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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  
By Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Apr, 2017

Cameron Homes, which is expanding into Warwickshire with three new developments planned, has made a £500 donation to the Shipston Area Flood Action Group.

The money will be used to help kick start a natural flood defence project in the village of Tredington, near Shipston on Stour, where Cameron is building 29 properties, including affordable homes.

Andy Gough, sales and marketing director of Cameron Homes, said that the firm was pleased to be able to help with the project and receive a certificate for its contribution.

“As a company we are always keen to get involved in local initiatives and to support communities where we can so we responded positively when approached about this very worthwhile scheme.”

Len Grey of the action group said that they were working in a catchment area covering around 180sq kms but Cameron’s contribution would be put towards a natural flood defence scheme in Tredington, as this is where the new homes would be provided.

“The design of this intervention is planned to provide a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, whilst holding the water back from entering the River Stour for several hours during periods of heavy rainfall. In this way we hope to keep the river below flood levels.  

“It will cost around £10,000, for which we have so far raised £2,000 in total, enough to kick start the work this spring when we can get heavy plant onto the site.

“We are clearly delighted that Cameron Homes have chosen to donate and support us - and as a result the local community - in its fight against the devastation and disruption that extreme flood events can cause in the area."

Cameron Homes, established over 20 years ago in Staffordshire, is aiming to develop sites in an area from Oxford to Stratford upon Avon and is looking to open a new office in the region in the future.

The current developments, at Tredington, Badsey and Lower Quinton, will provide 90 homes in total, including a range of family homes and affordable properties for local people looking to get a foothold on the housing ladder.

The firm will also be making financial contributions to local communities through Section 106 agreements – part of the planning process – which means that a percentage of the development costs are passed on for use on initiatives such as local projects and improvements. 
By Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Apr, 2017

An independent commission to harness the expertise of prominent business people, technical specialists and academics has been launched yesterday.

Chaired by Dr Andy Palmer, President and Chief Executive of Aston Martin Lagonda, based at Gaydon, Warwickshire, the Productivity and Skills Commission will provide impartial support and advice to the WMCA West Midland Combined Authorities as it aims to cut unemployment, improve people’s job skills and secure better productivity.

Dr Palmer will head up a Productivity Leadership Group, bringing together business leaders from the region’s three Local Enterprise Partnerships, to ensure plans to drive productivity are designed by-and for-local companies.

The Productivity and Skills Commission is a key element of the WMCA’s £1.1 billion, 30-year devolution deal with government, expected to unlock an £8 billion investment package to not only improve productivity and skills, but also deliver new transport infrastructure and homes for the region’s four million people.

By Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Apr, 2017

Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire have backed up national claims that a shortage of digital skills is holding back productivity in the economy.

The British Chambers of Commerce has released survey results that show that 84% of companies believe that digital and IT skills are more important to their business than they were two years ago.

Three-quarters of those businesses said that they are facing a shortage in these skills, with 52% reporting a slight shortage, 21% saying there was a significant shortage and three per cent saying it was critical.

Sarah Windrum, CEO of the Warwickshire-based technology company Emerald Group and CWLEP Board Director, said: “The UK’s lack of digital skills affected my business directly when we needed to recruit in 2014.

“We couldn’t find the people we needed to deliver the contracts we had won and growth halted as a direct result. This also started my engagement with organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce and so I am not surprised to see them again bringing this important issue to the forefront.

“Digital drives innovation and growth in all business sectors so these skills will only become more and more critical. The UK needs a collaborative approach to tackle this by bringing together business, education, and Government which is the solution Local Enterprise Partnerships are driving forward.”

The key findings of the survey are:

·        The skills most important to companies are basic computer skills (72%), communicating and connecting through digital channels (71%) and management of digital information (69%)

·        Skills shortages are having adverse effects on many firms including, increasing workload on existing staff (52%), higher operating costs (29%), and causing difficulties in meeting customer requirements (28%)

·        Businesses regard a lack of time for staff training (41%), difficulty in identifying appropriate training (32%), and the high cost of training (25%), as the leading barriers to rectifying these shortages.  

Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The evidence is clear: better digital skills make firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back.

“Businesses themselves need to do a lot more to tackle the digital skills shortages they face, and their leaders need to be alive to the fact that a failure to tackle this issue will have an impact on their bottom line. Too many firms are stuck in an unproductive cycle, where the failure to take action has serious consequences.

“Training providers can give firms a helping hand, by engaging with companies on their digital needs and helping them to free up resources for growth. Government must help as well, by recognising that some of the high-level digital skills businesses need will come from overseas so a pragmatic immigration system needs to be in place to provide firms with access to the workers required to fill the gaps.”

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