They have been selected from over 300 applications by hosts Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – to be part of an exhibition of 96 shortlisted companies, with several of these very best of British innovators launching new products.
The annual event is expected to attract 2,500 businesses to the West Midlands. It offers attendees a chance to network with investors, hear from pioneering thinkers and find out about a range of expertise and government support.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is a keynote speaker, while Birmingham Innovation Hub and the Midlands Engine are also involved.
In the past year, Innovate UK has provided £30.4 million in core grant funding to 240 organisations in the West Midlands – this includes 160 SMEs.
Mr Street said: “Innovation is what drives the economy and our region's future prosperity is focused on key growth sectors. Innovate UK brings the best of innovation to the West Midlands and I am delighted with the opportunity to be involved in something that showcases this and our region.”
Through a programme of speakers, Innovate 2017 will explore major themes relevant to the region such as smart cities and urban planning and what this means for the individual, businesses and government. Other topics include artificial intelligence, robotics, alternative food sources and space exploration.
Innovate UK Chief Executive Ruth McKernan said: “We are very excited to be taking our annual flagship innovation showcase to the Midlands this year. Innovate 2017 will be an excellent platform for showcasing the strength of Midlands innovation to a national and international audience.”
West Midlands businesses taking part include:
· Warwick Music Limited, www.warwickmusicgroup.com , the company behind pTrumpet – a hybrid innovation in trumpet manufacture using the very latest in plastic technology, which is lightweight and robust with a high quality performance compared to an equivalent brass trumpet (Tamworth).
· Adelan, www.adelan.co.uk , who are developing a prototype fuel cell generator for the high-value leisure market, which includes campervans, barges and sail boats. (Birmingham).
· Daden, www.daden.co.uk , who use 3D and VR products to support the latest training and learning in both corporate and educational environments (Birmingham).
· MOVONIx, www.movoball.com , who have invented and patented MOVOBall, a product that transforms a gym ball as a joystick and directional motion controller. (Birmingham).
Infusion GB, one of the UK’s leading tea and herbal drink packaging companies, has quadrupled its occupational footprint at Gloucester Business Park after leasing a fourth warehouse unit at the IO Centre.
The privately owned business, which has produced teabags for leading brands and start-up companies since 1985, originally ran production from the 14,000 sq ft Unit 5 on Gloucester Business Park.
A year ago it invested in new premises, taking 21,650 sq ft in the adjacent Units 2 and 3. It has now expanded again, leasing the 10,062 sq ft Unit 4. It now occupies nearly 46,000 sq ft at the business park.
Property consultants Alder King represented the landlord, the TR Property Investment Trust, in all three transactions.
Infusion’s investment in new facilities will allow it to increase its teabag production capability from 400 million tea bags to 1.5 billion tea bags and expand its storage capacity of raw materials, packaging and finished goods from 200 to 1,600 pallets.
“Having the new adjacent premises will allow us to plan for future growth over the coming decade. We will continue to offer our customers great service from our expanded production facilities,” says Peter Barry, director of Infusion GB.
“Infusion is clearly a growing success story thanks to the UK’s continuing love affair with tea, particularly speciality teas and herbal teas,” says Alder King partner Adrian Rowley.
“As adjacent units have become available within the IO Centre, it has moved quickly to secure the safe, secure and modern accommodation it needs to respond to client demand.”
Voneus, the rural community broadband specialist, has acquired Cotswold Wireless, the local high-speed broadband provider – its first acquisition since raising over £5 million in growth funding in June 2017.
Aiming to be the UK’s market leader in rural broadband provision, Voneus expects this acquisition to increase the company’s capacity to connect a further 3,000 homes and businesses – growing its reach while increasing its market credentials. Cotswold Wireless specialises in high speed broadband for the Cotswolds, helping over 400 homes and businesses in the local region. This purchase strengthens Voneus’ network and will help additional households and businesses in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire become connected.
It is the first time either firm has undertaken a move of this scale. Part of the Voneus ‘buy and build’ strategy to accelerate its growth plan, this purchase is the first of many to ensure the business scales quickly and efficiently, while importantly ‘connecting the nation’.
Expanding the Voneus network throughout Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, this purchase will connect more local families, enable remote-working and ensure enhanced access to education through heightened rural connectivity.
Cotswold Wireless was founded in 2004 and specialises in delivering fast, reliable broadband to the Costwolds. Voneus which first entered the market in 2011 has already scaled its expansion plans since raising £5.3m growth funding in June 2017. Specialising in Wireless ‘Air Fibre’, Voneus is accelerating its rapid growth to achieve a national footprint, while bringing parity between rural areas and city dwellers.
“Our mission is to rescue rural communities from the pain and indignity of slow broadband, without them having to wait years for Fibre”, says Steve Leighton, CEO, Voneus. “Buying Cotswold Wireless, helps accelerate this. The important thing is increased access to communities and we want to make sure the ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural areas drastically decreases so people can go about their everyday lives interruption-free”.
Tristram Charnley, Founder, Cotswold Wireless says, “Being part of the bigger Voneus network will give our existing customers access to new products, increased service benefits and other opportunities over time”.
New customers can be live and receive high speed broadband within months, not years, with no roads required to be dug up. Voneus works with supportive Tier 1 providers on initial connectivity to install broadband quickly and effectively to deliver speeds between 35Mbps and 50Mbps using an innovative Wireless Fibre To The Home (WFTTH) solution, rivalling other services in the industry. The company currently has ongoing installations in Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
Gloucestershire beauty company SLG, have confirmed today that they are seeking an acquirer for their Gloucester based manufacturing division, which makes beauty applicators and cosmetic wipes.
Miles Dunkley, CEO of SLG stated: “The manufacturing division represents around £2 million of SLG’s £40 million group turnover. The proposals we have announced today will allow SLG to focus entirely on the continued growth and development of the main area of our business – that of our portfolio of high growth beauty brands where there is huge potential for us to realise in the coming years. It is therefore the right time to orientate fully in that direction.”
SLG are the company behind many high street fashion beauty brands including Zoella Beauty, Superdry Beauty and Men’s Grooming, Johnny’s Chop Shop and the recently launched Millie Mackintosh Beauty selling their brands in 15,000 stores across 27 countries.
In parallel, the company are also seeking a sub-contractor for the manufacture of its globally patented Self Tan Mitt product and an outsource partner for its warehouse/fulfillment facilities.
Richard Buckland, SLG’s Chief Operating Officer commented:
“There is an imperative in this process which is that the manufacturing division is purchased by a world class UK based acquirer and that any sub-contract partners are able to not only maintain but improve on the exceptional product quality and customer service which SLG is so well known for.
“Assuming that suitable acquirers and
sub-contractors are secured, a number of employees currently engaged in these
activities will be protected by TUPE regulations with the potential also for some
redundancies. We hope this to be at a minimum level, however.”
SLG's staff have been advised of the proposals and a formal consultation process has commenced for those potentially affected by the development.
Ecotricity is to revise its existing planning application for its Eco Park development by junction 13 of the M5, scrapping its business park plans, and expects to submit its changes to the council before the end of the year.
The current proposal was submitted back in January 2016, and with no end date still in sight Ecotricity has decided to adapt the application to focus solely on facilities for Forest Green Rovers football club – as part of this the Zaha Hadid Architects designed wooden stadium will move to the north side of the A419, on the site of the currently proposed Green Technology Hub, and there will be no development on the south side.
This means there will be no Business Park in the revised plan, where facilities for up to 4,000 jobs would have been created, generating a £300m a year boost to the local economy.
The revised plans will be accompanied by updated environmental reports, looking at key issues including traffic, noise, lighting, biodiversity and landscape.
Dale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity, said: “We’ve taken this decision because of the on-going delays with the planning process for the original concept. It’s a pragmatic decision recognising that Eco Park as proposed was just a bit too much for the council to get their heads round right now. The stadium is the most important part in the short term – the thing we need the most, and the easiest thing for planners to approve, so we’re removing the obstacles, which ironically we thought were the major benefits to the District, the 4,000 job green tech business park.
“Eco Park has just been earmarked by the council for employment use as part of the local plan review. The message we’re getting is that we need to come back in a few years’ time. We may do that.”
A ground breaking ceremony at Gloucester Business Park has marked the start of construction of a new 100,000 sq ft, state-of-art manufacturing facility for TBS Engineering, a world leader in automation for the battery industry.
The ceremony was attended by the project teams from Arlington, owners of Gloucester Business Park and TBS, together with Winvic the contractors on the development, to officially mark the commencement of construction.
The facility, includes 80,000 sq ft of manufacturing space together with 20,000 sq ft of office accommodation and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2018. When completed it will serve as TBS’s new global headquarters, and provide employment for 170 people.
Dan Williams, Development Director of Arlington said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with TBS on the development of this exciting new HQ and look forward to working with them for years to come. This development comes hot on the heels of us completing the new HQ office for Horizon Nuclear Power and is testament to the skills of our delivery team and the opportunity at Gloucester Business Park to deliver new business space for all sorts of companies. It is also the first major announcement for Arlington following its corporate acquisition by TPG, and demonstrates the new owner’s commitment to the strategy of developing out the significant landbank held by the business.”
David Longney, TBS Engineering Group Managing Director, added: “Our investment in the new facility, is testament to the expertise, talent and engineering capabilities available to us in Gloucestershire. It is this local resource that has enabled us to stay at the forefront of our industry. Over the last fifty years TBS has led the world in the manufacture of lead acid battery equipment. At the heart of this growth, is our commitment to innovation and engineering and this new facility will support our continued expansion, research and development and position as a global leader.
Gloucester Business Park is home to a large business community of over 70 companies, includes extensive onsite amenities and is located at Junction 11a of the M5 and A417 dual carriageway.
TBS Engineering were represented by Cushman & Wakefield and Arlington by Alder King and Strutt & Parker.
Former managing director of Gloucester-based Barnwood Shopfitting, Chris Gabb, celebrated his retirement by picking up an award recognising his outstanding contribution to the shopfitting industry.
Chris’s achievement in the National Association of Shopfitters (NAS) Design Partnership Awards 2017 has rounded off a long and distinguished career with Barnwood that began in 1971.
During that time he supported more than 90 apprentices, many of whom are still in the business today and have gone on to senior positions. This is testament to the importance of the trade apprenticeship and the support it is given by the leadership in the business.
After an apprenticeship with a local joinery company, Gloucester-born Chris joined a national building company, who were undertaking a major redevelopment project in the city, giving him valuable site experience.
After joining Barnwood, he assisted in all aspects of the high quality bespoke bank and building society fit-outs, taking part in all aspects of the operation from estimating to site management.
He took over control of the joinery business after former director, Bert Davies, retired, developing and widening the scope of works into the retail area and complete fit-out works.
Chris’s input, initiative and forward thinking developed the company to become a major part of the Barnwood Group, resulting in Barnwood Shopfitting being established within the group.
During Chris’s stewardship of the company, he has led controlled expansion of the business to become a major successful player in the shopfitting sector, currently turning over more than £25 million per year, with an enviable list of blue chip customers.
But it’s not all about personal successes. Chris’s down to earth and practical approach has developed a culture within the business of helping customers and staff, which continues today.
He worked closely to understand the clients’ needs and shaped the business to support these, regularly making the impossible possible. Helping others has been important to Chris and he has always been a strong advocate of the trade apprenticeship.
Barnwood Shopfitting joined the NAS in 1974, and have been long-standing members and supporters, with Chris being elected to the council of the NAS on 7th February 2001. Since then Chris has served the association in many roles, most latterly as treasurer, before his retirement from the NAS last year.
Barnwood Group is one of Gloucestershire’s longest established companies, employing more than 230 staff with a turnover of £90 million. The group includes three divisions: Construction, Shopfitting and General Works, and is responsible for such prestigious projects as the new John Lewis store at Terminal 2 and the Perfectionists Café-a restaurant created by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal for air travellers.
Leading alternative network provider, CityFibre , has partnered with Cheltenham-based ICT company, Bamboo Technology Group Ltd, to unleash the power of full-fibre beneath Cheltenham and Gloucester’s streets, giving businesses access to next-generation digital infrastructure and ultrafast internet speeds.
Local businesses will soon be able to harness the benefits of full-fibre connectivity after CityFibre unveiled new, alternative digital networks in both Cheltenham and Gloucester.
The move by CityFibre responds to growing demand for ultrafast connectivity in the region. A recent survey conducted by the company and Bamboo, revealed that over 60 per cent of businesses are languishing with an internet connection below 50Mbps.
With the modern full-fibre infrastructure introduced by CityFibre in place, businesses across the area will now have affordable access to almost unlimited bandwidth, with 500Mbps and 1Gbps internet services. This, in turn, will bolster further digital growth across the region as well as providing a boost to local business, driving investment and inspiring new start-ups.
CityFibre is now calling for local businesses to register their interest to discover more about the Cheltenham and Gloucester networks, their capabilities and how they can support their digital ambitions. Connections to the network can be secured through Cheltenham-based telecoms and ICT service provider, Bamboo.
With the core network in place, many businesses will be able to access the network and benefit from ultrafast speeds very soon. And due to ambitious growth plans, more businesses will be able to benefit as the network expands in Gloucester and Cheltenham and surrounding areas such as Staverton and Quedgeley .
Nick Gray, City Development Manager at CityFibre, explained: “Poor connectivity has been an issue for businesses across Gloucester and Cheltenham for a number of years and there’s a recognised need to invest to meet the demands of the digital age, where slow and unreliable connectivity can be a real barrier to local businesses.
“We’ve successfully rolled out full-fibre infrastructure across the UK, including Bristol in 2016, and our expansion into two new areas will help the region reach its digital potential. Our investment in Gloucester and Cheltenham will stand to give businesses and services a modern foundation for growth, investment and innovation and a proven toolkit for increased efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Together, these elements form the building blocks of a thriving regional economy and sustainable growth and position both areas alongside some of the most connected locations in the UK and the world. We’re looking forward to working alongside Bamboo in Cheltenham and Gloucester, as their experience, local insight and diverse range of solutions will be invaluable to aiding businesses take full advantage of the new infrastructure.”
Lorrin White, Managing Director of Bamboo added: “We’re excited to offer businesses across the area truly affordable, ultrafast fibre connectivity for the first time. With over 85% of businesses we spoke to expressing an interest in affordable 500Mbps, there is clearly a growing appetite and need for the service.”
“We have a wealth of industry in this area, and sectors like science and technology have made huge leaps in the region in recent years. We must have the infrastructure to allow these industries to continue to thrive. The gigabit network will make a real difference to Gloucester and Cheltenham’s digital landscape and we’re looking forward to working with CityFibre to support businesses across the area. We encourage more to get in touch and find out how they can join the network.”
ZPG Plc, which owns and operates some of the UK’s most well known digital brands including Zoopla, uSwitch, PrimeLocation and Hometrack, is buying money.co.uk, one of the UK’s leading financial services comparison websites, for £80 million on a cash-free, debt-free basis, plus a performance-based earn-out of up to £60 million.
Established in 2008, Money.co.uk is one of the UK’s leading financial services comparison websites, allowing consumers to compare thousands of deals from over 600 providers across more than 60 product categories including mortgages, loans, credit cards, bank accounts and insurance. The business has a strong brand position with over 2 million visits per month to its website.
Money generated revenues of over £24 million in 2016.
The acquisition is a core part of ZPG’s strategy to offer the widest range of relevant products across its platforms and is an ideal fit, with both businesses focussed on empowering consumers to make better-informed property and home-related decisions.
Following completion, Money will continue to operate as a standalone brand and platform, headed up by Founder & CEO, Chris Morling.
Alex Chesterman, Founder & CEO of ZPG said: “We are delighted to announce this transaction. Adding Money, one of the UK’s leading financial services comparison websites, to our existing brand portfolio will further enhance our product capabilities and consumer engagement across both our comparison and property platforms. Broadening our financial services offering has long been a key part of our strategy and I look forward to welcoming Chris and his team to the ZPG family.”
Chris Morling, Founder & CEO of Money added : “I am very proud of what we have achieved over the last nine years. We have developed a strong brand and loyal following and are looking forward to the next phase of our growth. ZPG has led the way as an innovative digital consumer champion and we are looking forward to helping even more consumers make better-informed decisions as part of ZPG.”