Welsh exiles could boost economy

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Image caption Walter May is looking at how five nations have tapped into their exiles' success

In the way that Welsh rugby fans still support Wales even if they no longer live here, could successful Welsh business people who have made their mark outside Wales share their experience and connections to help the Welsh economy?

That is the proposal being championed by software entrepreneur Walter May.

Originally from Pontypool, he started work as an apprentice with British Steel and left Wales to study for an MSc at Cranfield University.

He built a successful career in the software sector and since returning to Wales has been a business support advisor for tech companies in their early stages and is involved in peer-to-peer mentoring.

Mr May is also conducting a feasibility study for the Welsh government into how five different nations - India, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Scotland - have benefited from tapping into the success of exiles.

Ministers will get a sight of that report next month.

One of the most successful countries in terms of getting money, influence and experience from its ex-pats is Ireland.

Kingsley Aikins set up Diaspora Matters four years ago . He wanted to reverse the brain drain and form networks of successful people across the world who wanted to help their home country's economy. It has been hugely successful and he now advises groups across the world.

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Image caption 'Business happens between people' says Warren East

Walter May, inspired by Aikins, is now building a network of Welsh exiles who he hopes will be interested in using their experience and connections to help the Welsh economy.

One person he is talking to is Warren East, former chief executive of ARM Holdings - a UK multinational and one of the world's most successful technology companies.

He comes from Newport originally but has built his career in Cambridge and around the world, although he regularly returns home.

Mr East is particularly interested in inspiring young people to take up a career in engineering and he says networks and connections can make a difference.


"Comparing Wales to where I've been working in Cambridge and all over the world you can see the economy is not in a good state.

"Business happens between people and this kind of networking effect that Walter is talking about is a necessary condition for inward investment and trade.

"Government initiatives are great but actually it's other businesses that businesses do business with and if you don't create that environment then things don't happen."

He adds that if he is connected with other people from Wales then he is more likely to think of doing business with Welsh companies.

Mr May is planning a Global Welsh conference at this year's Hay Festival and hopes to attract top Welsh business exiles.

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