SMART investment helps improve rural telecoms connectivity

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A new mobile telephone mast powered through a pioneering wind turbine, which has the potential to support Wales’ net zero target and bring telecoms connectivity to rural areas has been developed by a Baglan-based company, with support from the Welsh Government.

Crossflow Energy’s revolutionary mast incorporates a wind turbine, solar panels, and on-site battery storage. The project is just the latest innovation resulting from support from the Welsh Government’s European Union (EU)-funded SMART programme.

A survey of nearly a third of the 486 companies supported by SMART up to 2021 found a total of 3,000 jobs were created – about 19 jobs per business – with an average turnover growth of £3.8m per business. These figures continue to grow as the beneficial effects of innovation endure within businesses.

Between 2015 and 2020, a £73m investment by the Welsh Government and EU in SMART programmes leveraged £287m from the private sector, supporting more than 1,450 new R&D projects.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething said: “Thanks to EU-funded innovation programmes, business across Wales have been able to take new ideas from the drawing board and bring to life new, innovative, and dynamic products and services. Their innovation, backed by the Welsh Government, is helping to create thousands of new jobs in communities across the country.

“Many of these products and services are now being used in our day-to-day lives, helping to improve society for the better while boosting our economy and our prosperity as a nation.”

He added: “A great example of this is the innovative work being undertaken by Baglan-based Crossflow. Their revolutionary design concept for a mobile telephone mast powered by renewable energy is now subject to world-wide attention and interest.”

But the Welsh Government added that the ending of EU funding leaves it with a £1.1bn hole in its budget between now and 2025, which threatens the scale and reach of this R&D support.

In the light of this, Vaughan Gething called on the UK Government to “urgently honour” its promise to increase the level of public investment in R&D outside the South East of England by at least 40 per cent by 2030, and to ensure all parts of the UK reach its R&D investment target of 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027.