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CW’s new CEO Mark Rayner relishes the challenges ahead





Mark Rayner took on the role of CEO of CW (Cambridge Wireless) in May – quite a short period of time, but time enough for him to formulate a long-term policy which addresses the severe shortage of skilled workers for the digital age.

Mark Rayner became CEO of CW (Cambridge Wireless) in May 2022. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Rayner became CEO of CW (Cambridge Wireless) in May 2022. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mark’s career started off in the RAF (as an air traffic controller): he then moved into credit management, and founded Cambridge Capital Partners. He then joined Pall Mall Partners as a director and COO in 2000, for 12 years, with an overlapping period (2010-2013) when he ran Emotive Experiential Performance Inc, an automotive marketing company based in California: clients included Tesla and Google. From 2014 to 2018 he was COO at Briggs Automotive Company, then became group head of operations at the Be Confident Group until 2020, at which point he decamped to St John’s Innovation Centre to be a business builder, mentor and access-to-finance specialist. In his voluntary role as advisor at Astia, he champions and helps fund women in business, globally.

Although he has a long-term vision for CW, there are some legacy issues Mark has to deal with.

“CW is still transitioning from the pandemic,” he says. “We’ve been living in a virtual or hybrid world, and the job now is to help the numbers come back into the real world and be face-to-face in 3D, which is a real buzz.

“My first event was the CW Conference in June, which was a hybrid, a 50-50 split [between physical visitors and online], and we have special interest group events every couple of weeks around the UK. And we hope to increase the number of people for the CW International Conference on November 2.”

CW 5G Testbed Accelerator has been a huge success since its inception. Picture: Keith Heppell
CW 5G Testbed Accelerator has been a huge success since its inception. Picture: Keith Heppell

There are 20 SIGs (special interest groups) run by CW, with titles like ‘The Industrial IoT group’ and ‘The Connected Devices Group’. They are at the core of CW’s mission, to be ‘the leading community for organisations who are ambitious with technology’.

“Our membership is stable,” continues Mark, “and we’re looking to increase it over the next six to 12 months with new products and services.

“We’re launching the inaugural CW Tech Week next May, we’re working with universities and other organisations on that. Also our outreach has increased because we have a new events base – in London, at 22 Bishopsgate – for our national clients. We’re also a member of CXHG Open Spaces [an exclusive workspace nestled in the iconic 22 Bishopsgate building]. We did the deal in June and have since held our first event there.”

CW’s Cambridge membership is 30 per cent and “70 per cent is national and international”.

The Tech Week event is part of CW’s wider ambition, to encourage the uptake of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects in the UK as a way to develop the next generation of engineers and technicians.

CW TEC Annual Cambridge Wireless conference is always a big draw. Picture: Keith Heppell
CW TEC Annual Cambridge Wireless conference is always a big draw. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’re looking at a number of programmes to get young people digitally advanced,” says Mark. “For Tech Week we’ll be doing STEM promotion. The outreach is to get young scientists on board because there’s a dearth of people in the digital industries, and we need to start that process now, so for university students that means they know who their job provider is going to be.

“The skills shortage is going to be a big issue in the future so we need to reach people at a young age. We’ll start with companies in Cambridge and universities in the UK, to see how we can develop a pathway for our brightest minds, to broaden the scope of their ambition. It’s also important nationally – to keep people in the UK rather than see the smart people leaving. It’s going to affect us more and more, so it’s upskilling people and getting more people to stay – this isn’t just about money, it’s your mission, and what you believe in.”

CW works with Cambridge non-profit Form the Future to develop its Region of Learning programme, a system of digital credentials for young people aged 15-24, with badges reflecting learning or participatory activities offered by a range of informal and formal learning and education providers around the county.

The initiative is being developed by Form the Future, in partnership with St Neots-based consultancy Shift Momentum and digital consultancy Navigatr. The first region of learning covers Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Last but not least, CW is a leading advocate of 5G in the UK. Its 5G Test Bed programme, which allows UK companies to test 5G facilities for three months, has proved hugely popular.

CW works with Form the Future to upskill the next generation in STEM subjects. Picture: Richard Marsham
CW works with Form the Future to upskill the next generation in STEM subjects. Picture: Richard Marsham

“We’re a lead consortium member of the UK5G Innovation Network,” Mark notes of the initiative which helps businesses deploy 5G by promoting the research, collaboration and commercial use cases related to the technology.

“We’re promoting 5G in the UK for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, to help get larger players to come in – plus looking at how to make money from 5G, to connect the dots… There’s already been some great outcomes from the programme.

“5G offers high growth in small cell environments – cableless environments where the area is so much smaller.”

Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes or base stations operating in a licensed or unlicensed spectrum that have a coverage range from a few feet up to a couple of hundred yards. They are deployed to increase the mobile network capacity and coverage in localised areas, providing in-building or outdoor wireless service.

“That’s where 5G is a gamechanger. There are no wires in 5G, so the cost of acquisition – to put connectivity in – markedly reduces: having no wires of course makes it easier.”

CW is based at the Bradfield Centre, and has eight full-time staff and six freelancers.

“We’re trying to keep the structure flat,” Mark says. “We’re working hard to consider how we look in five or 10 years, and how we effect positive change internationally.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to reach out and deliver more excellence.”



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