This appeared in the Llanelli Herald on February 26th
Where will the jobs of the future come from?
The answer may be within us. A new book by a former senior adviser on technology to the US State Department says “The world’s last Trillion Dollar industry was created out of computer code, the World’s next Trillion Dollar industry is going to be created out of genetic code”.
Alec Ross reckons that 15 years on from the mapping of the human genome we’re probably three years away from being able to get truly individualised medicines, and being able to use our genetics to diagnose the diseases. The innovation will be able to identify cancerous cells at one hundredth of the size that can be detected using MRI.
This is why Sir Terry Matthews this week identified this area as a priority for the Swansea Bay City Region - which includes Llanelli.
The self-made Billionaire is helping the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a 20 year plan for our region. He sees our economic future tied to becoming an 'Internet Coast', using the potential of digital innovation to create new industries and jobs.
It is a genuinely exciting vision and justifies Carwyn Jones’ decision to get him involved.
Rather than the traditional approach of building roads and enterprise parks, hoping factories will come, he envisages a new "cloud" enterprise zone to act as a magnet for data companies.
Taking his cue from Alec Ross’ predictions of where medical technology may take us, Terry Matthews has set an ambition to create a new approach to “genome-informed personalised treatment plans” and research environments which could be a significant contributor in making the UK a world leader in Genomic Medicine.
And Llanelli and Swansea Bay could be at the heart of that. Why not?
This is breath of fresh air. I’m bored of the economic debate in Wales. All the business organisations, the CBI and IoD, can come up with is the idea of spending £1 Billion on a new stretch of M4 around Newport, which would gobble up all the available money for the whole of Wales and only success in moving the traffic jams a few miles down the road.
I would much rather we embrace Terry Matthews’ thinking of trying to maximise the benefits of a new digital infrastructure.
Llanelli’s future is in linking in with the Swansea Bay region, not being tied into rural Carmarthenshire and a new Dyfed County Council.
Terry Mathews has the backing of the Welsh Labour Government is designing a bid for a £500 Million ‘Swansea Bay City Deal’. In a letter to Chancellor George Osborne, Sir Terry - who made his fortune in internet developments of the telecom industry - said the vision addressed global challenges and was of a sufficient scale to attract international investors.
He said: "The prosperity gap between Swansea Bay and the rest of Wales and the UK remains stubbornly and unacceptably high. Real transformation will not be achieved by simply doing more of the same".
Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli