It’s Your Swansea

It’s Your Swansea

Last week we hosted our It’s Your Swansea Conference. Let’s have a look back on an incredible day showcasing everything that’s great about Swansea and hearing from the people, organisations and businesses who are making change happen.

Swansea Arena playing host to our It’s Your Swansea Conference, 7th March 2024 (Pic: Innovation Photography)

The conference opened with exciting announcements and updates from key local partners, exploring how Swansea is addressing the challenges of our time and embracing opportunities in 2024.

Cllr Andrea Lewis, Joint Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Service Transformation at Swansea Council, gave an exclusive insight into the schemes that will make Swansea an even better place  to live, work and socialise. She said “Swansea is a real city of opportunity. These are exciting times.”

These opportunities include a major new high tech sustainable office development at 71/72 Kingsway, linked to the “living building” at Picton Yard, one of the greenest buildings in Wales; the transformation of a former BHS store into a new community hub; redeveloping the Civic Centre site for leisure and hospitality; redeveloping old buildings such as the Palace Theatre and Albert Hall; transforming Castle Square to be greener and more welcoming; and much more!

Perhaps the most exciting thing is the £4bn renewable energy project, potentially including a tidal lagoon, a battery farm to store renewable energy generated, a floating solar panel facility, an oceanic and climate change research centre, eco-homes anchored in the water, and a hyperscale data centre.

Cherrie Bija is CEO of Faith in Families, who have been providing skills and opportunities such as free breakfast and sports for kids for the last twenty five years.

Faith in Families have been approached by Amazon with opportunity to run a warehouse which was something they had never done before. They take Amazon’s surplus goods and give them to people, such as shirts for interviews. In fact they can provide pretty much everything you need for a home. Parents aren’t buying things like toothpaste because of cost of living crisis, so Faith in Families can provide them with dignity. 

They have launched Cwtch Mawr, Wales’ first multibank, which aims to identify and help forty thousand familes this year. Giving them brand new items says to them “You’re worth it, we believe in you”. Forty thousand items were given out on two days over Christmas. They put coats out and said “Please take a coat because we need the space”. It was several days before people were actually taking them, but they gave out fifty coats, as well as things  like brand new football boots for children. They can provide all the things that turn houses into homes.

Serena Jones is Executive Director of Operations at Coastal Housing Group, who provide safe, affordable, quality homes that meet sustainability targets. She said they are “working hard to address the deepest housing crisis I’ve seen in thirty years. The systemic challenges are real and biting, but it’s good the Welsh Government understand link between housing and climate change.” She believes “Sustainability is also about people.”

Coastal Housing have installed hybrid heating systems in their properties leading to a 70% reduction in energy bills, volumetric water cylinders resulting in a 38% energy decrease (which can be overriden for hot water if needed), solar PV with sensors to see their impact, and apps to monitor carbon monoxide and general indoor air quality.

Professor Ian Walsh, is Provost (Swansea & Cardiff) at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, which is currently ranked as the top university in the UK for active graduate businesses. It was a fascinating update. Did you know work at the university has transformed the way we repair windscreens on cars? UWTSD”s latest building, the Innovation Matrix, will be as close as possible to net zero, but can’t get there completely because of the computers. It already has about a 70% occupancy and will be opening in June, providing an ecosystem where businesses can thrive.

We heard from young people who are seizing the opportunities on offer here in Swansea, and inspiring others to do the same.

Amy Tanker has volunteered with a number of organisations. As a Psychology & Criminology Student at Swansea University, she was particularly keen to volunteer with Families and Friends of Prisoners Swansea. Not all prisons have family services like this, so volunteering with them meant she had social policy research opportunities and was able to get an internship.

Saadia Abubaker, Founder of Saadia Speaks, wants to empower the next generation of leaders. Born in Sudan, she moved to Swansea age two. Growing up, she experienced a lot of racism, but seized all the opportunities she could. She joined the Youth Sports Trust to encourage more girls like her to do sports, and now uses the same approach to build her brand. She said “People are not always supportive of my ideas, but if one organisation says no to me another will say yes.” She asked “Will you join me in inspiring the next generation of leaders?”

Fatima Lopes said “I grown up here my whole life. In school I couldn’t wait to leave because I didn’t know the opportunities that were here.” She said working as Student Union President at Gower College Swansea has made her aware of of those opportunities, and she will be going to Swansea University.

She said “During Covid, I was in year 10 and 11, and this is when I’d normally do work experience, so I didn’t get this. Students are now more hesistant to embrace opportunities because of lockdown.”

She’d like a sector wide approach on business and schools linking together, similar to Cardiff Commitment. She said students are very passionate and this can be harnessed with clubs and societies. She’d like something similar for people in work. This should be combined with mental health support for people in work and education.

She chose to go down an academic route, but if she’d done an apprenticeship, believes she would have faced stigma and a lack of knowledge, and this needs to change.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we also welcomed four women to share their stories of overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities in Swansea.

In school Alison Vickers, Managing Partner at Bevan Buckland, knew she wanted to be an accountant (or a detective). In 1986 she got a three month trial with Bevan Buckland, earning less than £400 a month. She rose up through the company and in 1996 joined the board of what was still a very traditional practice. One of her first acts was to end the ban on women wearing trousers! Bevan Buckland now employs a hundred and twenty people and are the biggest independent accountants in Wales. Alison said being based in Swansea hasn’t held them back. She’s learnt everything new is an opportunity, prepare well, and enjoy it!

Joy Ogeh-Hutfield, a Transformation Coach and Leadership Consultant, sees opportunity everywhere. She said “Sight is seeing things as they are, but vision is seeing how things should be. Having a vision means the city has something to give back to you. Gain more clarity by thinking about how your vision can bring change. My greatest joy helping clients understand their true authentic self. Invest in you, because if your cup is empty you have nothing to give. Enhance what you are and what you do.” She added “Teachers open the doors but you must enter by yourself.”

Eight years ago Amy Price, Director at The Social Butterfly Marketing, was a job jumper with bad mental health. She’d never learnt about self employment in school and was in in-work poverty. She said it was very strange attending her first networking event while still working in a call centre, it was “lonely being the youngest business woman in the room, but I’ve grown and I pick up awards in front of those people.” She feels she now lives a good life and doesn’t want to sacrifice more.

Her advice is “Stay in your own lane. Life is full of unique challenges, some days are harder than others, but just try your best.” She believes women are more resilient and risk adverse than men, and have a lot of side hustles but don’t see this as business. She said “I still have imposter syndrome and accept anxiety is a part of me. This year I finally felt I run proper business. I say yes to any opportunity Swansea presents to me and know this helps my mental health.”

Everything Kim Mamhende, Chief Officer of The CAE, does is about empowering people. For her it’s about change in the community, and underpinning that is equity and ensuring everyone has opportunity to do what they want.

She believes everyone has right to live their dreams, and the Welsh dream is achieving what you want without having to move, which is also being about equity and opportunity. She said “Opportunity is about creating. You can’t wait for a seat at the table sometimes you need to create your own table. Entrepreneurship is about adding value, creating your own opportunities and enacting positive change. It’s not always an easy journey.”

This year, we’re exploring even more of the region where we’ll be welcoming everyone to the following It’s Your… Events, so make sure to save the dates!

It’s Your Pembrokeshire, 8th May, Queens Hall Narberth

It’s Your Carmarthenshire, 11th July, Yr Egin

It’s Your Neath Port Talbot, 12th September, Blancos Hotel

Making (energy from) waves

Making (energy from) waves

We have a first class floating offshore wind industry ready to go in the region. It has seen the fastest growth in the Welsh marine energy sector, adding £11.6m to the economy last year, with the potential to generate £1bn over the next five years! It offers a once in a generation opportunity to build a new pioneering industry both for the region and the whole of the UK.

Blue Gem Wind is developing plans for Wales’ floating wind farm, called Erebus. It would be the third floating offshore wind farm in the UK, but the estimated 100MW generated is more than double the other projects. It will house seven 14MW turbines on floating platforms and provide enough low carbon energy to power ninety three thousand homes (Pic: Blue Gem)

While traditional offshore wind turbines are built into the seabed with fixed foundations, floating turbines sit on large floating steel structures which are then tethered to the seabed. This allows the turbines to be placed further out at sea in locations with higher winds, such as Pembrokeshire.

The Crown Estate has announced details of leasing opportunities that are expected to be the first round of developing floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. They will work to catalyse and accelerate the UK’s energy transition, and de-risk developments to speed up their deployment. Three Project Development Areas (PDAs) of roughly equal size are being proposed, each with a potential capacity of 1.5GW. This means the overall capacity for the leasing round will be 4.5GW, an increase from a possible 4GW from the four PDAs of varying sizes originally proposed. Overall this will generate enough clean energy capacity to power over four million homes.

The Crown Estate says the leasing round will be used to drive broader social and economic value. This includes requiring developers to set out specific commitments to ports, as well as establishing binding commitments on wider issues such as enhancing skills, addressing environmental impacts, and delivering community benefits.

Ultimately the Crown Estate believes there is the potential to generate 20GW of energy from floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.

Marine renewables are crucial in combatting climate change and achieving a diverse and reliable energy mix for current and future generations. And the Welsh Government has said floating offshore wind farms will create thousands of high quality, long-term jobs. It is quickly becoming a proven technology with the potential to deliver sustainable sources of energy and enable us to make the transition to net zero. It generates more power per megawatt than any other renewable source, and the UK’s unique wind resource and shallow seas mean it has been the central technology in plans to end our reliance on fossil fuels.

However plans for the first floating wind farm in the region stalled after no developers bid at a crucial government auction.

There were bids for onshore solar, wind and geothermal schemes as well as tidal however these generate on a lower scale to giant offshore wind farms.

Blue Gem Wind is developing plans for Wales’ floating wind farm, called Erebus, which they say would create ten thousand jobs. It did not bid for a contract because they said the government was not providing enough support through its “contracts for difference” scheme in which it steps in if the market price for electricity falls below the agreed level.

Erebus, due to be commissioned in 2026 and built twenty five miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire, would have seen the region kickstart the floating offshore wind industry. It would be the third floating offshore wind farm in the UK, but the estimated 100MW generated is more than double the other projects. It will house seven 14MW turbines on floating platforms and provide enough low carbon energy to power ninety three thousand homes. The project will provide jobs for biologists, ornithologists, ecologists, geologists, skippers, boat crew, port staff, crane operators, divers, engineers, welders, electricians, technicians, logisticians, administrators and project managers.

The UK Government has since said it will increase the contracts for difference from £44 per MWh to £73 in the next annual auction.

And of course, Erebus isn’t the only floating offshore wind projects planned for the region.

Floventis Energy’s Llŷr 1 and 2 developments will power about two hundred thousand homes with 200MW of clean energy once operational by 2027-28. With an operational life of twenty five years, each of the Llŷr projects will have six to eight turbines, all of which will produce over 12MW.

And Gwynt Glas (a joint venture between EDF Renewables UK and DP Energy), RWE, and a collaboration between Hiraeth Energy and Magnora are all aiming to secure at least 1GW of installed capacity, to be developed throughout the 2020s.

A key aspect of Hiraeth Energy and Magnora’s initial project, Môr Glas, is community ownership. The aim is to establish a wealth fund providing returns for Welsh communities. This is inspired by fossil fuel funds in oil rich countries, such as the £1tn fund from oil and gas revenues generating returns of nearly 6% a year for the people of Norway.

Ports are expected to play a key role in the manufacture and storage of the numerous components needed for floating offshore wind farms, including foundation assembly, cabling and placing the turbines on top of the floating foundations. The ports must be relatively close to project sites so that the turbines can be floated out to their final locations.

The massive turbines float on a thirty metre high base the size of a football pitch. On top of that is a turbine over three hundred metres tall, that’s as tall as the Eiffel Tower! Because they’ll require a lot of materials, Port Talbot is seen as a perfect location because it’s next to the steelworks.

Milford Haven is likely to be a centre for early phase testing, fabricating anchors and anchor chains for floating wind platforms, high speed transfer vehicles and robotics.

Port Talbot and Milford Haven are part of the Celtic Freeport, which will help create tens of thousands of new, high quality jobs in the green industries of the future. The Welsh Government hopes freeports will focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage and biofuels.

Of course we don’t always know when the wind will be blowing, but the tides are always predictable!

Tidal stream generators draw energy from water currents in much the same way as wind turbines draw energy from air currents.

Four turbine developers linked to Morlais in Anglesey, were awarded contracts for difference. The Marine Energy Test Area in Pembrokeshire, the only pre-consented, pre-commercial test facility of its kind in Wales, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Morlais to address common challenges, encourage business and research collaboration, and exchange knowledge and best practices.

Tidal lagoons are power stations that generates electricity from the natural rise and fall of the tides.

A large volume of water is captured behind a fabricated structure which is then released to drive turbines. Tidal lagoons are a more efficient way of producing energy than traditional offshore wind farms, and their operating life is estimated to be about four times longer.

Mark Drakeford has said he wants to “make Wales a world centre for emerging tidal technology”. At least three research projects, announced next spring, will be receiving £750,000 in funding to help address the barriers preventing the development of tidal lagoon technology.

A tidal lagoon could also form part of the £4bn Swansea Port Development Project, formerly Blue Eden, in SA1. The plans, which will encompass the best in sustainable technology, could also include floating and onshore solar facilities, a hyperscale data centre powered by renewable energy, an oceanic and climate change research centre, eco-homes anchored in the water, a district heating system, a green energy transport hub with a hydrogen manufacturing station, and a facility manufacturing batteries to store renewable energy for worldwide distribution. It would also act as a catalyst for further innovation in renewable technology.

Tomorrow we’re hosting a major regional conference and exhibition, bringing together projects, businesses, organisations and key stakeholders in South West Wales’ green economy, together with people of all ages and from all walks of life, for an unmissable day of connecting, showcasing and knowledge sharing, with the goal of getting everyone working together for a resilient, sustainable future for the region. Book your FREE tickets here.

Serco’s Restart Scheme and One Stop partner up to fill crucial job vacancies for the national retailer

Serco’s Restart Scheme and One Stop partner up to fill crucial job vacancies for the national retailer

Hannah Monaghan, from Serco’s Restart Scheme Employer Engagement Team in Wales, and Campbell Hutchison, People Partner for One Stop, a retail convenience store chain and subsidiary of Tesco, with over 900 shops in the UK, have been working together to solve One Stop’s recruitment challenges since the late summer of 2022.

Campbell Hutchison and Hannah Monaghan (Pic: Serco UK)

One Stop were facing a number of challenges, especially in South Wales, where there were a significant number of vacancies in the market, but they were unable to attract and retain good job candidates. One Stop were also struggling with staff engagement and a higher than usual turnover of staff due to the on-going recruitment struggles taking up resources.

Hannah stepped in to support on behalf of Serco’s Restart Scheme and has successfully placed 10 people into Customer Assistant roles for One Stop in Wales, with the individuals settling in well to the business.

Serco are in a unique position with the Restart Scheme as the programme’s purpose is to help those in long-term unemployment to develop their skills and confidence to find long-term, meaningful employment. Serco has been chosen by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver the fully funded Restart Scheme in Wales, meaning local businesses can benefit too by having access to a pool of fully supported candidates at no cost.

Campbell Hutchinson said:

“People that we recruited via the Restart Scheme have been better engaged as they have built a relationship with the restart Scheme team and are more likely to stay. We have more faith in the process than direct applications.

Working with Serco and the Restart Scheme has been brilliant. Before I contacted them, I had a Store Manager who was taken out of his current role to focus on recruitment. The process wasn’t working and had become disjointed. The Store Managers had become stuck on a hamster wheel of recruiting and recruiting and then they weren’t engaging with the new starters. There was no candidate care, and they were taking on anyone and these individuals weren’t committed to the roles. We started having to close stores due to a lack of staff as we don’t allow lone working in shops.

What Hannah and the Restart Scheme brought is stability and structure to the recruitment process. And the financial gain was that we managed to keep more people in stores, more of the time. When we look at our absences, we reduced absences from 6.5% in South Wales to 3.5%, even as low as 2% at one point. We both learned by working together as the candidate might tell Hannah one story and tell us another, so having the good relationship between us, helps us to get the whole story!”

Hannah Monaghan said:

“Campbell and I have built a good working relationship where we catch up weekly. We talk about the applicants that have applied that week and the progress they are making. We also use the opportunity to talk about the candidates that are in work and if there are any problems to tackle, we discuss it and agree a course of action if required. We both know the people who are in the roles and by having regular catch ups, we continue a streamlined process with One Stop.

Attending a managers’ meeting where I met 28 members of staff was really useful as it was good for them to know more about the Restart Scheme and that we are here to help. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that employers don’t necessarily know what we do. So, it was informative for them to get an insight into how we promote their vacancies, pre-screen their candidates, how we make sure the qualifying criteria is ticked off before candidates even get to the application stage. What we have achieved so far is just a sign of the good things to come with One Stop over years to come.”

When asked what Campbell would say to any business thinking about using the Restart Scheme, he said:

“Go to the Restart Scheme as early as possible. Invite their staff to your company team meetings so they can put a face to a name and your team can understand what the Restart Scheme is and what the process will be.

Candidates don’t grow on trees, and we are continuously recruiting and have new stores opening in South Wales. Hannah highlighted to us that the biggest challenges for recruitment for one of the new stores is accessibility as it’s not served by public transport very well. There’s no parking which we hadn’t thought of so we are currently working through how we can resolve this. This was invaluable advice. I would recommend using the Restart Scheme. We feel like we are working with experts, and they can bring a different skillset to the recruitment process. Let’s keep working the way we do and thank you for all of your help”.

To know more about the employers and businesses that have benefitted from fully funded support from the Serco Restart Scheme, and to find out what recruitment support is available to you, email or visit

Serco Restart Scheme

Supporting Local

Supporting Local

At 4theRegion we’ve always been passionate about supporting local.

Swansea City Centre Conference 2023 Photos

When we spend our money with big businesses, most of it leaves our local economy and lines the pockets of distant shareholders. When we spend our money with a local small business, it creates benefits for local people, and recirculates in our economy, where it has a much more positive social impact.

Perhaps the most important thing for supporting independent retail in Swansea is for more of us to make the effort to support local whenever we can. How can people, businesses and organisations across Swansea collaborate to promote the cause of our local businesses?

This is why “Supporting Local” is the theme for our Swansea Conference. Last year we hosted the first major conference at the newly opened Swansea Arena, and we’re so excited to be back there once again on March 29th!

We’ll have a regeneration update from Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea Council, and major partners, about all the exciting development projects currently underway and coming soon. This’ll include news of the successful Leveling Up bid that will see significant investments in the Lower Swansea Valley and an update from Urban Splash, the development partner on the Seafront and other strategic sites across Swansea.

Swansea Council has said it wants as much work from regeneration projects go to Welsh businesses as possible. And it was good to see a regional firm like Ministry of Furniture be one of the first businesses to benefit from a project to redevelop Oxford Street’s former BHS and What! store into a new city centre community hub. Ministry of Furniture has been appointed to design the furniture and fixtures scheme, working on the contract with the council and main contractors Kier Construction. Ministry of Furniture worked for the council on the most recent fit out of the Civic Centre, largely with remanufactured furniture. As a boost to the circular economy, they aim to move the majority of that apparatus to the new hub.

Many people across our communities are struggling to afford healthy food for their families, an unacceptable situation that’s been compounded by the cost of living crisis. So what needs to happen to make healthy, affordable and locally produced food available to everyone in Swansea? How can we connect people to where their food comes from, and how to grow and cook it?

GRAFT is a garden and workshop, based at the National Waterfront Museum, working with local communities, schools and adult learners to grow food, preserve seeds, keep bees, and learn cooking skills in a clay oven. Volunteers are invited to join an intergenerational curriculum of outdoor learning, wellbeing and making connected to food. All of the garden’s infrastructure has been built by the team and participants who are learning woodwork and metalwork skills, alongside horticulture.

Farmers across our region face a huge number of challenges in a vulnerable and uncertain sector. The farming industry needs to substantially change to address the climate and nature emergencies, but farmers often feel unfairly blamed or misunderstood by people in towns and cities. How can proactively engage with local farmers to understand their challenges and how they can be better supported? Creating links between farms and local communities and customers is essential to relocalising our food supply chains and creating a resilient food system for Swansea.

Public sector procurement is often recognised as a key lever for change, with the potential to provide a steady and reliable market for locally produced food and drink. The Welsh Government has launched a new initiative meant to encourage more local spending on food by the NHS, schools and local government. But change isn’t happening fast enough. What are the challenges around putting more local food on the public plate – in hospitals, schools and other settings – and how can we overcome them?

At the Swansea Conference, Bwyd Abertawe, a local community based food partnership, will be launching the Swansea Food Charter, as part of their effort to get everyone working together towards making Swansea to become a Sustainable Food Place, where healthy, local and  affordable food is available to everyone, promoting the wellbeing of people and the planet.

At 4theRegion we believe that the creative industries present a huge opportunity for jobs, entrepreneurship, regeneration and wellbeing across Swansea. By investing in creativity we can breathe new life into our high streets and town centres. How can we make sure there are opportunities here in Swansea for people to develop rewarding careers, and build successful businesses, in the creative, digital, arts and cultural sectors?

People in Swansea have an amazing mindset and willingness to help each other out. Elysium have over 100 studios they can rent out across 4 buildings in Swansea. They started off in messy art painting and now have photography studios, TV broadcasters and other creative industries using the space. If you look at creative projects in other cities, there are lots of disparate studios that are always competing. We don’t seem to have that as much in Swansea. Of course, not everyone knows what’s here! How can we better promote and connect all the good stuff that’s happening, to strengthen the sector and engage more people in the arts?

How can we make sure that Swansea retains (and develops) a vibrant and diverse mix of independent retailers, in the face of huge competition from big name brands and online shopping? To survive and thrive as an independent retail business, entrepreneurs need to adopt innovative strategies that set them apart from the global competition. So how can local businesses in Swansea embrace technology?

Russell Greenslade, Chief Executive of Swansea BID, has said the majority of the independent businesses Swansea BID has supported in opening in the city centre in the past 18 months have a very strong digital channel presence.

He said “The strength of the independent business is being nimble enough to respond to trends and situations with instant decision capability. They can be better placed to find their niche, innovate, have more power over profitability, provide a personalised experience, and be their own boss.

“As businesses, we operate in different and more challenging environments since bouncing back from a global pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. The challenges include staying relevant as customers evolve, embracing online shopping and harnessing the power of digital to help overcome challenges. Using technology to analyse our customer data, we can adapt accordingly to put customers first and use digital, data, technology and the intelligence they provide to improve the experience and anticipate customer needs enabling business growth.”

The Swansea Conference & Exhibition is going to be an unmissable day. If you haven’t yet booked your free ticket, please take a moment to do it now! There’ll be over 120 exhibition stands showcasing local businesses and community organisations, interactive exhibitions from the universities, Oriel Science, and Plantasia, opportunities to meet local companies, and a Youth Voice area celebrating some amazing young people. Find out about local job opportunities, meet new suppliers, pick up lots of free goodies, and feel proud of the people and organisations that make Swansea great! There’s something for everyone!

Looking for support for your business?

Looking for support for your business?

Considering self-employment? Want to grow an existing business? Did you know there’s a range of support available for you?

So far ninety five grants have been awarded to pre-starts and new businesses (Pic: RODNAE Productions)

It’s not always easy to know what support is available for businesses. But if you’re in the Swansea area, Business Swansea could help you. Business Swansea is the new name for business support within Swansea Council.

Got a new business? Looking to start one? Business Swansea manages Start Up Grants. So far ninety five grants have been awarded to pre-starts and new businesses. You can get financial support of up to £1,000, with no requirement for match funding. This scheme is designed for you if your business is under two years old. And you can be in any sector, from dog grooming to high end manufacturing, and anything in between! The funding can be used for the equipment, as well as the training and consultancy, you may need when starting your new business.

And what if you’ve got a more established business? The Growth Grant came online earlier this year. This is the grant for you if you’re an established business that wants to grow. Funding is available up to £1,500, with a match funding requirement. There’s also a Green Innovation Grant, if your business is working towards net zero, and a Digital Development Grant if you want, for example, to improve your online visibility or undertake a digital marketing campaign.

Both the grant schemes will require you to produce a business plan and a cashflow forecast. Not sure how to do this? Don’t worry! Where appropriate, you can be signposted to support from Business Wales and/or Business in focus to help produce the documents you need.

And it’s not just grant schemes! Business Swansea also offers business support workshops, including a Start-Up Enterprise Club, which has engaged with over two hundred people. They also run “Power Hour” workshops, which have attracted around a hundred and fifty attendees. You can watch all the previous workshops here. The facilitators for the workshops come from local businesses, including Peter Lynn & Partners, Alan Brayley from AB Glass, Bevan Buckland, Urban Foundry, Purple Dog, DJM Solicitors, Real Inbound, and Copper Bay Digital.

And what if you’re unemployed? Business Swansea run an Introduction to Self Employment Course, which covers all elements of self-employment, including what the impact would be on your unemployment entitlements. The next course is coming up in November.

A key priority for Business Swansea is to collaborate with local stakeholders and partner organisations, to assist local businesses navigating the business support available. Part of this includes quarterly meetings with around twenty four business support organisations operating in Swansea. This means all partners know what other organisations are doing. It avoids duplication and ensures everyone is working together to signpost businesses to the right support.

Want to receive regular updates on the all various support and events for businesses across the country? You can sign up to the Business Swansea e-newsletter here!

Want further information on the grants? Please visit the Swansea Council website, or contact:

Business Swansea:
Growth Grant:
Start Up Grant:

Want to attend a Business Swansea event? You can find details of their exciting upcoming events here!

Building the region

Building the region

At 4theRegion we’ve been very excited about the construction of Copr Bay. Phase one of this £135m project has brought Swansea an amazing new arena (where we hosted its first major conference!), a stunning new bridge, the first new park in the city centre since Victorian times, new apartments, and spaces for food and drink businesses.

Swansea Arena lit up for our Swansea City Centre Conference on March 17th 2022 (Pic: Adam Davies)

This has been a major boost for local workers and businesses. In fact, research has found the main growth driver for the Welsh construction sector is the £1bn worth of planned developments that will transform the centre of Swansea, which includes Copr Bay Phase One.

A report by Swansea Council and main contractor Buckingham Group found Copr Bay Phase One supported 8,000 person weeks of employment, apprenticeships and trainee placements. And it was good to see that 41.5% of supply chain spend stayed in the region, with 64% staying in Wales.

The development and construction sectors offer fantastic career opportunities, and we need to think about how we get more young people into the industry.

Why is that important?

A report by the Construction Industry Training Board has found, if Wales is to meet our projected growth prospects, we’ll need to recruit an extra 11,500 construction workers by 2026. If you, or someone you know, is interested in a career, the most in demand roles will be in bricklaying, the electrical trades, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Regeneration is something we should all do together. So how do we ensure major projects are designed and delivered in a way that will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for our region?

Some very exciting opportunities could come from the 20 year agreement Swansea Council recently confirmed with regeneration firm Urban Splash to transform the centre of Swansea with a series of £750m developments.

And last week, Urban Splash announced a joint venture with real estate developer Milligan to transform a 5.5 acre site in the area of St Mary’s Church. Early proposals include new office buildings, shared workspaces, apartments and an area for small creative businesses to make and sell their products.

Other ideas could include transforming the Civic Centre site into a mixed use destination, anchored by the beach, with new homes and a leisure and hospitality focus, and the residential led regeneration of a site in St Thomas featuring a new terraced walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.

And what other development projects could be coming to the region? We’ve taken a look at just a few of them.

Could a building feed us?

Bouygues UK have now started work on 71/72 Kingsway, which will include an urban farm style greenhouse set over four floors. Plants and vegetables will be grown in water and fed by waste pumped from fish tanks at the bottom of the building! This ‘living building’ will include green walls and green roofs, an educational facility, retail, offices, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop solar panels, battery storage and gardens. Set to accommodate 600 workers, 71/72 Kingsway will be made up of the former Woolworths and a new 13 storey structure. Pobl Group will manage 50 affordable apartments forming part of the scheme.

What about somewhere to spend quality time and relax?

Swansea’s Castle Square was once much greener than it is now, and is set to return to its former glory. There will be more plants, lawned areas and trees, as well two green roofed commercial units, and a water jet feature which can be switched on or off for different events at different times.

How can old buildings be put back into use?

Old theatres and cinemas, which are have lain empty for years, are being given new life as spaces for local businesses and communities. Swansea’s Albert Hall and Port Talbot’s iconic Plaza building will also once again be entertainment venues, while Swansea’s Palace Theatre will become a home for tech, start-up and creative businesses, with workspaces for over 130 people.

How Swansea’s new city centre community hub could look (Pic: Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd)

Oxford Street’s former BHS/What! building will become the new central location for Swansea’s main library and key council services, such as housing, benefits, employability, lifelong learning, and archives. Designers say the appearance of the structure, built in the 1950s, will have an impact appropriate to a public building, with translucent cladding backlit as a beacon to attract visitors.

It’s hoped Carmarthen’s former Debenhams will also be transformed into a hub to deliver a range of health, wellbeing, learning and cultural services. It could also become home for some of Carmarthenshire’s museum collections, an exhibition space, and a welcome point for visitors to the town.

How can a building generate its own power?

That’s happening with the Bay Technology Centre! The 25,000 square foot office and laboratory space in Baglan Energy Park uses innovative design and materials, including specialist photovoltaic panels made to look like cladding, to provide a sustainable building that’s energy positive. The design also means the ‘thermal mass’ of exposed precast floor slabs can store and transfer heat from the building, providing a cost effective heating solution. The plan is to convert excess energy into hydrogen at the Hydrogen Centre nearby.

The Blue Eden project will go even further than that! A 9.5km tidal lagoon will provide the energy for a manufacturing plant, a battery facility, a floating solar array, a data centre, residential waterfront homes for 5,000 people, and approximately 150 floating eco-homes in Swansea waterfront. Blue Eden will create over 2,500 permanent jobs, support a further 16,000 jobs across the UK, and create additional jobs during its construction.

The pandemic has changed the way people think about their living space, community areas, and the importance of work-life balance. So how could we be living differently?

St Modwen wants to expand the Coed Darcy neighbourhood in Llandarcy, Neath. The huge site, a former oil refinery, is set to be home to more than 1,800 new homes, a school and shops. It will be an ‘innovative and sustainable new 15 minute neighbourhood’, where everything that’s important would be within a 15 minute walk or bike ride.

What about our health and wellbeing?

The first phase of the £199m wellness and life science village in Llanelli has been given the go ahead. Based at Delta Lakes, this will feature a new leisure centre, hydrotherapy pool, clinical and research space, and education and business space. The project will eventually feature four zones, including assisted living accommodation and clinical recovery space, spread over 83 acres. The contract with Bouygues UK included ‘the highest level of community benefits ever prescribed’, including targets for sourcing through local suppliers. It’s hoped Pentre Awel will create just over 1,800 jobs when completed.

What about innovation?

University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s £9.3m Innovation Matrix will be home to small but growing businesses. It’ll be a digital space, but with a manufacturing centre, testing laboratories and 3D printing facilities in UWSTD’s IQ building next door. The roof would feature solar panels, and the environmentally friendly building wouldn’t require any gas.

What about transport?

The Welsh Government’s flagship £200m Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) will create a hub for rolling stock and infrastructure testing, innovation, storage and maintenance at the site of the former Nant Helen opencast mine and Onllwyn coal washery at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys, straddling the border between Neath Port Talbot and Powys.

It’s expected to create over 100 direct jobs, and could create many more as academic and industrial partners are attracted to the site. Featuring the UK’s first net zero railway, GCRE will include the first comprehensive rail testing and innovation facility of its kind in the world, with capacity and capabilities for rigorous testing of rolling stock, infrastructure, and integrated systems from prototype to implementation.

And what about tourism?

The steel framework of the new Hafod-Morfa Copperworks clock tower is put in place (Pic: Swansea Council)

The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks were once the largest copperworks in the world. After lying derelict for years, work started to transform it into a new visitor attraction for Penderyn Whisky. Much of the new visitor centre is now up. The roof of the powerhouse, which will include an on-site distillery, is well advanced. And contractors John Weaver will recreate the powerhouse’s original clock tower. Plans also include a shop, tasting bar, exhibition space, offices and VIP bar in the fully refurbished grade two listed building.

Regeneration is something we should all do together. We need to ensure major projects are designed and delivered in a way that will provide long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for our region.

4theRegion are hosting our next Construction & Development Sector Forum on July 12th. Meet businesses and organisations from your sector to talk about opportunities to collaborate for the greater good in South West Wales. Hear from 4theRegion members and partners about their work in the region, their social purpose, and their ambitions for the future, emerging opportunities to collaborate and support each other across South West Wales! You can register your free place here.