A website created for the Welsh Government that maps innovation in Wales by using a range of data sets has been launched today to help civil servants develop more informed economic growth policy.
The tool, developed by the Welsh Government and innovation charity Nesta, aims to provide policy makers and economists that often rely on once-yearly official surveys with more accurate and timely evidence upon which to base their policies.
Arloesiadur – which means innovation directory in Welsh – uses big data to measure and visualise the innovation landscape in the technology, research and industry sectors, drawing on information from sources such as company websites and social media that are updated more regularly than official data.
Juan Mateos-Garcia, head of mapping at Nesta, said that while economists and policy makers recognise the importance of supporting innovation, they are not doing enough to understand it.
“Big data is transforming all walks of life – the way we do economic policy is lagging behind,” he said.
“We still rely on data collected using old methods (surveys), once a year, available with substantial delays, and organised in ways that make it very difficult to study new industries and technologies, yet these are exactly the questions that innovation policymakers are interested in.”
He added that Arloesiadur uses new data sources and data science methods, and the team’s work so far had generated useful information for innovation policy.
“Moving forward, we need to monitor how they are used by policymakers, and identify the processes, skillsets and policy instruments that have to be in place to augment their impact,” he said.
Among the findings published on the website are that the number of people working in high paying industries in Wales such as aerospace and telecommunications grew by 73% between 2011 and 2015; and that a corridor of manufacturing activity between north-east Wales and Severn Bridge added almost 7,000 jobs over the same period.