Welcome from WCC Joint-Managing Director Monica Fogarty

Hello and welcome to the February edition of Warwickshire Means Business.

We are heading into a very busy period with a lot of excellent events coming up designed to support businesses throughout the county in many sectors.

I am very much looking forward to attending our annual Skills Conference on March 6.  Every year this event brings together businesses and education-providers to talk about how we can all work together to ensure a flow of talented young people into the workforce. This year's event will feature two major announcements from the county council as we step up our efforts to help businesses address the Skills Gap.

Then next day, March 7, Warwickshire Food & Drink 2019 Expo will offer businesses in our wonderfully diverse food and drink sector a great opportunity to make important contacts.

Our rapidly-growing Hospitality Sector will be in the spotlight during a week of events starting on February 27 and then attention will turn to our town centres and high streets when the third Warwickshire Towns Conference takes place at Warwick Racecourse on March 21.

All these events will feature interesting and well-qualified speakers from a broad range of perspectives. Please come along if you can.

One event has already taken place this year, the inaugural Interactive Futures festival in Leamington Spa, and what a success it was - events filled to capacity, visitor-numbers way above those predicted and exhibitors already booking for next year.

The three days were a wonderful endorsement of this region's credentials in the games sector. It was truly a festival of skills and innovation, all laced with good, old Warwickshire hospitality, the importance of which, as Sim Lee points out in his excellent Guest Column, must not be under-estimated.

Also in this edition of Warwickshire Means Business you can catch up with all the latest news-in-brief and upcoming events. We also focus on the first business to benefit from an Apprenticeship Levy transfer - a new source of funding for training in which I am proud to say Warwickshire County Council is ahead of the game.

I hope you enjoy reading this edition - please do join us at one or more of the above events.

Featured News

Unique Senior Care is first business to receive Apprenticeship Levy funding

A business which provides high quality care to vulnerable people in their own homes has become the first to be supported by a groundbreaking Apprenticeship Levy transfer from Warwickshire County Council.

Unique Senior Care will use the £50,000 transfer to recruit and train new staff and upskill existing employees at their base at Hatton Rock near Stratford-upon-Avon.

The funding is the first transfer from the county council's Apprenticeship Levy which was introduced last year, and is a pilot for a new approach that could potentially be rolled out more widely.

Like all large employers in England, Warwickshire County Council pays 0.5% of its annual employee pay bill into the government's Apprenticeship Levy. These funds, available to recoup for apprenticeship training and assessment costs, are designated principally to support apprenticeship training within the business itself, but up to 10% can be diverted to other employers to help fund their apprenticeship training costs.

The percentage of transferable funds will rise to 25% from April, enabling large employers to further invest in their supply chain and/or companies to which they have a connection.

Warwickshire County Council see’s the levy-sharing facility as an ideal opportunity to support a local business and some of its vulnerable residents. Warwickshire is among the first local authorities in the country to divert funds in this way - and Unique Senior Care is the first beneficiary.

The company was formed in 2011 by Philip Maundrill and Philip Wright-Howarth, both of whom saw family members experience levels of home care which they felt should have been much better. Eight years on, Unique Senior Care has more than 200 staff supporting more than 300 clients.

Due to the high quality of care provided, those clients include referrals from the county council. Now the Levy transfer funding will enable the company to further upskill staff through training by nationally-renowned provider Pier Training, to the wider benefit of the clients and their families in Warwickshire.

Unique Senior Care director Philip Maundrill said: "We came into the industry eight years ago with no pre-conceived ideas, just a desire to deliver care how we would want it for our family members.

"We have been fortunate to employ excellent people, both in management and those who deliver care on a daily basis who carry our reputation in the community. However, attracting and retaining staff is an ongoing challenge across the industry so this grant from Warwickshire County Council is hugely helpful.

"It will go towards recruiting new staff and also upskilling people in our existing workforce which is very important. A proportion of the money will go towards enhancing the skills of the leaders in our organisation which will make a big difference.

"The relationship we have with Warwickshire County Council is really positive and this funding will help us to continue to provide the best possible care for the people of Warwickshire in their own homes."

Warwickshire County Council apprenticeship levy manager Dan Nash said: "The council is delighted to support Unique Senior Care in this way. We are investing heavily in apprenticeship training within the council but, under this legislation, large employers can transfer up to 10% of their funds to another employer.

"Unique Senior Care delivered a great bid to invest in their own staff. They have contracts with the county council already, so we know the quality of care they provide to our residents, but this funding will help ensure that they can provide more of that care to vulnerable members of our communities."

Warwickshire County Council leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: "Unique Senior Care is a fantastic company which has grown from almost nothing to employing more than 200 people. Now they will enjoy the benefit of the Apprenticeship Levy transfer for which they are the perfect first recipient because the work they do helps the community by enabling vulnerable people to live independently with the support of high-quality care packages."

Hospitality as a career of choice: My Hospitality World Warwickshire

"What better way to celebrate and showcase an industry than the employers themselves opening up their doors and inviting future employees to see what's on offer?"

The hospitality industry is to open its doors to attract new talent in a campaign supported by Warwickshire County Council: ‘My Hospitality World, Warwickshire.’

A week of events from February 27th to March 5th will bring top local hospitality employers and schools together to showcase career opportunities available and inspire young people to consider a career in this vibrant and rapidly growing sector.

Hospitality businesses from across Warwickshire will offer a range of ‘backstage' tours, presentations and job-shadowing opportunities to demonstrate what is on offer and spot future talent.

Around 200 students from 20 Warwickshire schools are set to participate in the event. Over 18 hotels will take part including Q-Hotels, The Eden Hotel Collection, Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, Hallmark and many others.

Workshops on offer include The Taste Bud Challenge, Pizza Making, Spa Academy, The Customer Service experience and Manager in the Making.

During the week there will also be a mixture of school-led activities and also workshops which parents are also invited to attend and explore with their youngsters.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for our young people to discover more about this growing industry. With work experience and visits to top employers on offer, they will be able to discover the breadth of employment opportunities in this sector.

"We hope as many as 600 young people will take part in, and be inspired by, the events taking place across the region."

Lisa Redding, Head of HR for Eden Hotel Collection, a member of the steering committee for the My Hospitality World project, said: "We are immensely proud to have been part of this exciting initiative and the first ‘My Hospitality World’ week outside London. 

"There are many misconceptions around careers in hospitality despite the vast scope of opportunities and the ability to progress at a young age. Engaging with local schools/colleges must be a key priority for all hospitality employers to enable us to inspire the next generation. 

"The opportunity to be able to welcome teachers, students and parents into our hotels during this week is really exciting and will enable us to showcase our exciting industry."

Peter Ducker FIH, Chief Executive of the Institute of Hospitality, added: "As the professional body for the hospitality industry, our purpose is to promote hospitality management through lifelong learning. We want to encourage and support people to embark on a career path in this exciting industry and the ‘My Hospitality World' initiative will help us to achieve this.

"What better way to celebrate and showcase an industry than the employers themselves opening up their doors and inviting future employees to see what's on offer? We are confident that we will successfully inspire the next generation of chefs, hotel managers and restaurant owners – ensuring a bright future for the nation's hospitality industry."

Warwickshire County Council is working with Proactive Education to coordinate the campaign in Warwickshire. To find out more, or book a place on one of the many activities, please email samantha@proactiveeducation.co.uk.

For the full itinerary please visit www.myhospitalityworldwarwickshire.com/events

Something for every buyer and supplier at Warwickshire Food & Drink 2019

"It's a very informal well-run event...we attended last time and, as a result, picked up local business"

Cider-maker Allen Hogan is looking forward to the Warwickshire Food & Drink Expo 2019 in March after picking up valuable business from the "very well run" inaugural event two years ago.

The second ‘meet the buyer and supplier’ event organised by Warwickshire County Council for the Food & Drink industry in the county will take place at Warwick Racecourse on Thursday 7th March. A broad range of food and drink will be showcased there.

The Expo is designed as a catalyst for producers to connect with new customers both locally and from further afield such as visitor attractions, independent stockists, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels.

At the first event in 2017 that objective certainly bore fruit for many of the exhibitors, including Hogan's Cider.

The Haselor-based business is a Warwickshire success story in its own right, having grown out of what was just a hobby for Allen Hogan. From the tentative start of taking a few bottles along to Stratford Farmers' Market, Allen's business now produces half a million litres of cider a year.

Having blossomed, assisted by a small capital grant from Warwickshire County Council, Hogan Ciders supplies customers locally, across the UK and Europe - a customer-base to which Allen expects to add during Warwickshire Food & Drink  on March 7.

"We attended last time and, as a result, picked up local business," Allen said. "Some of it was on our doorstep which makes you think 'why didn't we have this business before?'

"But that's the great thing about the Expo - it introduces you to people, both locally and from further afield. They are the right people too. At some events a lot of the visitors are interested but don't have the authority to do business. That is not the case at Warwickshire Food & Drink. There are some serious buyers there.

"It's a very informal, well-run event which I am really looking forward to attending."

Warwickshire's diverse Food & Drink sector has a long reach with Hogan's Cider even making inroads into one of the tougher markets to crack - Russia.

"A Russian guy was in London, came across our cider and liked it so much he got in touch," Allen said. "We now supply his outlets in Moscow and St Petersburg.  We also supply to other countries in Europe but our customers are mainly UK-based and particularly strong in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield at the moment.

"It started off literally as a hobby and I never expected it to take off like this. But we have some great people working here and it is lovely to take a raw material and turn it into something that people value and enjoy.

"It took a while for us to get into profit but the grant from Warwickshire County Council was a huge help to our growth. It went towards a £50,000 keg-filler which enabled us to bring that process in house, so we were not reliant on contractors and had much more flexibility.

"It is vital that we keep moving the business forward though. That is why we are always creating new products - and why events like Warwickshire Food & Drink are so important, allowing us to make new connections in the industry."

*Registration for Warwickshire Food & Drink is free to buyers and inexpensive for suppliers wishing to reserve an exhibitors’ place. For details please refer to the event website www.warwick-food-drink.co.uk/

Skills Conference will build bring together schools and businesses

Brokering recruitment between schools and businesses will be a key  part of the agenda of Warwickshire County Council's annual Skills Conference on Wednesday 6th March.

Businesses and education-providers will gather in force at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, for this breakfast conference, always a much-anticipated spring event in the county's business calendar.

Each year, the conference organisers explore skills and recruitment issues from a  different angle. This year, university and Further Education speakers will describe how they can work with employers to help them recruit to higher-level jobs and also develop higher skills for existing employees. There will also be an emphasis  on how businesses can attract and recruit the best young people straight from school sixth-forms.

Schools from throughout the county have supplied details of exactly the types of job that would interest their sixth-form leavers and that information will be shared  with businesses at the conference.

Ian Smith-Childs, headteacher at The Coleshill School, said: "An increasing number of our sixth-form students are very interested in going into high quality apprenticeships or jobs with further training which enable them to continue their education to higher levels.

"More and more young people are considering this option instead of going to university in the light of increased fees and publicity about how many graduates are now underemployed in the workforce, ie. doing jobs for which a degree isn't required.

"There is a host of skills within sixth-form students across the county ready to be taken on and nurtured by business. The Skills Conference is a great way for the worlds of education and business to come together and find out what each other wants and can provide."

Warwickshire County Council Skills for Employment manager Glenn Robinson said: "I am delighted that so many schools and businesses will be represented at this year's conference which promises to be really valuable event.

"At a time when many sectors are troubled by a Skills Gap, and with further uncertainty caused by Brexit, it is essential to fully exploit the wealth of young talent coming out of our excellent schools, colleges and universities."

Among speakers at the Conference, which will begin with a buffet breakfast and networking session at 7.30am, will be Professor Pat Tissington (Academic Director of Employability and Skills, University of Warwick), Ian Smith-Childs (Headteacher, The Coleshill School) and Kerry McGreavy (Apprenticeship Manager, Coventry University).

This year's event will also deliver the latest local labour market forecasts in a keynote speech from Warwickshire County Council head of Economy & Skills Dave Aton-Hill.

The Skills Conference is a key element of Warwickshire County Council's £3 million Skills for Employment programme which has funded more than 40,000 careers and employability activities in more than 600 local businesses during the last four years

To book your free place at the Skills Conference please visit here.

For further information please e-mail: skillsforemployment@warwickshire.gov.uk


Tech specialist chooses Warwickshire as global HQ

"To be successful, any business needs a bit of luck. We regard coming into contact with the council as our bit of very good luck."

A tech start-up company from Turkey is expanding and recruiting in Warwickshire after choosing the county as the location for its global HQ.

Eatron Technologies has moved its head office from Istanbul to Warwick after grant support  from Warwickshire County Council helped it to equip a base at Warwick Innovation Centre on Warwick Technology Park.

Company directors Umut Genc and Amedeo Bianchimano have recently employed one engineer and are busy searching for more as they settle into a base right in the heart of their chosen sector. Specialists in automotive software, Eatron provides controls and software engineering services and solutions for electric and autonomous vehicles.

Umut said: "I have worked in the UK for some years so knew that Warwickshire is an international hub for the connected autonomous sector so the perfect location for us.

"This is where we wanted to be and the support from the council, both in terms of the grant and the excellent advice we received, has enabled us to move more quickly and recruit earlier.

"Some of the funding went towards equipping our office and some towards the technology and hardware for a car, so we will have an autonomous vehicle to exhibit to clients by the summer.

"It is wonderful to be are growing in Warwickshire with a view to expansion into the US and China, at which point our workforce will grow commensurately."

The arrival of Eatron in Warwickshire further strengthens the region's collective offer of skills and expertise in the connected automotive sector. The company was confident that this was where it wanted to be and the logistics of moving here were significantly smoothed by the input of Warwickshire County Council's Economy & Skills team.

Inward investment officer Steph Williams supported Eatron by introducing them to supply-chain companies and research institutions and alerting them to local grant opportunities.

"The council's team was really proactive," said Umut. "As a new small business you have a lot to do and could easily be knocked off track so its brilliant to have people to help and plan your pathway.

"The grant process was transparent and smooth and to have that quality of support is not only valuable on a practical level but it is also great to have that credibility, to know that someone has the belief in your business plan to back you.

"To be successful, any business needs a bit of luck. We regard coming into contact with the council as our bit of very good luck."

* For more information about what Steph and her colleagues in the Invest Warwickshire team at Warwickshire County Council can do to help your business settled in Warwickshire, please visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/invest/

* The advice for the company was delivered as part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council. To find out more about the range of support available to grow your business, please contact the Growth Hub on 0300 060 3747.

Resounding lift-off for Interactive Futures festival

"The festival resulted in the development of a number of new inward investment enquiries"

The first Interactive Futures festival in Leamington Spa was a resounding success - so much so that it's set to become an annual event with planning already underway for 2020 and 2021.

The event, at the Royal Spa Centre between January 31 and February 2, was a three-day festival which focused on games, culture and creativity.

It attracted industry-leaders and visitors from all over the world and further reinforced the standing of "Silicon Spa" as a national and international hub within the digital creative sector.

Over the three days more than 1,700 people attended the various elements of the event. Among them was a television crew from popular Channel Five television show The Gadget Show who coverage will be aired in March.

The atmosphere on each day was hugely positive with visitors eager to share knowledge and expertise. The event was truly a credit to the creative offer of the town and the region, as Warwickshire County Council inward investment officer Sim Lee explores further in his guest column.

Most significantly, the festival resulted in the development of a number of new inward investment enquiries - and even before the first festival was over,  new exhibitors were being signed up for the second, in 2020.

Interactive Futures was created and developed by local authority partners working closely with the private sector. It was organised by Sim Lee (Warwickshire County Council), Stacy O’Connor (Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership) and Suzee Laxton (Warwick District Council), in conjunction with a steering group of industry professionals, and delivered by Holland Alexander.

Each of the festival's three days had their own specific focus to appeal to different target audiences – academic, industry and consumers.

Day 1: (Academic Conference)

Hosted by Warwickshire College, this event looked at emerging topics in the UK games Industry including ‘Mixed reality for advanced medical training’, ‘The Britishness of ‘British’ video games’ and ‘Psychological motivations and drivers of play’. Speakers for this conference were from national and international institutions including Coventry University, Birmingham City University, Staffordshire University and Bahcesehir University in Istanbul.

Day 2: (Industry Day)

A conference and expo showcase held at the Royal Spa Centre. Exhibitors included Sega Hardlight, Playground Games, Ubisoft, Codemasters, Rebellion and many more. Two speaker tracks covered technical and business development sessions which were well attended.

Day 3: (Consumer/public day)

Day three was more focused on inspiring the next generation of talent and included a variety of workshops to give students and children a hands-on experience. Many of the workshop sessions sold out and additional time slots were added due to high demand. Talks on both stages were also extremely busy and at times completely full, Ubisoft even repeated one of their talks during the lunch hour due to the talk being completely full first time around.

High Street in the spotlight at Towns Conference

"The event will be an invaluable gathering of people all pulling in the same direction - for the prosperity of Warwickshire's towns and high streets"

Sustaining and strengthening Warwickshire's towns and high streets will be in the spotlight at the third Warwickshire Towns Network annual conference in March.

Following the success of the previous two conferences, aimed at helping organisations and businesses make their towns and high street centres the best they can be, the third will take place at Warwick Racecourse on Thursday 21st March (9am-3pm).

A broad range of topics will be under discussion at a venue which could not be more appropriate for a meeting designed to support town centres. Warwick Racecourse, the sixth oldest racecourse in the world, hosted its first meeting in 1707 having been laid out to draw people to a town devastated by the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694.

Among subjects to be covered on March 21 will be: Retail on our high streets; place-branding; value of accessible towns;  and cultural opportunities including Coventry City of Culture 2021. It promises to be a must-attend event for place-makers, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), councils and town centre businesses throughout Warwickshire.

Among the speakers will be Cllr Izzi Seccombe OBE (leader of Warwickshire County Council),Mike Adams OBE (chief executive of We are Purple  #PurpleTuesday Campaign), Martin Sutherland (chief executive of Coventry City of Culture 2021), Tim Lewis (brand & marketing strategist), Ojay McDonald (chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management) and Diane Wherle (marketing and insights director at Springboard).

Rachel Baconnet, Warwickshire County Council's team leader for Town Centres & Tourism, believes the event will be an invaluable gathering of people all pulling in the same direction - for the prosperity of Warwickshire's towns and high streets.

"It will be an interesting, informative and interactive networking event," Rachel said. "In combination with the speakers mentioned above we will also hear from local businesses and retailers about what is happening on the ground in Warwickshire.

"The previous towns conferences have been very successful, resulting in a wealth of knowledge exchanged and ideas taken back to respective organisations. I have no doubt the third conference will be just as stimulating and of great value to those working hard to make their town a great place to shop and visit."

To book a place at the event please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/warwickshire-county-council-12909861847 

Business urged to be 'Brexit-prepared'

Businesses have been urged to be as "Brexit-prepared" as possible - and not be tempted to just wait and see what happens when the uncertainty over the long-running issue at last clears.

There are several reasons way businesses might not be proactively preparing for whatever the consequences of the saga are. Running a business is time-consuming enough already while Brexit fatigue is another factor which might understandably have deterred some from thinking more about it.

But Warwickshire County Council is urging all members of the business community to find the time to become 'Brexit-prepared' - particularly in case of a No Deal scenario.

"It is impossible to over-state the importance of businesses being 'Brexit-prepared' and thinking through what a No Deal scenario might mean,' said Warwickshire County Council head of economy & skills David Ayton-Hill." 

"This is a time of almost unprecedented uncertainty for the business world and, while none of us has a crystal ball, it is simply good business sense to be as prepared as can be. As part of their everyday planning, businesses habitually consider how to deal with various factors that might happen - so please don't overlook Brexit.

"At Warwickshire County Council we want to see more businesses actively considering Brexit and what preparations they might need to undertake, and also for residents to be better aware of some of the issues that may be of concern to them.

"There is a range of tools available to help, from a Brexit Checklist developed by the British Chambers of Commerce, to a “Triage” tool developed by the Government that helps businesses walk through some key issues to understand what a No Deal scenario might mean for their business, and what steps they might need to take to better prepare themselves. I would urge all members of our business community to have a look at them and plan accordingly if appropriate."

Warwickshire County Council has also created a new webpage to help businesses and residents navigate their way to information and advice. This can be found at: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/brexit

For further information about wider support that is available to help businesses, please contact the Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub (www.cwgrowthhub.com.uk / contact@cwgrowthhub.co.uk / tel: 0300 060 3747).

Trade Local Expo set for record visitor numbers

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for record visitor numbers at its Expo next month.

The Trade Local Business & Trade Expo, which will take place at NAEC Stoneleigh Park on Friday, March 15, has already signed up nearly 150 exhibitors and hundreds more have registered for the event.

Visitors are being urged to register in advance, which will put them into a prize draw for some amazing prizes when they arrive on the day.

As well as the opportunity to meet, network and do business with fellow companies from across the region, firms can also learn about some major opportunities coming their way. That includes a major briefing with the organisers behind the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 which begins at 8am before the Expo officially opens at 10am.

Chris Nagle, events & marketing manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are thrilled to have so many exhibitors coming to our Trade Local Business & Trade Expo. There are hundreds of businesses who have already register their attendance too so it is going to offer an incredible opportunity for companies to come along, make new contacts and strike up relationships that could lead to new business.

“That’s why we have been so keen to push the Go For Growth: Trade Local campaign - because we want companies to really make the most of the opportunities that we have in this region.

“It promises to be a great day, starting with our Commonwealth Games briefing at 8am in the morning and running through to 3pm in the afternoon.”

Businesses that pre-register for the Expo could win a Hospitality Box for 12 for a Wasps home game which has been kindly donated by the Ricoh Arena and also Premiership Rugby tickets, which have been kindly donated by Gallagher Insurance.

For more information or to pre-register, please go to www.cwexpo.co.uk

Region has "outperformed the rest of the UK" in economic growth

“We cannot be complacent but all the data coming out of businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire suggests it is stronger than most other regions to deal with the Brexit fall-out.”

Coventry and Warwickshire is in a strong position to meet the economic fall-out of Brexit after emerging as one of the fastest growing regions since the recession a decade ago.

That was the message at the Chamber Means Business event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in in Coventry, organised by the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

The new event, which will deliver the latest business insight to firms across the region on a quarterly basis, heard from Dave Ayton-Hill, the Economy and Group Skills Manager at Warwickshire County Council.

Mr Ayton-Hill said the potential economic storm clouds on the horizon in 2019 had subdued confidence slightly but that the majority of firms in both manufacturing and services were positive about the future.

He said: “Since the recession a decade ago, Coventry and Warwickshire has outperformed the rest of the UK when it comes to economic growth. Many might say that is all because of the Jaguar Land Rover effect, but even when we strip that away from the numbers, the region has still seen strong growth.

“The forecasts for global growth are weaker for several reasons. There is a slowdown in China, the automotive sector is suffering from the diesel crisis and Brexit is going to have an impact.

“Until we know what Brexit is going to look like and whether it is going to be orderly or messy, we won’t know the full extent of what that impact is going to be. So we cannot be complacent but all the data coming out of businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire suggests it is stronger than most other regions to deal with the fall-out.”

Sport, leisure and culture will play a key role in the region’s economic growth in the coming years and Jonathan Hunt, from Coventry City Council, revealed that £100 million of sport and leisure facilities are being opened in Coventry during 2019. That will be followed by UK City of Culture in 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

Chris Nagle, events and marketing manager at the Chamber, said: “Chamber Means Business is a new format for an event that we have introduced for 2019. It’s a chance for businesses to network but also hear the latest insights into the economy and developments in the region. We had a great mix of speakers who all gave a very positive message about Coventry and Warwickshire."

Brand new Degree Apprentice Centre set to open in September

A new WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre at the University of Warwick, designed to equip young engineers with the high-level skills that businesses will need in the future, is on schedule to open in September 2019.

Construction of the centre is well under way having been awarded £10million funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP). The steel frames for the centre are now in place in the first phase of creating the complex.

The centre will provide apprentices with the opportunity to study degree courses to develop the skills needed by advanced engineering and manufacturing companies. It will run training programmes up to Master’s Degree level initially for 1,000 students, who will complete their studies at the university campus in conjunction with their employment at companies throughout Coventry and Warwickshire.

The centre will feature flexible teaching and lab space, and an environment for technology-enhanced learning as well as provide advice and support to apprentices and organisations.

The Warwick Manufacturing Group Degree Apprenticeship Centre is the first stage of a future Degree Apprenticeship complex at the campus.

Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, chairman of WMG, said: “The WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre will provide the opportunity for apprentices to study whilst supporting our manufacturing base by learning the skills necessary for the UK to stay competitive.”

Jonathan Browning, chair of the CWLEP, said: “It is great to see the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre taking shape since this will be a valuable resource to train students with the skills which employers need to drive their businesses forward.

“The Local Growth Fund was established by the Government to give LEPs the opportunity to fund projects which will boost the economy, support businesses and create jobs. It is vital that we equip apprentices with high-level skills and this centre will bring huge benefits to the advanced engineering and manufacturing sector in the area.”

Guest column

Silicon Spa continues to soar thanks to its great skills and unique warmth

The inaugural Interactive Futures festival, held in Leamington Spa, was a resounding success and cemented Warwickshire's place at the heart of the UK digital creative sector. But the county's appeal in the sector extends beyond the vast array of skills that it offers.

Everyone wants to work in a warm, constructive, welcoming environment - and that's exactly what you get in the Silicon Spa cluster, says Warwickshire County Council investment officer Sim Lee.  

"The Festival perfectly summed up the skills, warmth and 'can do' attitude that drives Silicon Spa."  

Sumo Digital, the Sheffield-headquartered studio famous for titles such as Littlebigplanet 3, Outrun 2 and the upcoming Team Sonic Racing, recently announced the opening of their fifth UK studio in Leamington Spa.

This prestigious addition brings the number of games studios in the town to 51 and in the Coventry & Warwickshire area to 84 - more than in other development powerhouses such as Sheffield (41), Bristol (50), Guildford (70) and Brighton (73). [*The games industry in numbers, UKIE, 2018]

With so many studios in a town of just 55,000 people, you might expect almost unhealthy competition for talent and space. Far from that, however, Leamington continues to thrive on this competition with studios assisting and supporting each other and celebrating each other's success - and that is unique to this cluster.

The continued growth and success of Silicon Spa owes much to the character and skills of those working in the industry, of course, but also to the long history of game development in the area. If you were to draw up a family tree of studios since Codemasters first started in the mid-1980s, most of the studios operating here today would display some of that original DNA - and almost all developers in the area have some connection with Codemasters.

After Codemasters shed a big proportion of their staff throughout the '90s, many who worked for them stayed in the area and setup by themselves. Some became large AAA studios such as Playground Games and Pixel Toys, employing hundreds between them, but many remained small and acted as a crucial pool of talent and expertise for the larger studios during their development cycles.

The closeness and mutually-supportive relationships between these studios just isn’t found in other clusters such as Dundee, Brighton and Guildford, which is perhaps one of the catalysts for such a successful ecosystem in Leamington.

The Interactive Futures festival was a perfect example of the cooperation and collaboration of the studios. In the planning stages of the event, recruitment managers and heads of studios were frequently seen in meetings with other studios and they all exhibited alongside each other at the showcase expo. Shared activity like this is almost unheard of in other clusters and industries but in Leamington they see the bigger picture - the importance of attracting talent to the area and raising the profile of Silicon Spa.

The inaugural event itself exceeded expectations on all levels. Footfall tripled the initial target, student workshops were all fully booked, exhibitors rebooked for 2020 and Ubisoft even had to repeat one of their talks during the lunch hour as the stage was at capacity first time round.

There was a lot of wonderful feedback. Barnaby Smith, of SabreSaurus said:"Exhibiting at Interactive Futures opened up opportunities that are difficult to find for indie developers, allowing us to meet both potential commercial partners as well as players. There's no substitute for seeing so many people play your game for the first time - the Local Indie Showcase enabled us to learn from players, promote the game and meet industry from around the world."

Paul Marrable, of Flump Studios, reflected upon Interactive Futures as "one of the most enjoyable events I've been lucky enough to exhibit at," adding "there were some fantastic speakers and exhibitors at the show and the visitor engagement was just fantastic. Roll on Interactive Futures 2020.”

Warwickshire County Council is proud to be a co-organiser of the event and will continue to support activity like this to help raise the profile of Silicon Spa and attract and inspire the next generation of creative talent. Our thanks go to all who were involved in making Interactive Futures such a brilliant success. The Festival perfectly summed up the skills, warmth and 'can do' attitude that drives Silicon Spa.  


Local Business Events


#FSBConnect Rugby Networking Breakfast 4th Friday by FSB West Midlands: Fri 22nd Feb, 07:00-09:00am, The Arnold House At Rugby, Elsee Rd, Rugby, CV21 3BA https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/fsbconnect-rugby-networking-breakfast-4th-friday-fsb-west-midlands

 FREE Business Support Session:Warwick: Fri 22nd Feb, Coventry & Warks LEP, The Old Clink, Warwick, CV34 4SJ 


FREE Business Support Session:Bedworth: Mon 29th April, 10:00-14:00, The Mayor’s Cafe, The Miners Welfare Park, Bedworth, CV12 8JT (Free)


Put your Social Media House in order: Tues 26th Feb, 09:30-16:00, Valiant Office Suites, Lumonics House, Valley Drive, Swift Valley Industrial Estate, Rugby, Warwickshire CV21 1TQ (TBC+VAT)


Queens Award for Enterprise Masterclass 2019: Tues 26th Feb, 09:00-13:00, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3DH (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/queens-award-for-enterprise-masterclass-2019/

Investment in Midlands Automotive: Tues 26th Feb - Thurs 28th Feb, 08:00-10:00, Horiba Mira or Scarman Building, Warwick Conferences (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/investment-midlands-automotive

Business Support & Funding Opportunities for SME’s in Coventry and Warwickshire: Tues 26th Feb, 08:00-10:30am, Hales Street, Coventry, CV1 1JD (Free)


Business Planning and Finance (Coleshill) Session 3/3: Tues 26th Feb, 09:30-13:30, Coleshill Town Hall, High Street, Coleshill, Bimingham, B46 3BG (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-planning-and-finance-coleshill-session-33

INTERSECT: where business and creative industries meet: Tues 26th, 15:00-17:00, Old Grammar School, Hales Street, Coventry https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/intersect-where-business-and-creative-industries-meet

Email Marketing that works: Weds 27th Feb, 09:30-16:00, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Chamber House Unit 8 & 9, Innovation Village, Cheetah Road, West Midlands, CV1 2TL (TBC+VAT)


Tourism, Leisure & Culture Networking Lunch: Weds 27th Feb, 11:30-14:00, Holiday Inn, Coventry M6 J2, Hinckley Road, Walsgrave, Coventry, West Midlands CV2 2HP (£10.00 + VAT) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/tourism-leisure-culture-networking-lunch/

Business Planning and Finance (Leamington) Session 3/3: Weds 27h Feb, 09:30-13:30, Althorpe Enterprise Hub, Althorpe Street, Royal Leamington Spa, CV31 2GB https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-planning-and-finance-leamington-session-33

Vehicle and Grid Seminar: Weds 27th Feb, 09:30-16:30, Coventry Transport Museum, Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry, CV1 1JD (Member £40, Non Member £65, Student £15, Retired £15 - please note all prices are exclusive of VAT) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/vehicle-and-grid-seminar

Email Marketing that works: Weds 27th Feb, 09:30-16:00, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Chamber House, Unit 8 & 9 Innovation Village, Cheetah Road, CV1 2TL (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/email-marketing-works

The Henley Hub: Thurs 28th Feb, 11:30-14:00, UBCUK Henley-in-Arden, Forward House, 17 High Street, Henley-in-Arden, B95 5AA (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-henley-hub-tickets-51814494548


Cheltenham BIG Breakfast Meeting: Fri 1st March, arrivals from 07:00, The Cosy Club (12.50 exc VAT @ 20%) http://www.stratford-business-forum.co.uk/catalogue_item.php?catID=13439&prodID=87166

FREE Business Support Session:Coventry: Tues 5th March, CWLEP Growth Hub, Enterprise Centre, Coventry University Technology Park, Puma Way, Coventry CV1 2TT https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/free-business-support-session-coventry-7

The Warwickshire Virtual Assistant Network Forum: Weds 6th March, 10:00-12:00, The Fat Pug, 6 Guys Cliffe, Leamington Spa, CV32 5DA (£10) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-warwickshire-virtual-assistant-network-forum-tickets-54060271728

The Warwickshire Virtual Assistant Network Forum & Training: Weds 6th March, 10:00-14:00, The Fat Pug, 23 Guy’s Cliffe Road, Leamington Spa, CV32 5BZ (£25) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-warwickshire-virtual-assistant-network-forum-training-tickets-54060202521

How can higher level skills help drive economic growth? Weds 6th March, 08:00-10:00, Stareton Hall, National Agriculture Exhibition Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-can-higher-level-skills-help-drive-economic-growth-tickets-54692518796

#FSBConnect Coventry First Wednesday Networking Breakfast: Weds 6th March, 07:00-08:45, Ramada Hotel & Suites, Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3GG (£10) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/fsbconnect-coventry-first-wednesday-networking-breakfast-7

#FSBConnect Stratford ‘First Wednesday’: Weds 6th March, 18:00-20:00, El Greco, 27 Rother Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6NE (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/fsbconnect-stratford-first-wednesday-8

FREE Business Support Session: Stratford-upon-Avon: Weds 6th March, 10:00-13:00, Venture House Business Centre, Avenue Farm Industrial Estate, Birmingham Road, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 0HR https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/free-business-support-session-stratford-upon-avon-1

Save Money and Get More Customers: Weds 6th March, 09:00-16:00, Ramada Hotel & Suites Coventry, The Butts, Coventry, CV1 3GG (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/save-money-and-get-more-customers-tickets-56179130291

Raising Finance for Business - Business Support Workshop: Thurs 7th March, 09:00-12:30, University of Warwick Science Park, The Venture Centre, Sir William Lyons Road, Coventry, CV4 7EZ (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/raising-finance-for-business-business-support-workshop-registration-54338112758

Grant Funding - Writing your Application: Thurs 7th March, 13:00-15:30,  University of Warwick Science Park, The Venture Centre, Sir William Lyons Road, Coventry, CV4 7EZ (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/grant-funding-writing-your-application-registration-55015139764

Getting the Most out of Google for your Business - SEO & Analytics: Thurs 7th March, 09:30-16:00, Eliot Park Innovation Centre, 4 Barling Way, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV10 7RH (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/getting-the-most-out-of-google-for-your-business-seo-analytics-7th-march-2019/

12@12 Professionals Lunch Stratford: Thurs 7th March, 12:00-14:00, El Greco (£12.50 exc VAT @ 20%) http://www.stratford-business-forum.co.uk/catalogue_item.php?catID=6761&prodID=58686

Business Vision and Strategy (Stratford-upon-Avon) Session 1/3: Tues 12th March, 09:30-13:30, Venture House Business Centre, Avenue Farm Industrial Estate, Birmingham Road, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 0HR https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-vision-and-strategy-stratford-upon-avon-session-13

Speed Networking: Thurs 7th March. 08:30-10:30, Audley Binswood Management Ltd, Binswood Hall, Binswood Avenue, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV32 5SE (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/speed-networking/

Q1 North Warwickshire Branch 2019: Fri 8th March, 08:00-09:30, Subcon Laser Cutting Ltd, Bermuda Road Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV10 7QG (Free)


Website Development for Beginners: Tues 12th March, 09:00-16:30, iCentrum, Innovation Birmingham Campus, Holt St, Birmingham, B7 4BP (Free)


GrowthPlus: Mergers and acquisitions; preparing for sale or integration or exit: Weds 13th March, 08:00 - 10:00, Warwick Innovation Centre, CV34 6UW (Free) RSVP: ian.mcfarlanetoms@uwsp.co.uk

Free Construction Networking Breakfast: Weds 13th March, 07:45 - 09:00, CWLEP Growth Hub, Enterprise Centre, Coventry University Technology Park, Puma Way, Coventry, CV1 2TT (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/free-construction-networking-breakfast

FREE Business Support Session: Stratford-upon-Avon: Weds 13th March, 10:00-12:30, Venture House Business Centre, Avenue Farm Industrial Estate, Birmingham Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 0HR https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/free-business-support-session-stratford-upon-avon-2

Business Vision and Strategy (Nuneaton/Bedworth) Session 1/3: Weds 13th March, 09:30-13:30, North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, Hinckley Road, Nuneaton, CV11 6BH (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/business-vision-and-strategy-nuneatonbedworth-session-13

Employing Ex-Offenders to Address the Skills Gap in Construction: Thurs 14th March, 09:00-13:00, CWLEP Growth Hub, Enterprise Centre, Coventry Technology Park, Puma Way, Coventry, CV1 2TT https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/employing-ex-offenders-address-skills-gaps-construction

Wordpress your Business: Thurs 14th March, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Chamber House, Unit 8 & 9, Innovation Village, Cheetah Road, West Midlands CV21 2TL (TBC + VAT) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/wordpress-your-business-14th-march-2019/

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Business Briefing: Fri 15th March, 08:00-10:00, NAEC Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth, CV8 2LZ (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/birmingham-2022-commonwealth-games-business-briefing

Maximise Your Membership: Fri 15th March, 09:30-11:00, Woodland Grange, Old Milverton, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RN (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/maximise-your-membership

Trade Local Business Expo 2019: Fri 15th March, 10:00 - 15:00, NAEC Stoneleigh, CV8 2LZ, (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/trade-local-business-expo-2019-visitor-registration/

Trade Local Business Expo - Speed Networking: Fri 15th March, 13:30-14:30, NAEC Hall 3, NAEC Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ (Free)


Birmingham 2022 Business Briefing: Fri 15th March, 08:00-10:00, NAEC Hall 3, NAEC Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/birmingham-2022-business-briefing/ 

Thinking of Starting a Business (Coventry) Session 1/4: Tues 19th March, 09:30-13:30, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Cheetah Road, Coventry, CV1 2TL  https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/thinking-starting-business-coventry-session-14-mar-apr-2019 

An Introduction to Marketing (Coventry) Session 2/4: Tues 19th March - Weds 20 March, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Cheetah Road, Coventry, CV1 2TL https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/introduction-marketing-coventry-session-24-mar-apr-2019

Chamber Networking: Thurs 21st March, 16:30-18:30, Best Western Plus Manor Hotel, 127 Main Road, Meriden, West Midlands, CV7 7NH (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/chamber-networking-1/

Warwickshire Towns Network Conference 2019: Thurs 21st March, 09:00-15:30, Warwick Racecourse, Hampton Street, Warwick, CV34 6HN (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/warwickshire-towns-network-conference-2019-tickets-55401906594?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Q1 South Warwickshire Branch: Fri 22nd March, 08:00-09:30 (Free) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/q1-south-warwickshire-branch-2019/

FREE Business Support Session: Warwick: Fri 22nd March 10:00-14:00, CWLEP, The Old Clink, The Halloway, Warwick, CV34 4SJ https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/free-business-support-session-warwick-3

Winning and Keeping Customers (Stratford-upon-Avon): Tues 26th March, Venture House Business Centre, Avenue Farm Industrial Estate, Birmingham Road, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 0HR https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/winning-and-keeping-customers-stratford-upon-avon-session-23

MTC Open Evening: Tues 26th March, 17:00 - 19:30, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Pilot Way, Ansty Park, Coventry, CV7 9JU https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/mtc-open-evening-3

Winning and Keeping Customers (Nuneaton/Bedworth) Session 2/3: Weds 27th March, North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, Hinckley Road, Nuneaton, CV11 6BH (Free) https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/event/winning-and-keeping-customers-nuneatonbedworth-session-23

Chamber Commercial Academy Day: Thurs 28th March, 08:30-16:30, Dunchurch Park Hotel, Rugby Road, Dunchurch, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV22 6QW (Chamber Member: £25.00 + VAT Non-Chamber Member £40.00 + VAT) https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/chamber-commercial-academy-day/

The Henley Hub: Thurs 28th March, 11:30-14:00, UBCUK Henley-in-Arden, Forward House, 17 High Street, Henley-in-Arden, B95 5AA (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-henley-hub-tickets-51519334717

East Midlands Manufacturing & Engineering Conference 2019: Thurs 28th March, 08:30-13:00, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, Ansty Park, Coventry (Member price: £25 + VAT, Non-Member Price: £75 + VAT)



YouTube Video Workshop: Tues 30th April, 09:00-16:30, Location TBC (Free) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/youtube-video-workshop-tickets-56802772622


C&W Business Festival: https://www.cwbusinessfestival.com/

Tech Central: https://techcentraluk.com/events

Business Ready: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/business-ready-12629314668

Coventry University Enterprises: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/cue-business-solutions-13651209205

C&W Chamber of Commerce: https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/

C&W Growth Hub: http://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/events

CW Champions: https://www.coventry-warwickshire.co.uk/events

Midlands Business Network: http://themidlandsbusinessnetwork.co.uk/events/

Leamington Hour: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/leamington-hour-7578817945

Stratford Business Forum: http://www.stratford-business-forum.co.uk/

Leamington Business Forum: http://www.leamington-business-forum.co.uk/

The Henley Hub: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-henley-hub-tickets-51519328699

Southam Business Forum: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/southam-business-forum-8369172972

Warwickshire VA Network:


News in Brief

Local Business Headlines

Multimillion-pound boost expected for town's annual celebration

More than £3m could be pumped into Stratford-on-Avon's local economy through the two-day Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations planned for later this year, according to the district council.


Royal Shakespeare Centre to help develop immersive technologies

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to take part in a £18m government scheme to develop immersive technologies such as virtual reality for audiences.


Another AAA game studio expands to Leamington Spa

Sumo Digital announced that they are opening the studio and that they have appointed Chris Southall as its Studio Director.


Popular Warwick restaurant named as having the best pizza in England

Last week Dough and Brew in Brook Street was ranked as the best place in England for Pizza by website Big Seven Food and Travel in their '21 pizzas in England you have to eat before you die'.


Mercia eyes further software investments

Mercia Technologies has reported strong revenue growth from its portfolio of software and internet companies and said it is eyeing further investment in the sector.

Its investments in the sector include Manchester-based website performance and security company Intechnica (27.9 per cent stake), Brighton-headquartered Intelligent Positioning (28.8 per cent stake), market research specialist and London's Crowd Reactive (26.2 per cent).


Red Bull launches new F1 car

F1 team Aston Martin Red Bull Racing have unveiled their car for the upcoming season.

The RB15 is powered by Honda for the first time and will be driven by Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.


Leamington butchers win more national awards

The butchers achieved a Diamond in the Innovation category of The Smithfield Awards, with its ‘Guinea Fowl Delight’.


30-year town centre transformation revealed

Transforming Nuneaton programme has been launched showing the aspirations of Warwickshire County Council, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council and other partners including the local enterprise partnership.


Leamington Creative Quarter vision being showcased on an international stage

A vision to establish a new creative quarter in Leamington Spa will be under the spotlight at the world’s largest property and investment show.


Escape room company set to expand

An escape experience company in Stratford-upon-Avon is looking to expand ahead of marking its first anniversary in the town.


Printing company in Leamington is poised for growth after investment

Warwick Printing Company, which is based in Caswell Road, Leamington Spa, has bought a new press that it says will enable orders to be completed more quickly.


Go-ahead for new HOBIRA MIRA building

Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council has approved the plans for the building which will provide space for five workshops and offices with a total floor space of 7,384 sq ft.


Taylorfitch. Bringing Newsletters to life