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New programme to help more Welsh firms export globally

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A new programme to help Welsh firms who have never exported before to sell their products in new international markets is being launched by Wales’ Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething.

The New Exporters Programme, which is one of the new support initiatives being introduced as part of the Welsh Government’s Export Action Plan, will support companies who have either never exported before or have exported intermittently, to sell their goods and services around the world.

Ten companies from a range of sectors across Wales are being recruited to the programme, which will last around 10 months. They will receive intensive support to develop their capacity and capability for exporting, helping them to become regular exporters.

The support will be focused on exporting to the Republic of Ireland initially, which will act as a starter market for the companies taking part. It will include a visit to the market, where companies will meet potential business contacts, with support from the Welsh Government’s Dublin Office. The programme will run on an annual basis.

The programme is a core part of the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan, which set Ministers’ commitments to prioritising exports and trade, supporting Welsh exporters to find new markets globally.

It’s also a key part of the Welsh Government’s International Strategy, which reinforced Ministers’ ambitions to raise Wales’ international profile; grow the Welsh economy, including increasing exports; and establishing Wales as a globally responsible nation.

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In 2020, firms in Wales exported £13.4 billion worth of goods to markets across the world. Germany was the largest export market, accounting for £2.2 billion (16.0%) of exports. France was the second largest export market, accounting for £1.8 billion (13.7%), followed by the USA, with £1.8 billion (13.4%) and the Republic of Ireland with £1.2 billion (8.8%).

Launching the new programme, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Wales has a long and proud history as an outward looking trading nation. From the coal that helped power the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, to high-tech computer chips that power our smartphones and other electronic devices today, the products we export from Wales are used by people around the world.

“As part of our ambitious programme for government for the next five years, we want to support Welsh businesses to find new export markets and create new green jobs in the sustainable green industries of tomorrow.

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“Our Export Action Plan is the most ambitious and comprehensive programme of export support ever put in place in Wales. As part of that plan, the New Exporter Programme I’m launching today is designed to help companies who either have never exported before, or have done so on a piecemeal basis, to find those crucial new export markets to sell even more of Wales’ first-class products and services to more people across the globe.

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“This is part of our mission to build a Wales with a prosperous, fair, green economy.”

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Cardiff-based business, Object Matrix, provides hybrid cloud storage solutions, principally to media organisations. Founded in 2003, the company initially focused on the trade in the UK, but with the explosion in video content creation and distribution, it saw the company diversify its offering, which led to more work in overseas markets. Object Matrix now exports to over 30 markets, making up 55% of its business.

Nick Pearce-Tomenius, co-founder and sales and marketing director at Object Matrix said: “Exporting has been vital to expanding our company’s success and services worldwide. The support from Welsh Government has helped us to achieve our export success.

“Before the idea of exporting our products and services became a reality we had to start locally before we could think globally. Once we successfully accomplished that aspect of our business, we were able to take things to the next level. I firmly believe that if you can sell your product in Wales, you can sell your product anywhere.”

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South Wales-based Atlantic Service Company has been manufacturing high quality bandsaw blades for cutting meat, fish and bread since 1901.

It exports to markets across Europe, Africa, South and Central America, Asia, Indian Subcontinent and Middle East. Exports are a core part of Atlantic Service’s business growth, and the wide range of markets has helped spread the risk against market fluctuations.

Elena Harries, International Sales Manager, Atlantic Service Company said: “Exporting is core to our business growth, and has helped us become more resilient to market changes. With the help of Welsh Government export support, we have been able to open up new markets in South East Asia, India, Africa, Central & Latin America. Its network of trade advisors has provided invaluable advice and support to enter new markets, and identify new business partners.

“Our aim is to build on this growth and to expand our export business in new markets. It is reassuring that we can access Welsh Government support to help us achieve this.”

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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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