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Business & Innovation Magazine

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 18 Oct, 2017
19 businesses and entrepreneurs from across the Midlands have won places to showcase their game-changing products at the UK’s leading innovation show – Innovate 2017 – which takes place on November 8 and 9 at the NEC in Birmingham.

They have been selected from over 300 applications by hosts Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – to be part of an exhibition of 96 shortlisted companies, with several of these very best of British innovators launching new products.

 

The annual event is expected to attract 2,500 businesses to the West Midlands. It offers attendees a chance to network with investors, hear from pioneering thinkers and find out about a range of expertise and government support.

 

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is a keynote speaker, while Birmingham Innovation Hub and the Midlands Engine are also involved.

 

In the past year, Innovate UK has provided £30.4 million in core grant funding to 240 organisations in the West Midlands – this includes 160 SMEs.

 

Mr Street said: “Innovation is what drives the economy and our region's future prosperity is focused on key growth sectors. Innovate UK brings the best of innovation to the West Midlands and I am delighted with the opportunity to be involved in something that showcases this and our region.”

 

Through a programme of speakers, Innovate 2017 will explore major themes relevant to the region such as smart cities and urban planning and what this means for the individual, businesses and government. Other topics include artificial intelligence, robotics, alternative food sources and space exploration.

 

Innovate UK Chief Executive Ruth McKernan said: “We are very excited to be taking our annual flagship innovation showcase to the Midlands this year. Innovate 2017 will be an excellent platform for showcasing the strength of Midlands innovation to a national and international audience.”

 

West Midlands businesses taking part include:

·         Warwick Music Limited,   www.warwickmusicgroup.com , the company behind pTrumpet – a hybrid innovation in trumpet manufacture using the very latest in plastic technology, which is lightweight and robust with a high quality performance compared to an equivalent brass trumpet (Tamworth).

·         Adelan,   www.adelan.co.uk   ,   who are developing a prototype fuel cell generator for the high-value leisure market, which includes campervans, barges and sail boats.   (Birmingham).

·         Daden,   www.daden.co.uk   ,   who use 3D and VR products to support the latest training and learning in both corporate and educational environments (Birmingham).

·         MOVONIx,   www.movoball.com   ,   who have invented and patented MOVOBall, a product that transforms   a gym ball as a joystick and directional motion controller.   (Birmingham).



by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 18 Oct, 2017

A south Warwickshire software company, which has grown its staff levels, turnover and international markets in the past year, has been recognised with a major award.

Vectric, which moved to Alcester in 2016, makes software for CNC machines that is used both in industry and by hobbyists, and the company now boasts 70,000 customers worldwide.

It exports into more than 70 countries across the globe – with North America being its biggest overseas market – and its achievements have seen the firm recognised as the Export Business of the Year for the region in the Chamber Business Awards.

Vectric will now go forward to represent the West Midlands in the national finals, which take place in London in November.

Brian Moran, the owner and managing director of the company, accepted the regional award from Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

Brian, who set up Vectric in 2005, said: “We are very pleased to be recognised in this way. The company is growing – we’ve just risen to 20 staff and turnover is forecast to be up by more than 30 per cent this year.

“We are exporting all over the world and we believe one of the secrets to our success is just how easy it is to use the software.

“Many of the CNC machine manufacturers supply their customers with our software but we are also very popular with hobbyists. In the US, there is a growing culture of people buying their own machine to use in their home workshop and our software is used to help them create woodwork that would be extremely complicated to do by hand. 

“We are also very popular in Germany and Spain as well as having a presence in China and India – but we still feel there is plenty of potential to grow internationally and will be tapping into the support available from the Chamber’s international trade hub.

“It’s a proud moment to be representing the West Midlands in the national finals and, fingers crossed, we can bring home the national prize.”

Louise said: “Vectric are an incredible success story and they very much deserve this honour.

“We look forward to finding out if they pick up the national award and also working with them on their growth plans for the future.”

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 18 Oct, 2017

Voneus, the rural community broadband specialist, has acquired Cotswold Wireless, the local high-speed broadband provider – its first acquisition since raising over £5 million in growth funding in June 2017.

Aiming to be the UK’s market leader in rural broadband provision, Voneus expects this acquisition to increase the company’s capacity to connect a further 3,000 homes and businesses – growing its reach while increasing its market credentials. Cotswold Wireless specialises in high speed broadband for the Cotswolds, helping over 400 homes and businesses in the local region. This purchase strengthens Voneus’ network and will help additional households and businesses in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire become connected.

It is the first time either firm has undertaken a move of this scale. Part of the Voneus ‘buy and build’ strategy to accelerate its growth plan, this purchase is the first of many to ensure the business scales quickly and efficiently, while importantly ‘connecting the nation’.

Expanding the Voneus network throughout Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, this purchase will connect more local families, enable remote-working and ensure enhanced access to education through heightened rural connectivity.

Cotswold Wireless was founded in 2004 and specialises in delivering fast, reliable broadband to the Costwolds. Voneus which first entered the market in 2011 has already scaled its expansion plans since raising £5.3m growth funding in June 2017. Specialising in Wireless ‘Air Fibre’, Voneus is accelerating its rapid growth to achieve a national footprint, while bringing parity between rural areas and city dwellers.

“Our mission is to rescue rural communities from the pain and indignity of slow broadband, without them having to wait years for Fibre”, says Steve Leighton, CEO, Voneus. “Buying Cotswold Wireless, helps accelerate this. The important thing is increased access to communities and we want to make sure the ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural areas drastically decreases so people can go about their everyday lives interruption-free”.

 Tristram Charnley, Founder, Cotswold Wireless says, “Being part of the bigger Voneus network will give our existing customers access to new products, increased service benefits and other opportunities over time”.  

New customers can be live and receive high speed broadband within months, not years, with no roads required to be dug up. Voneus works with supportive Tier 1 providers on initial connectivity to install broadband quickly and effectively to deliver speeds between 35Mbps and 50Mbps using an innovative Wireless Fibre To The Home (WFTTH) solution, rivalling other services in the industry.   The company   currently has ongoing installations in Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 12 Oct, 2017

The first ever Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival is set to ignite the local business scene says organisers.

From 20th November to 1st December the region will host a fortnight of exciting business events put on by local organisations from right across the region.

From small networking workshops or seminars to large trade shows or national conferences – there will be an abundance of opportunities to grow your business, as well as to drive economic growth and inward investment for the region.

Whether you need information on starting a new company, developing your supply chain or exporting to new markets, there will be something for everyone.

There are many ways for Coventry & Warwickshire businesses to get involved in this unique opportunity - whether that be through running an event, offering venue space or attending any number of the events taking place across the Business Festival fortnight.

Get involved in the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival and help to place our region as the centre of UK business.

 

The Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival has been developed by the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub, and it is managed by Associate Events Limited.

 

The inaugural Festival will take place between 20th November and 1st December 2017 and will include a wide-ranging programme of business events hosted by local organisations from across the region.

 

The aim of the Festival is to bring Coventry & Warwickshire businesses together on an annual basis under one unified banner to encourage collaboration, networking, innovation, learning and sharing opportunities. Similarly, the Business Festival will provide a great platform to show the rest of the world Coventry & Warwickshire’s strengths and investment potential and will place our region at the heart of UK business.

 

​The Business Festival is run by business, for business. It is a unique opportunity for local organisations to get involved in a completely new concept whether this is becoming a Festival sponsor or sector lead, by hosting an event, offering venue space or attending one, two or several events in the programme.

Every event will provide many ways to grow or enhance your business. This could include sourcing new supply chains; spotting cross-selling opportunities, through to trade shows, learning how to export for the first time or targeting new markets. The possibilities are endless. Businesses of any size can apply to run an event - which can take any shape from a small networking workshop or seminar to a large trade show or national conference.

 

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 04 Oct, 2017

Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced the universities which will lead pioneering research into the next generation of battery technology.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced the consortium of UK universities that will form the Faraday Battery Institute, a new £65 million research institute responsible for building the UK’s status as a global leader in battery research and technology.

The Institute will bring together the expertise and insight from its 7 founding partner universities, industry partners and other academic institutions to accelerate fundamental research to develop battery technologies. Ensuring the UK is well placed to take advantage of the future economic opportunities from emerging technology.

The universities forming the institute are:

·      University of Warwick

·      University of Oxford

·      Imperial College London

·      Newcastle University

·      University College London

·      University of Cambridge

·      University of Southampton

Announcing this major investment in the UK’s research base Greg Clark said:

“Through the Faraday Research Challenge we are cementing our position as the ‘go-to’ destination for battery technology so we can exploit the global transition to a low carbon economy.

“The Faraday Battery Institute will have a critical role in fostering innovative research collaboration between our world-leading universities and world-beating businesses to make this technology more accessible and more affordable.

“We have huge expertise in this area already and the Faraday Battery Institute collaboration between our 7 founding universities provides a truly unique opportunity for us to bring together our expertise and an effort in this area behind a common set of strategic goals to ensure the UK exploits the jobs and business opportunities.”

With £65 million of funding through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Institute will invest an initial £13.7 million to set up a headquarters.

EPSRC Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson said:

Climate change and moving towards low carbon economies mean the demand for clean energy production and effective energy storage, in the UK and globally, is rising.

The Faraday Institute will bring leading academics in the field of battery development together to explore novel approaches that will meet these challenges and accelerate the development of new products and techniques

EPSRC is pleased to be helping establish the Institute, and the drive to keep the UK a prosperous and productive nation.

The Business Secretary confirmed in July that the government would be making an investment of £246 million, over 4 years, in the Faraday Research Challenge to ensure the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries.

The Faraday Research Challenge is divided into 3 streams - research, innovation and scale-up which is designed to drive a step-change in transforming the UK’s world-leading research into market-ready technologies that ensures economic success for the UK.

The Faraday Research Challenge is just 1 of 6 areas that the government, together with business and academia, identified through its flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) as being one of the UK’s core industrial challenges and opportunities, where research and innovation can help unlock markets and industries of the future in which the UK can become world-leading.

As part of cementing the UK as a global leader in autonomous and battery vehicles, the government will unveil shortly the winners of its first £55 million Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) testing infrastructure competition.

This follows the government opening its £100 million CAV test bed competition in April, inviting proposals for how to create a cluster of excellence in driverless car testing, along the M40 corridor between Coventry and London, to accelerate the development of this technology, grow intellectual capital and attract overseas investment in the UK.

 

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 29 Sep, 2017
Coventry and Warwickshire’s diverse cultural and tourism mix has been celebrated at a major awards ceremony – as everything from Shakespeare through to bubble tea were honoured.

The annual Coventry and Warwickshire Tourism and Culture Awards, held at Coombe Abbey Hotel, saw awards handed out to businesses and organisations across the region as well as a clutch of special awards that went to organisations and individuals that have made a key contribution to the region.

Special awards went to butchery group Aubrey Allen, The Episode Hotel, Ricoh Arena and to Lee House, who was described as a ‘legend’ for her work as director of the hugely successful Godiva Festival.

Other award-winners included: Shakespeare’s England for the Business Tourism Award while Avonlea, in Stratford, won the best Small Hotel/B&B/Inn award. Best Hotel went to Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa and The Boat Inn, in Birdingbury, took home the award for Best Pub. Oscar’s French Bistro based in Leamington Spa, won Best Restaurant.

Theatre Absolute, in Coventry, won the award for Best Venue for Live Music/Arts/Theatre and Motionhouse, in Leamington, picked up The Culture Award.

Twisted Barrel Ale, based at FarGo Village, won the Artisan Award.

Bubble Boba, based at FarGo, won the Customer Care/Team Award.

The Royal Shakespeare Company overcame stiff competition to win the History & Heritage Award and the Tourism Event went to Warwickshire Country Council and University of Warwick in partnership for their work on OVO Energy Women’s Cycle Tour.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 29 Sep, 2017
Hundreds of companies gathered for one of the biggest business events in Coventry and Warwickshire.

The Chamber’s Business & Trade Expo, held at Stoneleigh Park and sponsored by WarwickNet, attracted around 200 exhibitors and a further 350 business people throughout the day.

The event was a chance for companies from across the area to meet, network and do business as well as attend seminars on topics such as marketing, international trade, cyber security, speed networking and women in business.

The event was kicked off with a breakfast for the Chamber’s corporate members which delved into issues around the gender pay gap and also looked at the prospects for investment in light of global events.

David Penn, the Chamber’s vice president, said: “It was a wonderful opportunity for firms from right across the area to come together and do business.

“The Chamber has a variety of roles – one of which is being a voice for companies on a range of issues.

“But it is also here to support companies and to help them win new business and a great way of doing that is providing networking and marketing opportunities such as this.
“To have so many businesses coming out to meet and network in this way is extremely positive for this region.”

The Chamber’s next major event is its Annual Economic Conference on Friday, November 3 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. For more information log onto www.cw-chamber.co.uk
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 29 Sep, 2017
A thriving innovation centre in Warwick is celebrating its 20th anniversary by taking its very high occupancy levels to the maximum.

The University of Warwick Science Park’s Warwick Innovation Centre has always enjoyed high occupancy, being between 85 per cent and as high as 99 per cent occupancy at times over the last 20 years.

And now its three wings have reached the elusive 100 per cent mark – but with one or two companies moving to their own premises in Warwickshire over the summer, it will free space for new start-ups to occupy the state-of-the-art offices and access a wide range of business support services.

Over the last two decades, over 150 businesses ranging from automotive to digital marketing have been tenants which has resulted in over 1,500 people working at the site in Gallows Hill.

54% of companies who outgrew the centre have remained in the Coventry and Warwickshire area.

Currently, the centre is the home for 37 start-up and growing businesses who employ around 600 people – who are not all in the building at the same time due to flexible working hours – with many progressing from the centre’s Ignite scheme or its Virtual Tenancy service.

Karen Aston, who was centre manager at the Binley Innovation Centre in Coventry for ten years before taking up the same role in Warwick nearly seven years ago, said its success was due to a number of factors.

“We have never been fully 100% let since we opened 20 years ago and to achieve the feat at a memorable time in our history is a remarkable achievement,” she said.

“Although we are totally full at the moment, a couple of companies who have outgrown the centre are moving on in the next few months which will enable new businesses to take their place.

“It is always sad to see a company leave but part of our appeal is that we provide flexible tenancies for businesses who are often just starting out and then as they grow, they need more room here or elsewhere.

“We have attracted start-up and growing businesses in a wide range of fields due to our flexibility, car-parking and location to the road network and since some of our offices and meeting rooms have views of Warwick Castle.

“Our links with the University of Warwick have also proved really useful to many businesses over the years whether it has been help with research or setting up internships.

“Another factor in attracting entrepreneurs is our business support services with many graduating from our Ignite scheme which assists with providing mentoring support and starter offices to accelerate their growth or our Virtual Tenancy Service which provides a business address, mail handling and telephone answering service as well as conference and meeting room facilities.

“We have also started the Business Ready programme whose advisers and mentors provide support with access to finance, accessing new markets and accessing specialist skills and knowledge which is vital to a new business.

“For the innovation centre to have reached its 20th anniversary speaks volumes for the kind of service and support we provide and I think we have proved that as well as providing first-class facilities, our advice and help is invaluable to businesses whether they are just starting or are established.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 01 Sep, 2017
Aston Martin Lagonda, the producer of luxury hand-crafted sports cars, will drive trade and investment between the United Kingdom and Japan worth up to £500 million over the next five years of its Second Century business plan. The investment program was announced by Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and Chief Executive Officer, during his visit to Japan as part of the UK delegation accompanying British Prime Minister Theresa May. 
​

The trade and investment created by the company signals the importance of the Japanese luxury car market to the global success of Aston Martin. Included in the announcement:

  • Aston Martin exports from the UK (Gaydon and St Athan plants) worth over £400 million, boosted by new sports cars and the introduction of the company’s first Sports Utility Vehicle.
  • Aston Martin buying more than £70 million in components from Japanese suppliers including Bridgestone, Denso, Mitsubishi and Yazaki.
  • The creation of an Aston Martin Meta Technology and Luxury Accelerator office in Japan, to open in 2018.
  • Investments in a flagship global brand centre in Tokyo, new Aston Martin Japan HQ and further growth of the Aston Martin dealer network across Japan.  
The Prime Minister said: “As we prepare to leave the European Union, it is vital that we build on our existing ties with friends and allies.

“Aston Martin is a prime example of the innovative and world leading firms the UK is proud of and I’m delighted they are joining me on this important trade mission.

“Aston Martin’s £500m deal will directly benefit the Gaydon plant in West Midlands and the St Athan plant in Wales helping safeguard existing jobs and opening new possibilities for future deals with Japan.”  

Dr. Palmer said: “Last week we unveiled our half yearly results, which saw Aston Martin register its third successive quarter of pre-tax profit. Our improving performance reflects rising demand for our new and special products.

“As the world’s second largest luxury car market, Japan is key to our future plans as we completely revitalise and expand our product portfolio under our Second Century plan. We have long enjoyed a loyal following from Japanese customers and the public alike, with our new dealership in Tokyo set to become our largest worldwide by volume.

“To ensure we are focused on the needs of Japanese and Asian customers, we are creating a Meta Technology and Luxury Accelerator office in Tokyo, reporting directly to HQ, to develop insights into luxury customer behaviour in Asia. This advanced product planning office is being created specifically to tap into research and technologies in the electric and connected car areas as well as the innovations Japan is making in the luxury market.” continued Palmer.

Between now and the conclusion of the Second Century plan in 2022, Aston Martin sales will more than double, making Japan one of the companies top five global markets by volume. Aston Martin currently exports a range of four sports cars to Japan including the new DB11 model. In late 2019, the company will introduce a sports utility vehicle built at the company’s second manufacturing facility at St Athan in Wales. More than 80% of Aston Martin production is exported, a figure set to increase as it grows sales overseas, particularly in the United States and Asia.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 01 Sep, 2017
Regional lender BCRS Business Loans has been announced as a fund manager for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.

BCRS will manage the Small Business Loans fund in the West Midlands and will oversee the delivery of £17 million to small and medium sized businesses over the full life of the fund.

Loans will be available from £25,000 to £150,000 for a wide range of projects, including start-ups, working capital, expansion projects, leasing commercial premises and asset acquisitions.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), operated by the British Business Bank, has been established to support start-up and existing businesses in the Midlands that are looking for funding to grow, develop and prosper.

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank. The initiative is also supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as well as ten Local Enterprise Partnerships across the region’s geography.

Patrick Magee, Chief Commercial Officer at the British Business Bank said:
“The Midlands Engine Investment Fund will build relationships with the region’s diverse small business community, through its appointed fund managers and its own relationship managers. MEIF will play a pivotal role in plugging the gaps currently present in the funding landscape, seeking to ensure that all businesses have access to the finance they need to grow. BCRS will have an instrumental role in the successful allocation of the fund, and we’re looking forward to working with the team to mobilise fast-growth businesses across the region.”

Paul Kalinauckas, chief executive of BCRS Business Loans, said: “We are delighted to have won the competitive tender to deliver Small Business Loans across the West Midlands for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.

“We believe in our local SMEs, and aim to leave no viable business unsupported. With robust systems in place and an eighteen-strong team, we are well positioned to meet the targets of this initiative and support even more businesses.”
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