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Welsh Government becomes first government to join IWF in boost for children’s online safety

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Welsh language resources will help children spot the signs of online grooming and abuse

Children and young people in Wales will receive additional support to protect them from a rise in online threats, as the Welsh Government – through the Hwb digital learning programme – becomes the first Government body to join child protection charity the Internet Watch Foundation as Members.

As part of National Safeguarding Week, the IWF – the UK charity responsible for finding and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet – today (Friday, November 19) has announced the Welsh Government’s Digital Learning Division as a new Member.

The IWF will work alongside partners in the Welsh Government to ensure their Hwb platform, which hosts the Curriculum for Wales and provides bilingual, digital tools and resources for teaching and learning to all maintained schools in Wales, is as safe as possible.

The platform will also aim to empower children and young people in Wales to spot the signs of online grooming and exploitation with dedicated support pages, including bilingual materials from the IWF’s Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths campaigns.

The campaigns were launched in response to rising numbers of reports of child sexual abuse material online, where children had been groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.

It is hoped the bilingual materials and articles from experts in ‘Keeping safe online’ on Hwb will have a huge impact in helping spread the warning about the growing online threats and help more children and young people stay safe.

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Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language said:  “I am very proud that Hwb has partnered with the IWF, making the Welsh Government the first government body to join their global membership community, and support them in continuing to help victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

“To amplify the message that online grooming is a serious risk, and one we must tackle together, we are also working with the IWF to promote their two flagship online grooming prevention campaigns – Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths.

“I look forward to working alongside the IWF in tackling such threats against children and young people online.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Sadly, since lockdown, we have seen online threats against children and young people spiral. The internet has enormous potential for good, and has been an indispensable lifeline for children to learn, socialise, and stay in touch with friends and family.

“But it is also abused by unscrupulous predators. It is essential we all do everything we can to make sure children are aware of the potential dangers, and that criminals are found out and exposed.

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“This is why partnerships like this are so important. By working with the Welsh Government, we can help make sure more children are kept safe online, and we can ensure the right tools, skills, and resources are available so that children and young people can be confident in calling out abusive behaviour when they see it.”

The Welsh Government joins the IWF at a critical time. In 2020, IWF analysts dealt with a record number of reports of online child sexual abuse material, while the coronavirus crisis has seen more people than ever relying on the internet to learn, work, and socialise.

To find out more about the work of the IWF visit https://www.iwf.org.uk/what-we-do 

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

(Lead image: Julia M Cameron / Pexels.com)

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Research

£1.73m additional funding to expand project in semiconductor technology and applications

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The Welsh Government has announced additional funding of £1.73 million for a project, which involves Swansea University and partners, developing world-leading semiconductor process technologies.

Applications include autonomous vehicles, novel devices for clean energy, future mobility, artificial intelligence, advanced packaging, and biosensors and wearable sensors.

ASSET (Application Specific Semiconductor Etching Technology) is an industrially driven, collaborative project with partners across south Wales, including: SPTS Technologies (a KLA company), IQE, The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC), Biovici, BioMEMS, Swansea and Cardiff universities and Integrated Compound Semiconductors Ltd (Manchester).

ASSET is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), under the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise programme.

The ASSET industrial partners provide advanced technologies for almost all the world’s smartphones. By developing a host of new semiconductor process technologies using compound semiconductors and next generation materials, ASSET will service new and emerging applications in automotive sensing, 6G, photonics and healthcare.

The expanded ASSET project involves additional industry partners from the South Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster including: CSconnected, smart sensors and networks producers UtterBerry, photonics company Wave Photonics, and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) which is the UK’s national metrology institute.

Professor Owen Guy, head of chemistry at Swansea University and lead for the ASSET project, said: “The expanded ASSET project is a timely boost to the UK semiconductor industry, with exciting developments planned with several of our regional industry partners, and the opening of our £90m Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) – a new state-of-the-art semiconductor facility at Swansea University – in 2022.”

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Government Economy Minister, said: “We are immensely proud of the world-leading compound semiconductor ecosystem we helped foster here in Wales. It is a high potential network translating state-of-the-art research and innovation capabilities into world-class Welsh manufacturing for new and emerging global technology markets. This “next generation” technology shapes our lives today and will improve our experiences of tomorrow – from electric vehicles, to face recognition in smart phones, and space applications.

“The sector is of huge significance to Wales, providing high value employment and a real magnet for foreign direct investment. It also underpins development in so many other industries, and we believe it can deliver against our Programme for Government by driving a stronger, greener economy, and contributing to the net-zero, decarbonisation challenge.

“I’m very proud of the Welsh Government’s track record on supporting businesses to innovate and introduce new products and services, to trade with the UK and the rest of the world, to improve our skills base and to ensure that Wales remains competitive in the fourth industrial age.”

Dr Matt Elwin, Operations Director for CISM / Dr. Mike Jennings, Associate Professor in Electronic Engineering at Swansea, said: “The ASSET expansion links with our new ‘Driving the Electric Revolution (DER)’ Industrialisation Centres (IC) initiative to create a new sovereign supply chain for the UK in next generation power electronics components for transport electrification. This funding, plus the £4.82 million from the DER Industrialisation Centres programme, will help us deliver common goals for increased economic growth, developing clean and resilient supply chains in power electronics, machines and drives.”

Paul Rich, Executive Vice President of Product Engineering and Technology at SPTS Technologies, said: “The ASSET project gives the consortium the ability to work with the extensive fabrication supply chain in the region to further expand our capabilities and capitalise on new and exciting market opportunities.”

Wyn Meredith from the Compound Semiconductor Centre said: “The South Wales semiconductor industry employs over 1,400 highly skilled people in the region and is set to expand rapidly over the next five years with the growth of 5G, AI and other mega-trend markets. ASSET will support these markets by developing a range of advanced semiconductor processes and expertise to overcome technical and industry challenges.”

Heba Bevan from UtterBerry said: “UtterBerry is proud to be working with Professor Owen Guy and his team at Swansea University on the project, to revolutionise chip manufacturing and to become one of the most advanced centres in the UK. We also look forward to the broader positive changes the team at UtterBerry will make to the area, including job creation, a more efficient transportation network, enhanced connectivity and automation in the clean energy sector.”

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Motoring

New law change means £200 fine and 6 points for ANY use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel

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Prosecution regulations have been tightened on the use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel.

Police will soon be able to more easily prosecute drivers using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel after the government strengthens existing laws to further improve road safety.

It is already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving. Next year, laws will go further to ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.

This will mean anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on their licence.

Drivers will still be able to continue using a device ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle. They must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held.

“By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users.

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“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.

“This follows a public consultation that found 81% of respondents supported proposals to strengthen the law and make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted.

“Following the public consultation, the government will revise The Highway Code to explain the new measures. It will also be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving, making it clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

“There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology.

“This exemption will cover, for example, places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.”

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Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake – the road safety charity, said: “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed.

“This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes – we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention.”

Edmund King, President of the AA said: “By making mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, we are taking big steps to make our roads safer. For years, the AA has campaigned hard and helped educate drivers to the dangers from bad mobile phone use.

“To help ensure drivers get the message, we also need more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”

Simon Williams from the RAC said: “As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.

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“While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”

The Department for Transport has also today published a study by Ipsos Mori about drivers who use mobile phones while driving.

Among other findings, the research reveals younger motorists are more likely to have used a handheld device at the wheel, supporting the focus of the government’s award-winning THINK! campaign, which works to boost road safety by targeting higher-risk, younger motorists and road-users.

(Lead image: Roman Pohorecki on Pexels.com)

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Environment

Marine Energy Wales backing for Blue Eden

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Marine Energy Wales has welcomed the announcement of the proposed £1.7bn Blue Eden project in Swansea.

Including a 9.5km tidal lagoon structure, Blue Eden is being led by Bridgend-based DST Innovations and business partners, with support from Swansea Council and Associated British Ports.

The project – being funded by the private sector – would be sited along an extensive area of land and water, to the south of the Prince of Wales Dock in the SA1 area of Swansea.

Blue Eden also includes a floating solar farm, a data centre, a high-tech battery manufacturing plant, a battery storage facility and many other features that will help place Swansea at the global forefront of renewable energy innovation.

The project is estimated to create over 2,500 permanent jobs and support a further 16,000 jobs across Wales and the UK, while creating additional jobs during its construction.

Blue Eden would be delivered in three phases over 12 years. Subject to planning consent, work on site could start by early 2023.

Artist’s impression of Blue Eden dome (Image: DST)

Jess Hooper, Marine Energy Wales Programme Manager, said: “We are keen to see how this lagoon on Swansea’s coast can be realised to the benefit of local people and net zero targets, and how it can help kick-start this green industry in Wales.

“The multi-purpose nature and associated added value built into the project in the form of the battery storage, data centre, housing, floating solar and more, offers great promise for sustainable solutions that go beyond decarbonising our electricity generation and storage needs.

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“We look forward to working with DST as MEW members to take this project forward.”

Business and university leaders in Swansea and Wales have already given the project their support, citing its potential impact on jobs and the green economy.

The newly-designed tidal lagoon forming part of the scheme would feature state-of-the-art underwater turbines generating 320 megawatts of renewable energy.

The energy generated by the lagoon and solar farm would be used on site, but there is also scope for 32% of it to be exported onto the grid for the benefit of local residents and businesses. The amount of green energy consumed by the Blue Eden development would also save a significant amount of energy being taken from the grid in future.

(Lead image: DST)

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