Welsh Technium OpTIC officially opens

A new center to encourage the growth of the opto-electronics industry in Wales has been officially opened by Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Economic Development and Transport Minister.

ST. ASAPH, WALES-A new center to encourage the growth of the opto-electronics industry in Wales has been officially opened by Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Economic Development and Transport Minister. Technium OpTIC is a £15.7 million (US$30 million) project backed with more than £6.3m of funding provided through the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), part of the Welsh Assembly Government. It is hoped that it will help boost Wales’ £522 million (US$998 million) opto-electronics sector.

OpTIC is part of the Technium Wales program, which exists to stimulate and support knowledge-based start-up and spin-out companies and includes a network of state-of-the-art facilities across Wales. OpTIC’s incubation center contains 24 units for new or relocating businesses from universities and industry, and incorporates research and development facilities and a specialist business support team. The center is privately managed by Optropreneurs and was initiated by the Welsh Optronics Forum.

“The OpTIC team works with start-up companies to guide them through the early phases of their life, to keep them on track until they reach the natural stage where they outgrow OpTIC,” said Trefor Jones, chairman of Optropreneurs.

OpTIC is majoring on four platform technologies: Opto-electronics materials, Thin Films, Surface Structuring and Opto-electronic Device Packaging. To address these technology areas, Centres of Expertise have been formed, including Ultra Precison Surfaces (UPS), the Centre for Modern Optics (CMO), Optical Polymers and Metal Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition (MOCVD).

“Technium OpTIC will enhance our reputation as an international center for the opto-electronics sector,” Davies said. “By bringing companies together in cluster developments like opto electronics, we stand to make real strides in promoting the growth of high value added businesses.”

However, there has been some criticism of the Technium project from other politicians in Wales. OpTIC is intended to create some 300 high-quality jobs in North Wales and safeguard hundreds more throughout Wales; so far, however, only five companies occupy full incubation space at OpTIC, with a further seven based at dedicated workstations and pre-incubation areas that allow them to develop business ideas and technology using dedicated support and expertise. Research by the Liberal-Democratic party indicates that £70 million (US$134 million) has been invested in Techniums, yet so far only 236 people are directly employed in the businesses based in them (about 50 of them are employees of the companies occupying the incubation spaces). The party questions the value of a scheme in which each job created has been at a cost of more than £300,000 (US$574,000).

OpTIC’s supporters claim that many more jobs will be created as time goes on, and three more companies are due to move in within the next month.

-Bridget K. Marx

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