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Uncertain future of Digital Technium is costing Swansea jobs

January 19, 2012 1:47 PM
Originally published by Peter Black and South Wales West Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has questioned the future of Swansea's Digital Technium after information he obtained by way of a Freedom of Information request revealed that since mid-August 2011 only renewals of existing leases in the building have been accepted despite widespread business interest in the Technium. All existing tenancies come to an end in 2013, with a number ending in January and February this year. Only one new lease has been granted since April 2010.

With just over 50% occupancy the Technium has proven itself to be an excellent base of high-tech business and is currently recording a surplus of income over expenditure. This amounted to £35,000 in the 2010/11 financial year and £23,000 between April and October 2011. But uncertainty over the future of the site has already cost jobs.

The Minister's decision to end European funding for the University of Wales Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship scheme last year without putting any alternative scheme in place has already seen plans for an IT development centre, which would have created up to 100 jobs in the city, axed.

Mr. Black further understands that despite this, New Zealand Company, Pingar was still prepared to expand its activities within the Technium but was refused a lease and consequently is now looking to relocate to Cambridge, taking several hundred new high-tech jobs with it.

Mr. Black said: "Techniums were built at great public expense and it seems wasteful in the extreme to allow them to become vacant white elephants at the point where they have become profitable and are in demand. I am particularly concerned that the current lengthy review of their purpose and the moratorium on new leases that has arisen out of that is deterring new investment and jobs from coming to Wales, and Swansea in particular.

The Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science needs to act urgently to safeguard high-tech jobs and profitable businesses based in Swansea by ending the uncertainty over the Digital Technium's future and instigating a viable replacement for the POWIS scholarship scheme. Swansea and Wales as a whole cannot afford to lose ground to other areas of the UK when competing for high-tech business.