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  • Lawrence Bailey

Small steps needed for small business

Chancellor Phil Hammond was in Swansea Bay last week. He was here to learn about homes as power stations.

Sounds a bit quirky I know; but it’s the real deal, through an imaginative combination of solar cells, battery storage and clever integral design.

Its the work of Swansea University – recently cited as the top Welsh name in the Sunday Times Good University Guide - who will receive £36m to develop this technological innovation.

As you’d expect, Mr Hammond was dead keen to claim that Wales would be properly supported in future research and development funding, come Brexit. You can understand though why such investment promises carry less weight these days, given the unsatisfactory outcomes over rail electrification and the tidal lagoon.

I personally think it’s a valuable lesson to appreciate that ‘big fix’ solutions are seldom the real answer when it comes to sustainable economic improvement.

With industry and commerce crying out for the right skills, the task of matching academic excellence with business savvy has to be a priority.

A generation of home-grown technicians and specialists will soon emerge just down the road where UWTSD opened their new SA1 campus doors in typical unassuming style the same week.

Their emphasis on regional interaction is a clear ambition and it and it sits nicely alongside the approach that can be seen in commercial ventures.

For example, the Oldwalls Collection have transformed the former Fairyhill in Gower as a leading wedding and events venue. The result is impressive, not least due to the cool design work undertaken by AB Glass, based at Fforestfach.

The owners of the much-loved Mumbles Pier are using a local source to make hundreds of replacement panels as part of the restoration work. Cambrian Castings, located in Crofty, are one of the last remaining traditional foundries in Wales.

It may all seem a bit mundane, but as Ben Francis, Welsh policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses points out, it only takes modest growth in the firms who operate out of industrial units to make a significant difference to local earnings.

So the message to Phil Hammond is if you want this region to prosper, then the answer is to foster opportunities for small business – not just the corporate giants.

There’s plenty of voting days before Christmas

There must have been numerous occasions over the years where Theresa May has gone to bed wondering if she will still have a job in the morning. I don’t suppose the last few weeks have been any different.

That said, people are having a tough time getting a handle on a PM who manages to blend Boudicca and Beyoncé by facing down EU bosses while demonstrating a modest talent for African dance. The fact that she is still there (at the time of writing this anyway) probably says more about the extraordinary prevailing political maelstrom than her alleged reputation for being a “bloody difficult woman”.

Brexiteers within the Conservative party believe that Mrs May is their creature; put there to lead the UK into an era whereby we become the Amish of Europe – isolated, inward-looking and convinced that God has something exclusive planned for us.

The trouble with leaders though is that they tend to have her own agenda. Of course, that doesn’t make them any more workable.

Which probably explains why you can get betting odds of 5/1 for an election before Christmas.

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