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.
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
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
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.”
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
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 email@example.com