Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems is spending £2.2 million to transform its Welsh plant into the European centre for research and development, writes Robin Roberts.

The decision will see the plant in the Swansea Valley doubling in size to 22,000sq ft, 100 jobs will be safeguarded and 15 new posts created.

Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems (Europe) Ltd. – part of a group which is among Japan’s top 10 companies – is enhancing its European operations to prepare for future growth.

Important operations will be based in France and Germany but the company’s major research centre will be housed at the Welsh location – chosen because of the expertise of its local staff and its strong links with University College Swansea and Cardiff University.

The planned development of an Autotechnium centre by The Welsh Development Agency (WDA) at Llanelli to help the development of the automotive component sector was another important factor in company’s decision.

Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems has been involved in operations in the Swansea Valley since the 1980s. Latterly, the Welsh plant has specialised in testing and developing wiring systems for Sumitomo’s European carmaker customers and in managing supply contracts undertaken by the group’s main manufacturing plants in Europe.

The new investment in Ystradgynlais follows a decision by Sumitomo to achieve more sophisticated prototype and development systems.

Mid Wales executive director of the WDA, Dr Geraint Davies, said, “This is a significant win for the automotive sector in Wales in general as well as being excellent news for the upper Swansea Valley and south Powys.

“Automotive components are a major contributor to the Welsh economy and it’s essential for the continued success of the sector that companies invest in research and development.”