CHRISTMAS has come early for three Welsh games developers that have been awarded grants totalling £55,000 to build new gaming titles for Microsoft under an initiative supported by the Welsh Government. Dojo Arcade & Wales Interactive Ltd based in Pencoed Technology Park and Sky Fish Studios Ltd of Cardiff are the first in Wales t o participate in the Microsoft Greenshoots programme. Greenshoots is an incubation programme that has partnered with Creative England over the past two years and is now being piloted in Wales with support from the Welsh Government.
Microsoft’s Greenshoots programme provides young games development businesses and start ups with the funding, business support and mentoring they require to make commercially successful games for the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox programme, in addition to PC and mobile platforms. The three companies that successfully bid for funding will now get access to Microsoft’s BizSpark programme that will support the studios with a wealth of development software, expert guidance, technical advice and an introduction to investors. Agostino Simonetta, ID@ Xbox Regional Lead for Europe, said: “Following the on-going success of Microsoft Greenshoots in partnership with Creative England, we’re thrilled to be piloting the first cohort with the Welsh Government.
The participating studios are perfect examples of the kind of raw talent this industry attracts, and we look forward to working with them to bring their projects to market.” Cardiff based Skyfish Studios is a small start-up company that has three members of staff, all of which have graduated from the University of South Wales. Their firs gaming release, A Mechanical Story, which was released in November 2014, recently picked up a BAFTA Cymru for the Games and Interactive Experience category, and they are hopeful of similar success for a title to be released next year. Yucel Karamanli co-founder of Skyfish said: “Getting accepted by Greenshoots is a great step for our new game Elise: Unpainted Memories and incredibly encouraging. The funding will allow us to fully concentrate on making the game without worrying about the financial burdens we have as a small studio. This is a dream come true for any Indie developer studio.” Dojo Arcade was previously supported by the Welsh Government’s Digital Development Fund, and is now rapidly expanding and is a registered Nintendo developer. Tobias Johnson, of Dojo Arcade, said: “We are very lucky to be selected for the Microsoft Greenshoots and Welsh Government funding as the Wales games industry is rapidly growing.
It will enable us to complete our current title Creature Battle Lab and give it the polish it deserves.“ Wales Interactive has received five BAFTA Cymru commendations and a BAFTA Cymru Games Award, amongst others. It’s Managing Director David Banner, said: “We are delighted that Soul Axiom has been chosen as one of the recipients of Microsoft Greenshoots in partnership with Welsh Government. This is a another great achievement for our company and Greenshoots will not only help us take an exclusive version of Soul Axiom to Xbox One but will also give us invaluable international exposure for the title.” At the announcement of the news Economies Minister Edwina Hart added: “Games development is a rapidly growing sector of the creative industries in Wales and a highly competitive arena so I am delighted that some of our most promising companies will benefit from this initiative. “The grant funding, coupled with expert support from Microsoft, provides a tremendous boost for these Welsh indigenous creative businesses. Working with one of the world’s leading technology companies will provide them with a great development opportunity and an invaluable experience. “It will also help raise their professional profile amongst the international gaming community and I am delighted that support from the Welsh Government enabled this pilot to go ahead in Wales.”
What makes Wales special?
THIS MONTH sees Visit Wales’ first ever targeted digital campaign happening in Wales. It will encourage those with arguably the best knowledge of all, the people of Wales, to share images of the places that they love and how they enjoy them.
There is also an opportunity to be featured in Visit Wales’ ads, as a selection of the best images shared on social media will be part of the next phase of the campaign.
The Year of Discovery is the perfect time to re-discover places from childhood, or discover a new corner of Wales.
Visit Wales would like as many people as possible to get involved. What makes Wales so special? Where do you like to spend your weekends in Wales? Where’s your favourite beach, pub or dog walk? These special moments in Wales can be captured by tagging #thisismywales on your Instagram or Pinterest posts.
The in-Wales market is especially important to Wales. In 2017 there were 1.47m overnight stays by Welsh residents staying in Wales. That is 16% of all overnight trips taken in Wales by GB residents, and these trips generated £228 million for the Welsh economy.
In addition, there were 62 million tourism day visits taken in Wales by Welsh residents. This is 63% of all day trips taken in Wales. The expenditure on these trips was £2.21 billion.
Dafydd Elis Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “This is an excellent time for the people of Wales to share what makes Wales special to them – it’s all about pride and passion and the people of Wales are often the best ambassadors and travel guides to what can be found locally.
“It’s possible that Brexit uncertainty means that more people will take a staycation this year. A targeted and flexible digital marketing campaign means that Wales is well placed to make the most of these opportunities.
“Marketing work has been gathering momentum since early March in key markets in recognition of the strong competition for the domestic market – so that Wales is front of mind as a holiday destination during our Year of Discovery.
“As part of a refreshed visitwales.com, celebrities such as Alex Jones, Matthew Rhys and Huw Stephens have already shared their favourite things about Wales.”
Brexit delay affects hauliers
THE GOVERNMENT and the EU have agreed on an extension of the UK’s membership until October 31, 2019, at the latest.
This means you can continue to operate across the EU as usual until then.
While the Government hopes to leave before then, we will only leave earlier if a deal is agreed, which would allow continued permit-free access arrangements to continue.
This means that either:
• The UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31, 2019; or
• The UK leaves the EU with a deal, before October 31, in which case, access to the EU will remain unchanged until 2021.
So until October 31 at the earliest, you can continue to operate across the EU as you do now, without the need for an ECMT permit.
The EU has also passed a new law ensuring that, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October, more than 90% of journeys to the EU won’t require an ECMT permit for the remainder of 2019.
Regardless of when the UK leaves the EU, you must register any trailers you plan on using for journeys outside the UK and Ireland.
This new requirement came into force on March 28, 2019.
If you fail to register your trailer, you may be fined or subject to other enforcement action.
Enterprising Students win £10K prize
A NEW venture designed to help Colombian farmers improve crop productivity is the winner of the latest edition of Aberystwyth University’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ style student entrepreneurship competition InvEnterPrize.
Developed by an interdisciplinary team led by PhD student Liliana Castillo from Colombia, Amigrow uses satellite technology and machine learning to assist farmers with decision making.
Along with the 2019 InvEnterPrize title, Amigrow receives £10,000 to invest in the development of the concept to bring it closer to market.
Speaking of the team’s success, Liliana said: “Winning InvEnterPrize is very important to us, there are no words to describe the feeling.”
“This idea started with my experience of agriculture in Colombia. With the support of InvEnterPrize, my team and I look forward to start testing the capabilities of Amigrow. We are going to develop the first prototype and create iterations of it so that we can really know what works and what doesn’t, and produce something meaningful for the farmers so they can take the right decisions at the right time and produce better profit margins.”
Liliana added: “Colombia is a very diverse country, we have very different environments for very different kinds of crops. Initially, we are going to start with rice producers as it is very important for feeding people in Colombia and in the world.”
Amigrow was one of 15 entries for InvEnterPrize 2019, and six finalists to present their ideas to the judges on Friday 29 March 2019.
Chair of the judges, Donald Davies, Emeritus Professor in Toxicology at Imperial College London, said: “We are delighted to award InvEnterPrize 2019 to Amigrow and our warmest congratulations to Liliana and her team on their venture.”
“InvEnterPrize is an excellent competition which brings out the best in the students, and this year has proved to be the most difficult to judge with all six finalists delivering excellent presentations. It clearly inspires students here at Aberystwyth University to venture and develop ideas that go beyond what they might normally do. It is so important to sow the seed of an idea that students can develop into a business, and this competition, along with the support the teams receive throughout the year from the University’s Careers service, makes this all possible.”
InvEnterPrize organiser and Aberystwyth University entrepreneurship champion, Tony Orme, said: “The quality of the entries this year has been exceptional and the final proved to be a very close run indeed. We are immensely grateful to our panel of judges for their valuable time and expertise in this year’s search for a winner, and to the University’s alumni who make this competition possible via the Aber Fund. We now look forward to working with Liliana and colleagues on Amigrow, as the concept is developed.”
Amigrow also enjoyed further success at InvEnterPrize 2019 as it won a year’s office space at AberInnovation – the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus, a £40.5m development at the Aberystwyth University Gogerddan Campus.
Presented by Dr Rhian Hayward, Chief Executive Officer of AberInnovation, the award was given for the best presentation in the bioscience, agri-tech, and food and drinks sectors.
Now in its 6th year, InvEnterPrize was established to further encourage a culture of entrepreneurship among the University’s students.
The £10,000 prize provided by the University’s alumni via the Aber Fund enables the winner to invest in equipment, facilities or professional services to turn the invention or business start-up idea into reality.
Entrants also had the opportunity to seek expert advice and attend a series of workshops and presentations led by successful entrepreneurs as they developed their final bids, gaining valuable advice on the way.
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