FAMILY and friends of a Chepstow man who helped mastermind the success of an internationally-renowned employer which started from a small attic have paid tribute to him following his death.

Dr Mike Carey died aged 71 on February 9, following a 16-year battle with Parkinson’s.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, who worked with him in the business from the beginning and tirelessly cared for him through his illness, his three children and eight grandchildren.

South Wales Argus: Dr Mike Carey

Dr Mike Carey

From a modest family background in Preston, Dr Carey studied hard through grammar school to defeat the odds and obtain a place at Imperial College London to study electrical engineering.

He then went on to join the Post Office Research Establishment via an apprenticeship, where he worked among a team developing ideas behind what would become System X – the British public telephone digital switching system.

After a brief stint in the physics department at Keele University, where he completed his doctorate, he moved to Chepstow in 1981 following an approach to set up a small research group at Mitel Telecom in Caldicot.

In 1986, along with Adrian Anderson and Simon Maddison, he left to found Ensigma – a digital design consultancy.

Ensigma started in the attic of Ned Heywood’s Ceramics Workshop Gallery at Lower Church Street, before moving above Kwik-Save in Welsh Street – now Wilkinson’s.

With successful growth, new purpose-built premises were constructed on Station Road.

South Wales Argus: Dr Mike Carey

Dr Mike Carey

After being acquired by Imagination Technologies in 2000, the company continued to thrive, and moved into a dedicated building just up the hill behind, where it employed more than 100 people.


After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Dr Carey retired but continued to work as an honorary professor at the University of Birmingham.

Outside of work, he had a passion for wine, classical music, and scuba diving, and he was an early adopter of top end hi-fi equipment, including electro-static speakers.

Ensigma predominantly employed engineers who brought their families, many of whom settled in the area and remain today.

Daughter Catherine Wacey said the family has received cards and messages of condolence from across the globe from Dr Carey’s ex-employees and students.

“Dad was a humble man and was very passionate about the business and developing people,” she said. “Everything he did was based on strong core values, which he attributed to his parents, who came from a very working-class background in Preston.

“He was very grateful for the start he had in life, and he worked tirelessly to help others.

“I remember school holidays when he was working as a lecturer, he’d have papers everywhere trying to give as much feedback as he could.

“He wasn’t a man who naturally pushed himself forwards, and he believed passionately that everyone involved in the company should enjoy its success.

South Wales Argus: Dr Mike Carey

Dr Mike Carey

“After negotiating with Imagination in 2000, dad made sure every staff member received equal money from the shares. That’s the kind of person he was, and we’re very grateful for the messages we’ve received from those who worked with him.”

The Ensigma division’s presence in Chepstow ended in 2020, when the company was acquired by Nordic Semiconductor.

Mr Maddison paid tribute to his friend, saying: “Under Mike’s leadership, Ensigma became a world technology leader in speech recognition, digital audio broadcasting, and digital wireless.

“Mike was a renaissance man, he could discuss anything with deep understanding and passion. We shall miss his intellect and companionship.”