Business & Innovation Magazine

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 26 Jul, 2017
Earlier this summer, just one day before the General Election, I took part in two Economic Question Time (EQT) events. They were organised by Royds Withy King, and co-hosted with HSBC and Bishop Fleming (Bath) and Shaw Gibbs (Oxford). I’ve been involved with these EQT events since 2009, and always find them interesting because of the local flavour of the concerns raised by attendees.

For both Bath and Oxford, their long history and well-preserved town centres make them a magnet for tourists and visitors. But there’s a constant tension between local authorities keen to preserve their olde-worlde charm, and the need to provide new housing, modern infrastructure, and up-to-date office space. The shortage of such space was uppermost in the minds of many questioners at both EQT events.

In Oxford, it was said that the university colleges snaffle most of the development sites that do become available. In Bath, it was reported that such sites tend to be snapped up by developers keen to convert buildings into student flats. More troubling here were reports that businesses are relocating to Bristol on account of the lack of suitable space. There seems to be a particular dearth of premises for businesses which expand to the point where they need to accommodate a few hundred employees.

But there is also an important difference between the two cities. Although Bath these days has its fair share of students, it would never claim to be an innovation hub in the way that Oxford is. This is largely because Oxford University has a long history of launching spin-offs into the world of commerce, one notable example being the development of penicillin in the early 1940s.

At the Oxford EQT I was fortunate enough to have a long chat with Dr Matt Perkins, who is the CEO of Oxford University Innovation (OUI). In the period between April 2015 and July 2016, OUI was responsible for spinning off 21 businesses, and is hoping to do just as well in the current financial year. In this respect, the University is extremely lucky to have the financial backing of Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), which has raised £580 million to provide spin-off businesses with long-term finance. Dr Perkins told me that just six universities account for 90% of the UK’s academic spin-off ventures: a figure which didn’t altogether surprise me, but does make me wonder what many of our long-established higher education institutions are getting up to.

This brings us back to Oxford’s availability of office space. In their early days, many spin-off businesses like to stick close to the university mother-ship, often locating themselves within walking distance of the department that spawned them. This may be possible when they’re young and small, but becomes more difficult as they scale-up.

But if they can bear to tear themselves away from the university’s tender embrace, then the Harwell Campus is only about 20 minutes away. This swanky business park is emerging from the former UK Atomic Energy Authority site, which was once known the world over for its work in the spheres of nuclear energy and weapons. The site is now being transformed, and is home to the Satellite Applications Catapult, the European Centre for Satellite Applications and Telecommunications (an offshoot of the European Space Agency), and also the Diamond Light Source. I visited the Catapult a few months ago, and it’s certainly an impressively modern venue. As for the presence of the European Space Agency, the good news is that it is not an EU institution, so its activities at Harwell shouldn’t get caught up in the Brexit argy-bargy.

What struck me in relation to both Bath and Oxford is the difficult balancing act which the planners have to strike between preserving those characteristics that fuel the visitor economy, while also allowing new businesses to thrive and create jobs. Nice as it may be to wander round these old towns, it won’t do them any favours in the long term if they become theme parks.

The EQT in Oxford was moderated once again by Nicola Blackwood, who for the past seven years has served as the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. I can’t comment on her qualities as a local MP, but she is great at extracting questions from sometimes-shy audiences and at stimulating debate. Politics, as we all know is a cruel business, and Nicola was defeated on election night, with her seat being taken back by the Lib Dems. I can only wish her all the best, and hope that our paths will cross again.

Mark Berrisford-Smith
Head of Economics for HSBC UK Commercial Banking

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Jul, 2017

The first intake of students from an innovative new training programme have graduated with flying colours.

The youngsters, who are all students at Swindon Academy, have been attending Retail Codex, a project instigated by Swindon's Brunel Shopping Centre, and run in partnership with Marks & Spencer and learning partners Imparta.

Over the last eight months the students have been learning about the many aspects of working in the retail industry. Using classroom teaching, project work and hands-on experience, the training course helps students improve their confidence, communication and customer service skills and problem solving abilities. The programme is designed to give the teenagers a much broader understanding of careers within retailing, including the often lesser recognised careers, such as marketing, shopping centre and store management and finance.

Jane Stewart, Deputy General Manager at The Brunel Centre, initiated the idea for Retail Codex. Jane said: “Knowing that retailers often struggle to recruit engaged and confident young people we decided to put together the Retail Codex programme. Its aim is to challenge the narrow perceptions of jobs in the retail industry and to help youngsters develop their confidence and customer service skills.

“We’re absolutely delighted with this initial pilot course. We have seen the group blossom since they started in October 16. The “Dragon’s Den” style presentations they delivered to an audience must have been nerve wracking for them. They are to be congratulated. They were all full of great ideas and presented exceptionally well, with confidence and professionalism.”

Andrew Martin is Manager of Marks & Spencer Swindon who hosted the training and arranged for the students to work on the shop floor and alongside their own staff. Andrew said: “M&S were really pleased to be able to support this initiative. It’s important to us to help those in school and their parents better understand what it is like to have a career in retailing, and just how varied a career it can be. Anything that helps to challenge inaccurate perceptions of working in retail is very valuable and helps us recruit for our own Apprenticeship Scheme and our Marks & Start programme, which is helping people who face barriers getting into work.”

The training programme was put together and delivered by Imparta, a specialist sales, marketing and service company. Nigel Webb, Imparta’s Chief Product Officer, said: “It is widely accepted that employers increasingly feel that many candidates fresh from school lack the life skills needed to transition smoothly into working life. This programme proposes to address that gap. It is very rewarding knowing that we have been able to give the students some practical transferable skills to take away into whatever career they choose.”

The students were presented with their certificate and congratulated by Jenny Groves, Chair of Switch On to Swindon, the campaign that is highlighting the reasons why Swindon is a good place to live, work and do business.
Ruth Robinson is Principal of Swindon Academy and was at the certificate presentation to see the students graduate. Ruth said: “What a wonderful opportunity this has been for our youngsters. This course has enabled them to receive a quality experience that will prepare them for their future careers. We are very grateful to The Brunel Centre and Marks & Spencer for involving us in this pilot scheme and we very much hope that it will continue in the future so that more students are able to benefit.”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 07 Jul, 2017

Based on the Wiltshire-Oxfordshire border, UTAX (UK) Ltd, one of Europe’s largest Document Management companies specialising in the sale of high-quality printing and copier systems, has recently launched The UTAX Community Print Project . The new initiative provides FREE printing services to pre-approved community events and charitable activities across the UK.

It means that charities and local not-for-profit organisations including Parish, Village and Town event organisers, with little or no access to printing facilities, can now apply to have their event publicity material or public information notices printed.

Head of Marketing at UTAX (UK), Sarah Mackay, said: “As you might expect, we have a large technology suite here at our Head Office with the complete range of our latest printing equipment. It makes perfect sense for us to utilise our advanced printers, when not in use, to help community groups and projects from near and far with their printing requirements. In these increasingly demanding economic times, companies need to be imaginative in how they can support their local communities.”

From colourful A5 programmes, booklets and A4 flyers to black and white A3 posters, UTAX are able to offer a wide variety of printing options to accommodate most requirements.

The company has recently helped Oxfordshire-based SpecialEffect  with their Twin Town Challenge : the charity’s fundraiser, Nick Streeter, said: “ We would like to say a huge thanks to UTAX for their support of the charity via the Twin Town Challenge and are so grateful for their continued support. Their expertise and support not only saves us vital funds that we can use to help more people with disabilties it also adds to the overal impression of this amazing event .”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 09 Jun, 2017

It’s been a torrid night at the elections. We look at some early views and opinions from business support organisations.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General, of the CBI said:

“This is a serious moment for the UK economy. The priority must be for politicians to get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure the markets and protect our resilient economy.

“Politicians must act responsibly, putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that the UK remains a safe destination for business. It’s time to put the economy back to the top of the agenda.

“For the next Government, the need and opportunity to deliver an open, competitive and fair post-Brexit economy that works for everyone across all our nations and regions has never been more important.

“This can only be achieved if the next government doesn’t put the brakes on business, remains open to the world and sets out a pro-enterprise vision.

“Firms will support the UK develop our inclusive, innovative and open economy. More than ever, the new Government must work together with business to make the most of the opportunities ahead. Firms can provide the evidence, ideas and solutions from the shop, office and factory floor to secure our future prosperity.”  

The Forum of Private Business is calling more loudly than ever for the UK’s politicians to recognise that the economic strength of the UK is reliant on the country’s five million small businesses.

Chief Executive of the Forum, Ian Cass said: ‘The voice of small business has been completely ignored during the election campaign, with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both demonstrating that they have no real understanding of the critical role played by businesses to the importance to the UK, both in economic contribution and job creation,’

Facing a period of increased instability and uncertainty that a hung parliament will once again bring to the business community, Ian Cass is pushing for business to be put at the heart of government, with a Small Business Minister sitting at the Cabinet table and having teeth.

‘Businesses are tired of being paid lip service to. We have over five million business leaders in this country. Young and old, North and South, Remain and Leave, who have their feet firmly on the ground and need, once and for all, to be taken notice of, as the negotiations with Europe are progressed’

The Forum’s ‘Get Britain Trading’ campaign welcomes Members of Parliament into Forum member businesses so that they can truly understand what is needed to make the British high street great again.

‘With such a divisive split in the UK political scene, it is time for business to take control of the Country’s future,’ adds Ian Cass, ‘Not just big business with their sights purely on shareholder value, but small businesses who live and breath common sense survival in a changing world. In pushing for a proper, long term, Small Business Cabinet Minister, the Forum stands ready to support the government and its members in creating a strong and stable future UK. This will not come from politicians throwing verbal stones at each other and trotting out sound bites. It will come from a sensible and calm business approach,’ emphasises Ian Cass, a business owner in his own right.

‘The politicians have a choice. Listen and take note of the business voice, or continue sounding the ‘mayday’ siren,’ concludes Ian Cass.


Sophia Haywood, Policy Manager at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce: “These results place even more uncertainty on our local business community, who have already persevered through recent years of political and economic turbulence. Businesses are already grappling with currency fluctuations, rising costs, and the potential impacts of Brexit. It is vital there is a swift formation of a functioning government to build business confidence and our wider economic prospects ahead of the EU negotiations. Just as businesses come together in difficult times, so should our politicians.”


By Ian Mean, director for Gloucestershire, Business West

With a hung Parliament today - no overall majority for the Conservatives - business will be very concerned about more and more uncertainty and delays in the Brexit process.

When you think that Theresa May had committed us to start the initial Brexit talks in just over a week’s time, the political earthquake that has now erupted puts a big question mark over the whole Brexit negotiation.

Will the opening Brexit talks actually go ahead on Theresa May’s timetable?

Will she even be prime minister by the end of today? Or even in a few days? There are already calls this morning for her to resign.

Our Business West members have told us in our recent survey  how frustrated they are with the lack of information on the ongoing Brexit process.

They will be even more annoyed that our government’s standing will be at rock bottom with the EU now that Theresa May’s credibility has been shattered by the General Election result which she totally focussed on Brexit.

Calling a snap election with just eight weeks to give herself a stronger hand in the EU talks was a big gamble which the British people rejected.

Never underestimate the electorate is an old adage used by experienced politicians and today they have confounded expectations.

For many months now, companies I have talked to in Gloucestershire have been doing their best to ignore the “noise” generated by politics in order to focus on their own operations and ensure they retain good relationships with their export customers.

So, what will happen now?

More frustration for these businesses who now face the prospect of those initial Brexit talks being further delayed, because we might now have a Tory Party leadership election on our hands.

If Teresa May does resign, that delay in the talks could be as much as three months, and on top of that she will not be in charge of the Brexit process.

How can she retain any credibility with the EU, having had her wish for a stronger mandate for Brexit well and truly torpedoed?

For many companies in Gloucestershire where the strength of the pound is a big issue to make them more competitive, the lack of urgency created by a hung parliament could well affect their profitability for quite a period.

The key word here for companies is: confidence.

From day one when David Cameron committed us to an ‘in or out’ referendum, confidence has been the key issue for business.

In my experience in Gloucestershire, few companies have had any confidence in the government’s secretive Brexit process and during the Prime Minister’s election campaign, it became no clearer at all.

And at the heart of the government’s poor showing in the election was that the British public rejected the Prime Minister’s hard-line focus on getting the best deal for Britain.

She failed with a lacklustre election campaign where she almost hid from real voters - as opposed to party activists. This was the case particularly when she made a whistle stop tour to Cheltenham this week.

Most voters did not understand her Brexit argument in my view. They were more interested in domestic matters like the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and the NHS.

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn ran an old-fashioned people-focused election campaign meeting everyone he could possibly meet.

Despite his obvious political shortcomings and a vicious right-wing press campaign against him, his anti-austerity ticket resonated with the public - particularly young people.

Business has been largely ignored in the election campaign.

That has to change and quickly.

Whoever now leads the country has to understand that the whole Brexit process will not be successful unless companies are regarded as important passengers on the journey - they must not  be left standing on the platform

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 31 May, 2017

The Corsham (Institute) Augmented and Virtual Environment brings together research, innovation and reality in an area designed to optimise thinking.

This technology is currently used in a variety of sectors; at MTC it is used by architects and constructors to formulate building plans; at BP it is used to train for oil platform usage. At Welsh Water it is used for touring sites using Google Earth, and at the University of Brighton, VR is used for sports training – timing starts and analysing performance.

In our CaVE there’s a work zone with a conventional set up, where a group of people can plan and deliberate. The adjacent tech zone provides a space that has projections on three walls, so that visitors are surrounded by a different reality. Although the space is for one person, others can see in, interact and make suggestions from the outside.

There is also an HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset.

The Corsham Institute says it is creating a real eye-opening experience to encourage out of the box thinking and dynamic discussion and is hoping to work with developers on projects that will deliver Corsham Institute’s vision of a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society.

Corsham is a southern Cotswold market town in Wiltshire. In 2010, the Ministry of Defence consolidated its core communications and ICT activities onto a single site in Corsham to form the Global Operations and Security Control Centre and in 2016 the Government announced that a further £40 million would be spent on a new Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) centred on Corsham.

This activity has been mirrored by investment and development by the private sector with secure data centres located in Corsham and clusters of SME digital activity, making Corsham of strategic importance to the UK’s digital economy.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 11 May, 2017
Chippenham-based Good Energy has announced the launch of its second corporate bond.

The sustainable energy utility company was founded in 1999 to transform the UK energy market by helping homes and businesses to be part of a sustainable solution to climate change. All the electricity Good Energy provides comes from over 1,000 different locations across the UK, harnessing local, natural sources like sunshine, wind, rain and biofuels. It owns solar and wind sites including Delabole Wind Farm in Cornwall, Woolbridge Solar Park in Dorset and Hampole Wind Farm in Yorkshire. The company has invested in the planned Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay to further diversify its sources of renewable energy.

Good Energy has more than doubled revenues and profits since 2013, when it launched its first corporate bond. Last year revenue growth was 41% to £90.1 million.

The first corporate bond raised £15 million in an oversubscribed offer, and the proceeds were primarily used to support the development of solar farms that supply electricity to tens of thousands of UK homes.

The company said it was now seeking to raise £10 million via a second corporate bond, as part of a diversified funding strategy.

CEO Juliet Davenport said: “In the four years since we launched our first corporate bond, Good Energy has grown significantly and successfully adapted to the changing energy and regulatory environment of the UK.

“New technologies and the way we use energy are bringing a modern, decentralised, low carbon structure to the UK energy industry. We are excited about this evolution and the opportunities it creates, and we believe Good Energy is ideally placed to thrive in this new landscape. In addition to growing our core generation and supply business, we are focusing on developing sustainable energy solutions in areas such as energy storage, electric vehicle networks and green business consultancy to support consumer and business needs in this new environment.

“Good Energy has a long history of customer ownership and we are continuing this with the launch of Good Energy Bonds II, which will be used to develop renewable energy projects and broader corporate initiatives to fuel the future growth of the Company.

“Our strategy is clear – deliver sustainable, profitable growth by understanding and meeting our customers’ needs. We believe this aligns with not only the interests of our investors and customers but ultimately our purpose of supplying 100% renewable and carbon neutral solutions to UK customers.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 02 May, 2017

A new and vibrant marketing company, Whistance Hillman Creative has opened its North Wiltshire doors to the world. Headed up by Marketer, Natalie Whistance, the Malmesbury-based marketing firm specialise in small business growth but are also used to working with larger scale companies too! They can offer the following expertise to help you increase sales, drive traffic to your website, guests to your events, or to simply get your brand the recognition it deserves.

Natalie has over 15 years of experience in marketing and creativity across the board in sectors including hospitality, education (further, higher and independent), the creative arts, property and charity and a wealth of marketing experience to draw upon. She is also an event planner extraordinaire and has also spent time guest lecturing for marketing apprentices and acting as a mentor. Whistance Hillman Creative is currently working with varied clients such as: a farmer’s market, a milliner, an author and on various charity initiatives and brand development work.

They can offer the following marketing expertise

  • Marketing strategy
  • Brand development
  • Social media planning and delivery
  • Marketing workshops for small business
  • Basic design
  • Photography
  • Video
  • PR
  • Copywriting
  • Proofreading
  • Website development
  • Event planning and management
  • Personal branding

Director, Natalie says: "Having worked in marketing since leaving university, to work for myself one day (doing what I love most) was my ultimate goal. My diverse and exciting career in marketing, events and PR has put me in great stead to set up my own company. Ultimately l just love to see success achieved through clever marketing and to be responsible for making that happen!"

If you would like some help with the marketing of your business, project or idea, please contact or 07790 703440.

Twitter: @WhistHillman

Facebook: Whistance Hillman Creative

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 24 Apr, 2017

Dyson has announced plans for a second technology campus, near to its Malmesbury global headquarters. The 517-acre site, on former Ministry of Defence land at Hullavington, Wiltshire, will increase Dyson’s footprint in the UK ten times over, says the company.

The new campus will enable Dyson to continue creating high-skilled jobs in Britain while boosting UK exports. Dyson has more than tripled its UK headcount in the past five years and currently employs 3,500 people in the UK, half of whom are engineers and scientists. Dyson is the UK’s largest investor in robotics and the company is realising ambitious plans to develop new technologies such as solid state battery cells, vision systems, machine learning, and advanced intelligence (AI). It has 40 live technology projects with UK universities including Imperial College London, Cambridge, Warwick and Newcastle.

Sir James Dyson said: “After 25 years of UK growth and expansion globally, we are fast outgrowing our Malmesbury Campus. The Hullavington Campus is an investment for our future, creating a global hub for our research and development. It will enable us to continue creating world class products and jobs right here in the Cotswolds.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Dyson’s exporting strength and commitment to creating jobs in Britain is a real success story that demonstrates the opportunity that our plan to create a truly global Britain can present.”

Dyson has already committed £250 million to its existing 56-acre Malmesbury headquarters which will also become home to the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology from September. Site preparations for phase one of the Hullavington Campus have begun and restoration of the WW2 hangars will begin this month for occupation from the end of the year. Dyson has committed £2.5 billion to investment in future technologies and currently spends £7 million a week on research and development.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 16 Apr, 2017

The South West Rural Productivity Commission has been established as a partnership by four LEPs in the south west of England: The Heart of the South West (HotSW LEP), Dorset LEP, Swindon & Wiltshire (SWLEP), Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly (CIoS LEP) to explore the issues around rural productivity and growth.

These south west LEPs recognise the importance of rural growth, productivity and prosperity being tackled alongside urban growth, to ensure that improvements impact on all parts of the economy.

 The commission is set up to hear and review evidence from a range of sources and stakeholders, and aims to:

 -         Frame the south west response to the Industrial Strategy and forthcoming DEFRA 25 year plans for ‘food, farming and fisheries’ and ‘environment’

-         Draw out the opportunities for the south west and individual LEPs to drive rural productivity improvements

-         Understand the wider economic functioning between rural and urban to identify opportunities to drive growth across the whole area

-         Secure Government support for specific initiatives in the 2017 autumn statement

-         Influence national and local policies where appropriate to improve rural productivity

The commission will report to the chairs of the four LEPs that have committed to the process, and it will be chaired by David Fursdon, Chair of the SW Rural and Farming Network and supported by nominated representatives from each LEP area.

See Business & Innovation Magazine’s May issue for article on The Productivity Puzzle.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 16 Apr, 2017

Wiltshire family brewery Arkell’s is celebrating achieving 100% Cask Marque accreditation for all its 94 pubs across Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

Since 1997 Cask Marque has been ensuring that cask ale in pubs is served in perfect condition. Each year its 45 qualified assessors make over 20,000 visits to pubs in England, Scotland, Wales, Europe and even the U.S to check the temperature, appearance, aroma and taste of Britain’s favourite drink.

The Cask Marque scheme is operated by the Cask Marque Trust. Pubs that join the scheme are visited unannounced by an independent assessor at least twice a year. In the first year, they are visited twice in the first three months and in subsequent years they are visited once in the summer and once in the winter.

The assessor checks all cask ales on sale for temperature, appearance, aroma and taste.

Roger Clayson, National Account Manager at Cask Marque, said: “For the pub to pass, all the beers must reach the required standard and it then receives a plaque, framed certificate and merchandising material to inform its customers of the award and their rights. This is a great achievement by Arkell’s and each of its individual landlords and sets the standard for the pub estates of other breweries.”

One Arkell’s pub was so good that Tim O’Rourke, Cask Marque assessor for Gloucestershire thinks it sets the standard for the whole country.

The Mason’s Arms at Meysey Hampton, near Cirencester particularly impressed him.

“It is always a pleasure to come across a ‘Top League’ pub and pub manager who took real pride in not just the quality of the beers available, but the entire customer experience”, said Tim. “The beers at The Masons Arms at Meysey Hampton are well kept and carefully presented.

“They represent an excellent example of what the trade needs to aspire to, achieve and maintain to face a challenging future with confidence.”

Arkell’s has made a significant investment in cellar management training over the last three years, and it’s paid off. Head brewer, Alex Arkell, said: “This is a team effort between us at the brewery, our landlords to make sure that every pint they serve to customers is top quality and the Cask Marque team to give our landlords the final seal of approval. We’re thrilled that we’re leading the way.”

10000 pubs in the UK have the Cask Marque plaque for the quality of their beer and the plaque  is recognised by 56% of Cask Ale drinkers. Cask Marque pubs can be easily found using their free the Caskfinder App.

25000 consumers have joined the World’s Biggest Ale Trail. Find further details by visiting the Cask Marque website on www.cask-marque
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