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Business & Innovation Magazine

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 07 Aug, 2017
A cutting-edge Coventry company has created a new, world-first form of plastic that could revolutionise the way limb conditions and injuries are treated.

Torc2 Ltd, based at the Bilton Industrial Estate, has protected the Intellectual Property (IP) on the material as well as a new process method using their flexible, durable compound that can be re-shaped at temperatures safe for patients.

Gary Blundell and Ron Taylor, who are part of the team that runs the firm, have a background in engineering and plastics and originally developed the new material as a potential replacement for Plaster of Paris casts.

But after seeking opinion from the medical profession including surgeons at University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, the pair turned their attention to devices such as splints and supports for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy, Talipes (club foot), Hip Dysplasia, Idiopathic Toe Walking and liners that can be reshaped for lower limb prosthetics.

The company has also sought help from the CWLEP Growth Hub to assist in raising finance for its product development as well as the manufacturing process behind it.

That has led to a grant from Coventry City Council under the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme – part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund – which is supporting SMEs in the region to develop innovative products or services involving emerging technology.

Torc2 is the first SME to be awarded a grant through the programme.

Gary said: “The key property of our torc material is the fact it can be softened at low temperatures. It can be reshaped directly on the patient at around 55 degrees and, therefore, the types of products we are looking at can be altered to exactly fit the patient very quickly, easily and without waste.

“When we talked to orthopaedic experts in the field, they liked the concept around Plaster of Paris but said it wasn’t an area of particular concern. Instead they recommended that we look into other applications that could provide both cost-savings for the NHS and a far better patient experience.

“There is a whole range of supports and splints required for a number of conditions, many of which have to be changed and altered regularly – the properties within torc material allows that to happen very quickly and easily.

“In some cases, Spica casts being a typical example, it can cut out the need for extra trips to the operating theatre – which is a huge cost saving to the NHS and much better for the patient.”

He added: “We are incredibly grateful for the support from the Growth Hub and from Coventry City Council – it’s great that organisations in the city want to get behind innovative, local companies.

“We’ve also been supported by Warwick Manufacturing Group with trial production and have had significant help from our friends at RDM Group.

“The next phase is to upscale the current lab micro 3D printing process to enable production of full size devices for clinical trials. We are seeking additional funding to help us to do that and the feedback we are getting is that this is a very exciting new material that has the potential to revolutionise the way in which this area of treatment is delivered.”

Jeremy Moore, of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “From my first conversations with Gary and Ron, I could see the passion they have for this exciting new material.

“They are doing exactly the right thing too by listening to the advice of experts from the medical profession.

“I am pleased that we’ve been able to help them reach this stage and it would be great to see this innovation used the world over, knowing it started right here in our area.”

Coventry City Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “Coventry has always innovated and this is yet another example of a local business being at the cutting edge of new developments.

“I’m pleased that we could secure grant cash to support the development of this new concept and I hope it leads to the on-going growth of the company and opportunities for local people.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 03 Aug, 2017
Coventry and Warwickshire is responsible for the highest value of exports in the country, outside of London, business leaders have been told.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce held its latest Business Outlook event with Warwickshire County Council (WCC) to assess how the region is faring and the prospects for growth over the next quarter and into 2018.

The event, held at Kenilworth’s Holiday Inn, attracted more than 100 people from business based across Coventry and Warwickshire – one of the largest economic briefings in the region.

The Chamber, alongside WCC, presented analysis on the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) and also heard from David Bharier, business insight manager from the British Chambers of Commerce.

Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s QES is now contributed to by more than 500 business people – making it one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind across the country.

Dave Ayton-Hill, Economy & Skills Manager at WCC, said the data is drawn from a good split of manufacturing and service sector organisations.

“This quarter we have seen a record number of respondents to the QES, and is firmly established as one of the leading surveys feeding into the national British Chambers of Commerce QES which influences key decision making at the highest level,” he said.

“The Coventry & Warwickshire economy remains strong and buoyant, and high levels of business confidence bodes well for the future months.

“Business confidence in the region is extremely high, with 73 per cent of manufacturers and 63 per cent of service sector respondents believing their turnover will increase in the next three months.

“Key to our economic performance is our strength in exporting. Coventry and Warwickshire has the largest value of goods exported overseas – £17.8bn last year – of all Local Enterprise Partnership areas in the country, aside from London, with two-thirds of this to non-EU countries.

“The area is performing well in comparison to other areas of the country against a backdrop of continued uncertainty, which is extremely positive to report for the region.”

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “With more than 500 responses to this QES, it is a very accurate barometer of our regional economy.

“We’re delighted our Business Outlook events are also growing tremendously, and our latest event was one of the largest economic outlook events held in the area.

“The feeling within the room was that while we are still very much operating in uncertain times, particularly in regards to Brexit, the majority of businesses in the region are taking a business as usual approach, and this is reflected in the results of the QES.”

The full results can be downloaded here: https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/media/3233/qes-q2-2017-survey-results.pdf

The next Business Outlook event will take place in September and the next QES survey will go live on the Chamber website soon.


by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 13 Jul, 2017

Two major investments in research partnerships that will strengthen the links between the UK's research base, industry and business partners have been announced by Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science.

Both investments show the pivotal importance of engineering and the physical sciences to the country's continued development as a global research and innovation leader.

The first investment is a new initiative, a set of Prosperity Partnerships, which will receive £31 million of government funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This will be matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, and £11 million from universities' funds, resulting in a £78 million investment.

Ten universities, including the University of Warwick and University of Bristol, will lead on 11 projects that range from the future networks for digital infrastructure to offshore wind and they will partner with businesses operating in key areas of the innovation landscape. These include household names such as Siemens, BP and Unilever and also firms like M Squared Lasers that are leading in areas such as advanced photonics.

WMG, at the University of Warwick, WMG at the University of Warwick has been awarded £5.7 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). In conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover, Brandauer Holdings, Dynex Semiconductors and ST Microelectronics, WMG will be researching the science of high performance electrified propulsion ( Addressing emergent challenges in vehicle electrification through collaboration to grow scientific understanding).

WMG’s Professor Barbara Shollock said: “This Prosperity Partnership will tackle the emerging challenges for vehicle electrification through a unique collaboration to grow scientific understanding. This integrated approach brings the potential for the UK to lead, both industrially and scientifically, in an area of high growth and relevance in the UK's industrial strategy.”

The University of Bristol, in partnership with Thales Bristol will be designing new processes that guide the engineering of hybrid systems with embedded autonomy.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science said: A central part of our Industrial Strategy is boosting the economic impact of our world-class research base by supporting the flow of innovative ideas and techniques from concept to market-place.

This investment will ensure the work of our universities continues to have positive impact around the world and maintain the UK's global leadership in science and innovation.

Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Professor of Biochemical Engineering at UCL, who chaired the panel that approved the Prosperity Partnerships projects, said: “The Partnerships awards are a further demonstration of EPSRC's vision in creating exciting opportunities for industry and academia to work together on strategically significant problems. The quality of the applications we reviewed was outstanding and demonstrated strength of vision, relevance and a determination to pursue long term collaborative research. The breadth of applications too speaks to the diversity of UK industry and to the alignment between the UK's very best academic teams and our industrial base.

The grants promise to create a series of exciting avenues of research leading to industrial implementation. It's a wonderful new example of how, in partnership, we can harness our collective capabilities to strengthen our economy and once again underscores the importance of ongoing investment in the HE research base.

The second EPSRC investment is £60 million for 33 universities to advance their Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). These allow institutions the flexibility to operate tailored schemes that help increase the likelihood of impact from their research. The IAAs speed up the contribution that scientists make towards new innovation, successful businesses and the economic returns that benefit the UK.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said: If innovation is an ecosystem then it is dependent on having a fertile soil of research and the fresh air of ideas to nourish its growth. These new EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships and IAAinvestments will provide the right conditions in which new technologies and products can be developed more quickly. In turn, this will return social and economic benefits and ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world to research, innovate and grow business.

The IAAs' aims are to promote movement between universities, businesses and other organisations; to support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition; improve engagement with businesses, government and third sector to sow the seeds of new collaboration and more strategic engagement, and reach out to researchers who do not normally engage in exploitation activities and driving culture change within the university.

The flexibility within each IAA means that different universities support activities in different ways, in line with their own unique needs and opportunities.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Jul, 2017
Coventry’s first organic nursey is set to open a third room following huge growth over the past seven months.

Enchanted Day Nursery and Holiday Club, a three-floor nursery in Foleshill, now has around 30 children visit every day and has seen its staffing number treble since opening in October with their unique approach to childcare.

Directors Adele Payton and Carly Cullen have renovated the entire building from scratch themselves, to create the only organic nursey in the city, after receiving free help and advice from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce through the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme.

The nursey serves organic food, uses organic baby wipes, natural cleaning products and biodegradable nappies - which are included in the cost.

It even has a low-plastic toy policy, with building blocks made of eco-friendly foam rather than plastic. The nursey also focuses on ‘open-ended’ resources – toys that help children to think about what they make, never giving them the finished product.

The nursery has plans to open a fourth room by January 2018.

Adele and Carly both have extensive experience in childcare but had no previous business experience before starting up the nursery.

Adele said: “We did a lot of market research into what was missing, where the gap in the childcare market was because there were lots of things that I wanted for my little girl at nursery that I could never find.

“Our ethos is that we want to be kind to the environment and continue to reduce our carbon footprint.

“Even with things like drawing paper, we have turned logs into chalkboards or other materials to draw on.

“We set about renovating the building ourselves, so every inch of this been painted by myself and Carly. It really is a labour of love.

“We have basically self-taught ourselves everything, we were walking in blind with no business experience, even down to payroll! It was great to have Margaret Bull from the Chamber come here and give us that fresh pair of eyes to help us see where we could improve, she was a lot of help.”

Margaret Bull, business adviser at the Chamber, said: “Adele and Carly have a great vision for their nursey and it has allowed them to build this unique childcare facility in Coventry.

“The main emphasis was to help them with their marketing strategy, identifying what made them different and focusing on marketing activity that could impact their target market.

“The owners are very determined. They took on board the advice and now the nursery is achieving the financial objectives set out in the business plan and delivering high standards in child care.

“They started from scratch, are largely self-taught when it comes to business and are a great example of how you can start-up a successful company with hard work and a can-do attitude.”

The Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and the District and Borough Councils.
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 01 Jun, 2017

XLR – part of the Stratford-based Rigby Group – is to significantly expand its operations following the acquisition of the Marshall’s 24/7 corporate aviation facilities at Birmingham Airport.

The executive aviation specialist is now poised for significant growth as it prepares to engage with a range of new markets and opportunities from one of the UK’s busiest executive flight destinations.

The deal, which will see it take possession of the custom built facility with immediate effect, places the company at the heart of a round-the-clock operation with multiple connecting customer flights linking New York, Delhi, UAE, and Qatar.

XLR - is part of Rigby Group’s aviation division, which already runs two successful executive jet centres at Coventry and Exeter, earlier this year revealed its intention to expand operations across the UK.

The announcement, which underlines the company’s determination to fuel rapid growth through a blend of acquisition and organic expansion, represents a significant milestone in that strategy.

Rigby Group Founder & Chairman Sir Peter Rigby said: “The establishment of a new XLR Jet Centre at Birmingham Airport marks a huge step forward in our plans for the company, placing its operations at the heart of one of the UK’s busiest and most accessible airports and opening up significant opportunities not only in domestic executive travel, but also in servicing the growing market across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“Following our most recent investments in Exeter and Coventry, the Birmingham acquisition leaves us superbly positioned to execute our strategy of leveraging the group’s expertise and commitment to excellence to create a new major player in the corporate aviation market.”

XLR has experienced solid growth over the past 12 months as the market for corporate aircraft has remained firm. The Coventry centre has built a growing reputation as a major alternative to London for transiting private flights, while Exeter’s access to the South West has seen the volume of private jets arriving grow steadily, particularly during the field sports season.

While XLR already services an extensive client list of brokers and operators, individual clients and aircraft owners through its facilities, the addition of Birmingham’s 27,000 sq. ft. heat controlled hangar, multiple large parking ramps, and a 3052m runway capable of taking the giant A380 has boosted its capacity at a stroke.

Chris Beer, XLR Director of Corporate Aviation, added: “While we have already built an excellent reputation within the industry based on an extremely customer-centric focus, this latest acquisition will enable a significant step up in terms of the both the markets we are able to compete in and our operational scale.

“With a prestigious base now fully operational at Birmingham and ready to fly, XLR is ideally positioned to capitalise on Rigby Group’s accelerating expertise across the aviation sector to create a new force in executive jet travel.”

Charles Hughes, Business Development Director, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, added: “XLR and Marshall share the same focus, in that, people are at the heart of our success and the addition of the impressive Birmingham FBO facility and the dedicated team within in make a strong fit for XLR. I wish the team and the business the very best for the future.”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 31 May, 2017

Farmers Fayre will be providing food and refreshments in the members’ area of the Kenilworth Show on the Stoneleigh Park showgrounds on Saturday, June 10, as well as offering their popular hog roast for members of the public. The family-run enterprise specialises in local produce and has seen a big increase in trade since moving into its new premises at Stoneleigh Park, which is also sponsoring the Kenilworth Show again this year.

Nicola Reece, director of Farmers Fayre, said: “We’re really looking forward to this year’s Kenilworth Show, it is always one of the highlights of the year in the local community and couldn’t be more pleased to be involved for 2017.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth since we moved to our new home at Stoneleigh Park in 2015 and working at events like this show will help us continue to grow as we are introduced to potential new customers.”

Leading fuel distributor, Rix Petroleum Midlands, has also agreed to be one of the main sponsors of the region’s largest one-day agricultural event for the eighth year running.

The Coleshill based fuel distributor is the largest independent in the UK and has a large agricultural client base across the Midlands.

Paul Doherty, director at Rix Petroleum, said: “With our tanker fleet we support the agricultural industry across the Warwickshire region and surrounding counties. The Kenilworth show gives us a great chance to catch up with the farming community and also meet some new prospective customer too.

“It’s crucial for a business like ours to maintain a presence at agricultural events such as the Kenilworth Show and we’re delighted to be supporting the show for the eighth year in a row.”

The agricultural show – organised annually by Kenilworth and District Agricultural Society (KADAS) – will host a range of main ring attractions this year, large countryside area, along with education stands and entertainment for all the family.

Charlie Weetman, Kenilworth Show director, added: “Working with local and regional businesses is something very important to us.

“I’m delighted that we have Rix Petroleum on board for an eighth year and we are looking forward to Farmers Fayre catering at the show for the first time.

“We have a brilliant line-up of entertainment in store across the showgrounds at this year’s show and that wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, so I’d like to thank them all for their valued support.”

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets visit   www.kenilworthshow.co.uk

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 May, 2017
This summer, WMG has 20 places available for manufacturing organisations to host a talented student or graduate to work on a strategic project in their business.

Part funded by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, WMG’s SME group at the University of Warwick has been delivering this internship scheme since 2010, with over 120 businesses so far benefiting from a range of impactful outcomes.

The scheme encourages students studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects to consider careers in the manufacturing supply chain. Coupled with this, it supports SME manufacturers to increase productivity by embedding new technologies and processes into their businesses for minimal cost (£2000 per 8-week project).

One of the companies to benefit last year was Threeway Pressings Ltd. They took on University of Warwick Engineering student James Burt to explore novel manufacturing methods and materials for a particular product that they were sourcing in the thousands from the far east. The project helped to determine how they could manufacture the product in-house and re-shore the product type back to the UK.

Philip Stanley, Director at Threeway Pressings said: “It has been valuable to us to have someone look at a high priority challenge in our business. James was very diligent and his findings useful for the future direction of our business. The results of this project could help us save costs in the business, generate a new income stream, and bring more manufacturing work back to the UK.”

Sado Nuuer, another Engineering student from the University Warwick worked with two of her classmates Lewis Wing and Navid Mehrabi to solve productivity challenges using Lean Six Sigma for three West Midlands based manufacturers – Autins Group, Exactaform Ltd and Precision Technologies Ltd. She said: “What I gained from the internship was how the theoretical knowledge from my course can be applied in practice and also some of the constraints to ideal application. Furthermore, this internship cemented my interest in working in the manufacturing supply chain in the future.”

Dr Mark Swift, CTO of WMG’s HVM Catapult centre said: “Our internship programme acts as a valuable bridge between our students’ academic studies and a future career in the manufacturing industry. Our small manufacturers are able to get access to fresh new thinking, backed up by WMG centre HVM Catapult expertise. This is crucial if we want to tackle the well documented UK skills gap.”

Any SME wanting to register an interest in this scheme or more information about the range of support that WMG offers SMEs in the region should email wmgsme@warwick.ac.uk by 19th May 2017.

What does WMG’s SME internship programme offer?

  • 8-week summer internship based at the host business, starting early July until the end of August
  • 50% of intern costs funded by WMG (intern paid national living wage - £10.14 per hour including holiday pay)
  • SME accesses WMG supervisor and equipment as well as talented student/graduate
  • Administration management provided, including the writing of job specs, advertising the role, setting up interviews and monitoring progress
The interns will be employed by WMG, University of Warwick, for the duration of the project and SMEs will be invoiced £2000 to pay for half of the costs. The intern can be based between both the host SME and WMG.

Eligibility:
  • Must be a registered business
  • Must be an SME (an organisation with < £35 million turnover and < 250 employees)
  • Must be a manufacturing organisation in the UK, or deliver activity that adds value to the UK manufacturing supply chain)
In general, projects should relate to the expertise available in the WMG team including manufacturing, materials, product development, digital systems, factory 4.0, and automation.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 11 May, 2017
Steve Lindsey, the Brit entrepreneur who invented the Blade Compressor which in prototype tests has shown energy savings of +20% has been shortlisted for European Inventor of the Year, the only UK finalist.

Like European Inventor Award finalist James Dyson who re-envisioned the vacuum, Lindsey is breathing new life into British manufacturing. His invention has the potential to make an impact on worldwide energy consumption, according to the European Patent Office.

The winners of the annual innovation prize, run by the European Patent Office will be announced in Venice on 15 June.

Air compressors are used in countless applications, from manufacturing machinery to fridges and air conditioning. And they use up vast amounts of energy, some 10% of Europe’s overall industrial electricity use. Despite their prevalence, modern piston compressors have remained largely unchanged since the 1930s, and their antiquated design makes them inefficient. No one had managed to come up with an effective solution to this problem – until now. With his Blade Compressor, British inventor Steve Lindsey has devised a more efficient, oil-free rotary compressor that offers a greener solution to traditional compression technology, and can deliver energy savings of more than 20%.
For this achievement, the European Patent Office named Steve Lindsey as a finalist for the European Inventor Award 2017 in the category Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The winners of the 12th edition of the EPO's annual innovation prize will be announced at a ceremony in Venice on 15 June.

"Steve Lindsey's invention offers a clever, highly-efficient alternative to traditional air compressors, and is poised to shake up the compression industry," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli announcing the European Inventor Award 2017 finalists. "Because air compressors are used across such a large number of industries, it also has the potential to make an impact on worldwide energy consumption and cut carbon footprints across many energy-intensive sectors."

A natural technical problem-solver from a young age, as well as a motorsport enthusiast, Lindsey has raced professionally and worked as a test-driver for a German car company for many years. His fascination with making continuous improvements to technology made him well-placed to take on the challenge of improving such a widely used, but often overlooked technology as compressors.
Lindsey said: “To begin with I didn’t know a great deal about compressors, like many people. And then I read that 10% of electricity used within Europe across all industries goes into compressors. It’s a fantastically high figure. And I realized that if you could make a difference to that, you could potentially make a big difference to energy usage across Europe.”

Lindsey's Blade Compressor features a rotating piston blade inside a circular chamber that simultaneously compresses air and induces new air into the chamber in one continuous movement. As the blade moves within the chamber, it induces air behind it and compresses air in front. The compressed air is released just before the piston blade slides through a slit in a spinning disc, which bisects the chamber: the air that was behind the piston is now in front of it and is compressed while more air is drawn in from what is now behind the blade.
To market his invention, Lindsey founded the company Lontra in 2004. The firm initially targeted the wastewater sector, an energy-intensive area that accounts for roughly 1% of the UK’s total energy budget, similar to that of other European countries.

In 2012, Lontra conducted its first major trial of the Blade Compressor at a British waste water treatment facility. The blade compressor demonstrated a 20% reduction in electricity consumption – a major shakeup in an industry used to much smaller, incremental gains.
According to Lontra, with the breadth of its potential uses, the Blade Compressor could save 2 terawatt hours of electricity in Europe a year (roughly the electricity consumption of a city of 200 000 households) and 860000 tonnes of CO2 (roughly the same annual output of 180 000 passenger vehicles).

In 2015, he won the UK's Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year award. His Blade Compressor was named the "most innovative new technology of the year" at the Water Industry Achievement Awards (2013) and the "Top Energy Product/Service" at the Environment and Energy Awards (2015).

Read our 60 Top Innovations feature in the July issue of Business & Innovation Magazine.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Apr, 2017

Companies across Coventry and Warwickshire have delivered a confident outlook – despite international uncertainty.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Warwickshire County Council, have conducted the first Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) of 2017 and optimism in the area is stronger than it was at the end of 2016.

The QES results are now based on an Economic Outlook Index and will show whether respondents feel things are getting better or worse – with a score of 50 suggesting firms feel circumstances will stay exactly the same.

Overseas orders across the region are showing particular strength – with manufacturing and service sector companies reporting growth. In manufacturing, the Index stood at 67.5 – up more than 10 points compared to the turn of the year.

Services showed a more modest increase but the Index stands at 67.6, with the lower pound being credited as the main reason for exporters from the region seeing an increase in orders.

Domestically, the figures were not quite as strong in manufacturing with the Index showing at 61.3 – still up on the previous quarter – and in services it was at 67.6 which was higher than three months ago.

In terms of overall business confidence, both manufacturing (76.0) and services (78.9) are showing a very healthy outlook with turnover being forecast to rise.

In terms of increased employment, investment and cashflow, the Index is still positive in both sectors but there were slight dips in manufacturing compared to the previous quarter.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said companies across the patch were confident about the year ahead.

She said: “After the Brexit vote, there was a bit of a wobble in confidence but over the past few months, we are seeing companies look ahead with optimism.

“They are alert to the fact that there is uncertainty but with the outcome impossible to forecast and everything else is going on in the world, they are looking at their own businesses and their own plans for the future and they feel confident.

“We are delighted to be working with Warwickshire County Council in producing the QES and the new Economic Outlook Index makes it very easy to measure against sentiment on previous quarters.

“On nearly every indicator, manufacturers and service sector companies feel they are in a better place than three months ago, which bodes well.”

Dave Ayton-Hill, head of economy & skills at Warwickshire County Council, will present the findings alongside Louise Bennett at the Coventry and Warwickshire Outlook Breakfast at Mallory Court on Tuesday, April 25 from 8am.

Speakers will also include Sean Farnell, board member of CWLEP and partner at Burgis & Bullock, and Barrie Kilfeather, regional director of Santander.

For more information or to book onto that event log onto http://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/the-coventry-warwickshire-business-outlook-breakfast/

For more information on the QES or the Chamber’s policy work, email martynem@cw-chamber.co.uk  
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