiative started in 2017 by the Welsh government to support job growth with new technologies and advanced manufacturing.

It is hoped the centre will be a testbed for digital security innovations and offer a catalyst for regeneration within the region. The first 11 people will start in February, with the centre hopefully being fully operational by 2021.

During the 1930s, Ebbw Vale had the largest steel industry in Europe, but the collapse of the UK's steel industry saw it close in 2003 and that coupled with the closure of many mines created one of the biggest areas of unemployment in the country.

"The centre will help ensure that Wales exploits the global opportunities of digital transformation, provide a base for groundbreaking research and will equip businesses of all shapes and sizes with the skills and knowledge they need to win a greater share of large regional and national projects," said Ken Skates, the deputy minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport.

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"I am confident that through our partnership with Thales and the University of South Wales we will work to stimulate and create employment in high-value technology businesses -- an ambition that is right at the heart of our Tech Valleys project."

A significant part of the project, specifically for job growth, is that unlike other types of investment, innovative products and systems will be designed in Wales and then other companies would have to bid on them. So the most profitable part of the new tech, ownership of the idea, will remain in Wales. This is potentially an attractive selling point for manufacturers.

The Ebbw Vale centre will focus on security systems for power stations, the rail industry, water systems, telecoms and traffic control.

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