Warwickshire's inspiring businesses can look to a brighter 2021...
After a year of unprecedented challenge, there are now plenty of encouraging signs of economic recovery. Warwickshire County Council's Strategy & Commissioning Manager, Economy & Skills, Alison Robinson, highlights some positive trends...and expresses her admiration for the inspiring resilience of the county's business community.
Largely without exception, the latest news on the UK’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic is positive.
Growth in 2021 is forecast to be the fastest since the Second World War - at 7.25%. This must be measured against the backdrop of 2020 which saw the deepest slump in Gross Domestic Product for over three 300 years, and Britain’s economy remains smaller than at the end of 2019, but analyst views now consistently predict the economy will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
This good news has rippled through into business sentiment. According to the latest study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), confidence levels amongst small businesses in the West Midlands are among the highest in the UK.
With trading restrictions having eased, the SBI confidence measure for the region has risen to +39 in Q1 of 2021, up from -36 the previous quarter. The region’s confidence figure stands significantly higher than the UK average of +27.3 – and second only to neighbouring East Midlands.
Even more promisingly, more than half of small businesses in the region (54%) expect revenues to increase over the next quarter. The survey also showed that more than half the region’s businesses (57%) aspire to grow over the next 12 months.
Lee Osborne, FSB Development Manager Warwickshire and Coventry, believes "surging levels" of optimism are tangible even in those sectors which have been hardest hit.
“It's fantastic to see our shops, hospitality businesses, hairdressers and gyms across Warwickshire able to get back to what they do best over the past few weeks as restrictions ease," said Lee. "With surging levels of optimism and upticks in crucial business areas, our latest Confidence Survey shows that small firms in the region are feeling positive about the future.
"The certainty provided by the Government road map and roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine are likely to be behind the boost in optimism and it is heartening to see small firms across the region report that business confidence is now in positive territory for the first time since before the pandemic. The outlook for future revenue looks more prosperous in the West Midlands than elsewhere and the overall picture of recovery is looking bright."
They are indeed heartening words from Lee, and perhaps what has inspired me most is the feedback we are receiving from Warwickshire businesses which suggests a new-found resilience from those businesses. They have fought their way through successive lockdowns, pivoted to adapt to new regulations and revamped their technology skills to embrace the digital world. Firms have completely rebuilt their business model to take advantage of the new opportunities presented in a post pandemic world - and it is that sort of adaptability and resilience which means Warwickshire is as well-placed as can possibly be to rebuild post-COVID.
The challenges are far from over, of course and, even with the more positive outlook, the role of WCC's Economy & Skills team continues to grow. We will continue to step up our work to attract economic investment into the county, alongside commissioning and delivering support programmes to maximise business growth and skills levels in Warwickshire. The pandemic shone a light on the clear connection between a strong economy and good public health, making economic development absolutely crucial to County Council’s vision of making Warwickshire the best it can be.
For more information on our Business Support available, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/business-support
For more information on our Skills Support available, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/businessskills
County council enables 500 apprenticeships in four years
"As the economy starts to re-open, apprenticeships are once again on the rise with plenty of additional support from our Warwickshire Skills Hub team to help boost local opportunities."
New apprenticeship figures show that Warwickshire County Council has enabled more than 500 apprentices to enrol on apprenticeship programmes in four years.
Reaching this milestone demonstrates the County Council’s commitment to creating fantastic career starts for young people entering the world of work, and to supporting existing Council employees to upskill.
In just over four years, the latest count shows the County Council has enabled 506 apprenticeship ‘starts’ – which refers to all apprentices who have enrolled onto an apprenticeship programme with an apprenticeship training provider. It includes newly recruited apprentices, existing employees using an apprenticeship for their professional development, and a mixture of both of those in Warwickshire County Council maintained schools.
Apprenticeship starts since April 2017 in detail:
105 County Council apprentices recruited.
128 existing County Council employees entered apprenticeships.
273 County Council schools starts.
The Apprenticeship Levy, along with the huge number of newly available apprenticeship standards created in recent years, have enabled the council to offer a range of different apprenticeships in areas such as social care, County Highways, ICT, project management, HR, Fire and Rescue, the Library Service and schools.
As well as career starts, the apprenticeship programme has now grown to offer career progression to professional roles. Higher, or even degree level apprenticeships lead to occupations such as social worker, civil engineer, teacher or manager.
As well as supporting individuals, the County Council is also committed to supporting businesses to create apprenticeship opportunities by covering the full training costs of an apprenticeship.
In 2019, the Council created a dedicated skills service: The Warwickshire Skills Hub which helps businesses to shape and create apprenticeship opportunities, as well provides funding to SMEs to help them grow their own talent.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: “506 apprenticeships is a fantastic milestone to have reached and great news for people in Warwickshire looking to enhance their skills.
"At the County Council we are proud of our excellent retention rate for apprentices and our strong commitment to enabling career starts for young people. This is a particularly welcome achievement, as during the pandemic, apprenticeships sadly declined by over 70% across the region. However, as the economy starts to re-open, apprenticeships are once again on the rise with plenty of additional support from our Warwickshire Skills Hub team to help boost local opportunities.”
Warwickshire Skills Hub support includes:
To find out more about any of the services or support offered by the Warwickshire Skills Hubs contact the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Superb" Future Skills films helping Telent to attract talent
"Our biggest challenge to get over was believing that somebody was willing to do something this good for us for free!"
High-tech communications company Telent has added another dimension to its search for young talent after engaging with Warwickshire County Council's Future Careers Digital Market Place project.
Telent designs, deliver and supports solutions and services for ICT and communication networks across the business landscape. Their diverse client list ranges from the Network Rail to Highways England and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to CityFibre.
The company, which has a base in Warwick, has long been passionate about recruiting the best young talent and will take on more than 40 apprentices during 2021. Always on the lookout for young people with potential, it now has another way of getting its message directly to students - on film via the Future Careers project, delivered through Warwickshire Skills Hub.
Telent's offer has been captured perfectly on video - a medium which reaches out to young people in the most accessible way.
Richard Giddings, Graduate and Apprenticeship Manager at Telent, said: "We are so pleased we heard about the Future Careers filming by Warwickshire County Council. It was a really slick process.
"We just made sure the right people were there at the right time and film crew did everything else, so it was all very straightforward. Our biggest challenge to get over was believing that somebody was willing to do something this good for us for free!
"The end product is superb. If I was to try to make a film about what we do, there is no way I could get it into five minutes, but somehow they have managed to do it. It is a fantastic summary of the huge range of things we do at Telent and we have used the video at various virtual careers fairs, so it has really added to our virtual offering."
The videos form part of Telent's ongoing recruitment drive as they constantly upskill and train young people to ensure they stay at the forefront of a sector which is perpetually evolving.
"It is absolutely vital for us to maintain a pipeline of young talent," said Richard. " We have continuing recruitment needs so will always have a variety of different vacancies available for people to come and join us.
"We know that not many young people come through education wanting to be a telecoms engineer, so we need to get it out there just what a broad and rewarding range of jobs there is around what we do. The Future Careers filming has been a huge help to us in doing that."
Other businesses who would lik to get involved and get in touch if they want to know more please?
And the youtube link to the Telent films please –
Schools film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpn9ZJtFz8c
Recruitment film - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EPZfGOHSJE
£7.4 million business boost driven by collaborative approach
"From early on in the pandemic, the County was keen to work with partners to ensure that we were giving the maximum support possible to businesses, particularly those in the hardest hit sectors."
A joined-up approach from a leading finance provider, business support organisations and local authorities in Coventry and Warwickshire throughout the pandemic has boosted jobs and the local economy by nearly £25 million.
Recent figures released by the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT) show how the collaboration has ensured businesses have accessed the finance needed to survive Covid-19.
Since June 2020, just over £7.4 million has been lent by CWRT to businesses across the area which has led to 833 jobs being safeguarded and the creation of 297 jobs in a wide range of sectors.
This was alongside the tens of millions of pounds in Covid grants, the local authorities in Coventry and Warwickshire awarded businesses through the crisis.
Sheridan Sulskis, Executive Director of the CWRT, explained: “Our collaborative measures have meant we have continued to fill the gap in the marketplace left by the mainstream lenders to provide finance to SMEs in Coventry and Warwickshire which as well as supporting these viable businesses has also protected their supply chain so there has been a wider impact.
“Not only has this helped businesses to survive but has enabled companies to diversify, strengthen their business models, streamline their processes and procedures, and create and safeguard jobs.”
The partnership-working approach by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, the CWLEP, CWRT, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Warwick District Council, Rugby Borough Council, Stratford-upon-Avon District Council and North Warwickshire Borough Council has impacted the economy by around £24 million.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said the figures emphasise that businesses have been using recent months to strengthen their foundations to look to the future with positivity.
He said: “Since the first national lockdown last March, the Growth Hub and the Chamber have signposted businesses to apply for the Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) as well as promoting the local grants available.
“All the signs show that the economy is moving again because we are seeing good signs of growth and job creation although we recognise that many businesses are still in recovery mode.
“I would urge businesses based in Coventry and Warwickshire to take advantage of the comprehensive range of support and financial packages available to businesses to help them and the economy steadily recover from the pandemic.
“There is plenty of support and finance available for new start-ups or to help businesses throughout Coventry and Warwickshire to grow, diversify, innovate, address skills challenges, and become more low carbon.”
Warwickshire County Council contributed £1.5 million to the overall £7.4 million CBILS scheme. This was part of the County’s initial £6.25 million economic recovery fund to support local businesses, particularly in the retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors which have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities, said: “From early on in the pandemic, the County was keen to work with partners to ensure that we were giving the maximum support possible to businesses, particularly those in the hardest hit sectors.
“We put in a suite of programmes, both business advice and grants or loans, so that businesses could access support that was most relevant to them. It’s good to see initial signs of improvement and I would urge businesses to contact our partners at the Growth Hub to see what support might be available to them.”
WCC launches fund to support mental health and wellbeing
Interested groups can put in bids from £6,000 to a maximum of £50,000 per initiative...
Warwickshire County Council is inviting community and voluntary groups, parish and town councils and small businesses to apply for funding to develop initiatives to support the wellbeing of local people whose lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Warwickshire COVID-19 Mental Wellbeing and Resilience Fund, which opened on 21 May, has been set up to improve mental health and wellbeing across the county. Voluntary groups, town and parish councils, as well as workplaces which do not have access to an employee assistance programme, are encouraged to find out more.
The council is looking for applications from projects and initiatives that aim to:
- Improve the mental health, wellbeing, and resilience of residents and local workforces by responding to the pressures of the pandemic.
- Provide support to residents with new and pre-existing mental health concerns that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic, mental health illness from a COVID-19 diagnosis, or providing support for those with needs as a result of the pandemic.
- Provide support for residents to engage with activities which support the development of wellbeing and establish a sense of social connection.
- Create safe spaces in the community where people who experience mental distress can go to for a period to unwind and feel safe before they continue with their activities.
- Create environments where people can reconnect with nature and enhance their sense of wellbeing.
- Support specific trauma, suicide, self-harm prevention and bereavement services.
- Work in partnership with people with lived experience to design and deliver support.
Interested groups can put in bids from £6,000 to a maximum of £50,000 per initiative and must identify how the funding will be used and the solutions it will provide to local people. The first round of funding runs until 21 June 2021. A second round may be available if not all funding is allocated in the first round.
Nigel Minns, Strategic Director for People Directorate, said: “So many lives have been disrupted by the pandemic and relationships and mental health have been profoundly impacted. The council is committed to helping people to be as safe, healthy and independent as possible. Encouraging people to look after their mental health and build resilience is key to this - now more than ever.
“It is important for the county to work together to provide much needed support when and importantly where it is needed. We have developed the Warwickshire Mental Health and Wellbeing Resilience Fund to do just this by providing the means for local groups to find solutions to support members of their own communities. I urge groups to apply and share their ideas so collectively we can improve wellbeing for all, for life, and embed some hope for a brighter future.”
The online application closes at 12 noon on Monday 21 June. Organisations are asked to submit an application online via www.csw-jets.co.uk. Once the application is live it can be viewed under ‘Tenders’ as WCC - Improve Mental Health, Wellbeing and Resilience across Warwickshire Funding Opportunity.
Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action (WCAVA) can provide free support to voluntary and community groups and social enterprises with the application process. Contact Tracy Southam, Mid Area Manager email@example.com if you require advice or support.
Support from WCC Skills Hub is also available to help support small to medium businesses with the application process. There is no cost for this support. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Business Skills Support Advisor if you require advice or support.
For more information, please visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/information-coronavirus/warwickshire-covid-19-mental-wellbeing-resilience-fund-2021
For more on wellbeing in Warwickshire, Warwickshire and Coventry’s Wellbeing For Life campaign is committed to supporting people to maintain physically and mentally healthy lifestyles. Go to www.wellbeing4life.co.uk for more information about this campaign.
Antelope set to gallop ahead after SSG programme support
"The Growth Hub and Warwickshire County Council have been fantastic...receiving the grant has been a big help and means that we will also be able to employ another chef to cook the pizzas and another member of staff to take orders."
New jobs are being created after building work was completed at a 19th century pub to extend its range of food following successful diversification during lockdown thanks to funding through the Warwickshire County Council Survive, Sustain & Grow programme.
Artisan pizzas will be tempting pub-goers at The Antelope Inn, in Lighthorne, after an old shed at the back of the kitchen area was replaced by a pizza oven to provide a takeaway service.
Owner Tom Lilley decided to make the move after the success of its takeaways from its general menu during Covid-19.
After talking to Adam Plumb at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub, he was referred to the County Council’s Survive, Sustain and Grow programme and assigned tourism and hospitality specialist Andy Woodward.
Andy undertook a thorough evaluation of the business to fully understand their challenges from the pandemic to assess their various options for sustaining and developing the business when the pub was able to re-open.
The results showed that a takeaway service was becoming increasingly popular during the March to June lockdown. Andy recommended that Tom capitalise on the opportunity and pursued this option with the assistance of grant from the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.
A comprehensive recovery report was also created for the business to help with their strategic plan over the next 12 months. Tom was also successful in applying for a £10,000 grant from Warwickshire County Council which he has matched for the building work to be completed, kitchen equipment bought and other supplies purchased to run the Artisan Pizza Takeaway.
Once the pub can re-open in line with Government regulations, two new members of staff will be joining the 11-strong team at The Antelope Inn.
Tom said: “We closed the takeaway service in March 2021 so that we could pull down the old shed and install the pizza oven and equipment and all the work associated with that.
“We decided to do this because during lockdown our takeaway orders were strong and we realised this could be another revenue source.
“Receiving the grant has been a big help and means that we will also be able to employ another chef to cook the pizzas and another member of staff to take orders.
“We have finalised the pizza menu and are going to be producing artisan pizzas using a sourdough pizza dough and fine ingredients for the toppings and we are going to be offering this takeaway service seven days a week.
“The Growth Hub and Warwickshire County Council have been fantastic. I spoke to Adam about what we would like to do and he put me in touch with the County Council who got Andy, one of their specialist consultants, involved. Andy reviewed the business and suggested applying for a grant which has been really helpful. We’re looking forward to re-opening and enjoying a slice or two of pizza now!”
Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, added: “This is a wonderful example of how we were looking for the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme and related grants to work. It is about not just helping small businesses to continue to operate in the short term but also to help them to branch out and evolve so that they can continue to flourish, contribute to the local economy and offer local employment opportunities.”
Adam Plumb, account manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “It has been tough for many businesses throughout the pandemic but particularly those in the hospitality and leisure sector,” he said. “The Antelope Inn in Lighthorne is a popular village pub and by deciding to permanently offer a takeaway service for pizzas by refurbishing a redundant outbuilding, Tom will also be creating employment in the area.
“The Growth Hub is here to provide advice and help with a wide range of information and support just like we did with Tom so I would urge businesses to get in touch to see how we can help them.”
The Survive Sustain and Grow programme is part of a wider package of activity to support economic recovery by Warwickshire County Council. For more information about the County Council’s Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, visit: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/SSGwww.warwickshire.gov.uk/SSG
For information about the wide range of business support available in the sub-region, visit: https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/ The Growth Hub is funded by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the District & Borough Councils and Government grants.
WCC business support unlocks new opportunities for Adventure Sports
"The creation of the new website will safeguard the business and the jobs we generate and allow the business to increase sales and create more jobs over the next three years."
An outdoor activities centre which was "stopped in its tracks" by lockdown is facing the future with renewed confidence and a transformed online presence thanks to business support from Warwickshire County Council.
Adventure Sports, based on the old Royal Warwickshire Regiment Rifle Range in Warwick since 1990, was forced to close its doors for six out of 12 months by lockdown.
Over the years the company has run a range of fun activities - tank driving, quad trekking, karting, ferret racing - alongside its specialism of management development and training programmes for clients including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and EDF.
But the pandemic came as a huge blow to the business which was already preparing to deal with the fallout from Brexit. Adventure Sports weathered the storm with all jobs intact...but it was grant support and advice from the county council's Survive, Sustain and Grow Programme that supplied extra ideas and impetus.
Adventure Sports co-founder Steve Richardson said: "Around 65% of our sales come from corporate events so, when Brexit was announced, we realised we needed to increase sales to the general public to make up the shortfall. We invested in new activities, including refurbishment of the karting circuit, and these works were finished in the summer of 2019. Then, in March 2020, COVID stopped the business in its tracks.
"We had to close for six of twelve months and, when we could open, operated under tier restrictions. This meant no corporate or group events for 14 months.
"The Job Retention Scheme and Government grants enabled the business to furlough employees and safeguard all jobs, but for the business to recover we needed to urgently increase sales. We knew we had to replace our aged website and online booking system and planned to buy a new website in 2020, but successive lockdowns and reduced trading made that economically impossible.
"Because of this we applied to Warwickshire County Council for a COVID-19 Recovery and Investment Grant. We were absolutely delighted when our application was successful. The grant will allow us to increase sales with a new bespoke website designed to best serve the shift in our customer base to the general public by allowing fast and easy access on all smart devices.
"Staff productivity will be massively improved by the new system. The creation of the new website will safeguard the business and the jobs we generate and allow the business to increase sales and create more jobs over the next three years. We are immensely grateful to Warwickshire County Council for its support."
Steph Winter, WCC business support advisor, who advised the company, said: “It was exciting to work with Adventure Sports and help them define a clear business strategy to assist them through the pandemic. The leisure & tourism sector has been hit worst of all so it is very pleasing to see that, with their engagement onto our business support programme and grant award, they are coming through and safeguarding much needed jobs in this sector.”
Jagdish Soor, SSG Lead Consultant, added: "Through the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, the main challenge highlighted was that the business had to embrace new technology to meet the changing needs of their customer base. It had been operating on old technology for some time and, without investment in new systems, would have continued to struggle.
"The WCC SSG grant has been a great enabler in allowing the company to install a new digital platform that will assist in their future growth and job security for its workforce."
For more information about the Survive,Sustain and Grow programme, please visit here.
Young people get the message that there are great careers in hospitality
"The films, very impressively put together by the county council, are helping us to get our offer out there and attract the people we want."
A hospitality group is looking to invest its future heavily in young people as its seeks to rapidly grow the business in the light of lockdown restrictions easing.
Caviar & Chips was founded in 2017 by Jonathan Carter-Morris and Marc Hornby who created a bespoke wedding catering company when Jonathan couldn’t find a caterer to help him with his own wedding plans.
Since then, the business has taken over the 16th century Virgins & Castle pub in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and an 18th century boutique wedding venue in Shropshire.
They took on the Virgins & Castle in March 2020, a week before lockdown was imposed. Despite the immensely challenging year that followed for the hospitality sector, they have grown the team in Kenilworth, opened the pub for outdoor service on April 12th and are now looking to enlarge their staff even further.
With that in mind, recruitment of the best young people is a top objective - and one in which the company has benefited from local business support.
They have worked closely with Warwickshire College Group and recently appointed a new apprentice. They also engaged with Warwickshire County Council's innovative Future Careers filming programme. This provides a free digital media opportunity for businesses to work with a filming company to produce two videos which showcase their current and future employment and career pathways.
Caviar & Chips co-founder, Marc said: "We are looking to recruit and it is great to have these really good, polished films which showcase our business and show young people what we can offer as a career.
"When Jonathan and I created Caviar & Chips, we said we wanted to create a great place to work. We also wanted to create a business that put our clients first and was led by their choices. I think that’s really helped us on our journey.
"We’re so grateful to have navigated our way through the pandemic so far and now want to create great opportunities for new people to join our team and make us even better. The films, very impressively put together by the county council, are helping us to get our offer out there and attract the people we want.
“The impact of coronavirus was just such a shock to the wedding industry. We were set to deliver around 100 weddings and events in 2020, but we ended up having delivered just three! Thankfully we’ve managed to help 99% of our clients to a later date in 2021 or 2022 and we are really looking forward to our wonderful teams getting out there and hosting again.”
Caviar & Chips, twice winners of the Wedding Industry Awards best regional wedding caterer, have won awards as a small business for the work they do in the community and the wellbeing work they do with their teams.
Co-founder and Executive Chef, Jonathan added: "I’m really keen that while we’re making this big investment in new team members and growth in our businesses, that we do it well and we always do right by our team. We’ve got such a great opportunity coming out of lockdown to reset how things are done. I’m really looking forward to working with the next generation of hospitality managers and leaders and can’t wait to get started.”
Fore more details on the Future Careers filming programme, please visit here.
To find out more about the opportunities at Caviar & Chips, please visit www.caviarandchips.co.uk/join-our-team or email email@example.com
New conference rooms and business club at Eliot Park Innovation Centre
Eliot Park Innovation Centre in Nuneaton has transformed its offer to local businesses after exciting improvements which were unveiled this month.
The new conference and meeting rooms at the Warwickshire County Council-run business centre were officially opened on May 17 which also saw the launch of a new business club at the centre.
The ethos of the new rooms is very much on the personal touch with the emphasis on delivering all the facilities required by small businesses but in an environment which is attractive and comfortable to work in.
Warwickshire County Council business centres operations manager Lisa Smullen said: "At Eliot Park, we are immensely proud of our conferencing and meeting spaces. From state-of-the-art technology and exclusive catering to our dedicated onsite conferencing team, which knows and understands business, we have tried to think of everything to create the perfect setting for small businesses to prosper and grow."
The six diverse conference and meeting rooms, named after famous stately homes of Warwickshire, have been carefully designed around the requirements both of SMEs and their clients.
Businesses can now also benefit from the new Innovation@ 4 exclusive business club based at Eliot Park.
"As an organisation, we look after over 200 individual businesses, ranging from start-up to global companies," said Lisa. "We know what is important to individuals and companies alike so we have created Innovation@ 4 for those who do not require a permanent base but still require a professional space where they can meet and work alongside likeminded individuals."
Membership of Innovation@ 4 is £120+vat per month. Benefits include free parking, free refreshments and super-fast fibre whilst being part of a new and exciting business community.
For further information on Innovation@ 4 and the new conference rooms, please visit: https://www.eliotparkconferencing.com or call a member of the team on 02476 706400
Tourism campaign puts Warwickshire's glory in the spotlight
As the tourism and leisure sectors open up more fully, the Visit Warwickshire marketing campaign has stepped up to promote the county as the perfect 'staycation' destination this summer.
The campaign, delivered by Blue Sail tourism consultants on behalf of Warwickshire County Council, is ensuring that the beauty, diversity and heritage of our wonderful county is highly visibly to people planning a much-needed post-lockdown getaway.
Warwickshire will be brought to broad attention by journalists from a number of national newspapers. Travel correspondents will visit the county to cover holidaying on the waterways, exploring George Eliot’s creative inspirations and discovering Warwickshire’s automotive connections to James Bond.
The county will also be in the magazine spotlight as Discover Britain, Delicious and the BBC Countryfile magazine promote the county’s food and drink offer, dog-friendly nature and unique waterways escapes.
Recent campaign coverage included a feature in the i Newspaper’s ’50 great Bank Holiday Days Out’ on Warwickshire's new Great Drives.
Meanwhile, the Visit Warwickshire campaign photographer has been out and about in the towns and villages throughout May, capture new images of locations across the county.
For more information on the campaign, please visit https://visit.warwickshire.gov.uk/
The campaign hashtag across social media is #visitwarwickshire.
Free digital advice available to SMEs and charities in Warwickshire
“This free scheme is perfect for owners or employees who are looking for help and don’t know where to start."
Free digital advice to SMEs and charities is now available in Coventry and Warwickshire to help them recover from the pandemic and rebuild the area’s economy.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub has joined forces with Digital Boost which aims to support one million small businesses and charities across the UK by January 2022.
Advisers from the CWLEP Growth Hub and Digital Boost will connect people who want to upskill and grow their business with volunteer digital experts from a wide range of high-profile partners including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Google, Apple, BT and Vodafone.
As well as mentoring calls, there are webinars and workshops available to join on topical issues ranging from funding for start-ups to GDPR support, as well as a resource library to access to find out more detailed information.
Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said Digital Boost was a free initiative aimed at providing mentoring, workshops and courses to help SMEs and charities use technology to support their growth.
He said: “Covid-19 has thrown the spotlight on the importance of using digital platforms and, for many, it has opened up new revenue streams. But it can appear daunting for those small businesses and charities who are not used to using technology on a daily basis.
“This free scheme is perfect for owners or employees who are looking for help and don’t know where to start.
“The Growth Hub will refer SMEs and charities in Coventry and Warwickshire to Digital Boost to start with free one-to-one mentoring calls with experts who can help with specific needs such as improving search engine optimisation, design and branding, creating a new website or providing a great online customer service, so it is highly personalised and flexible.
“It is not limited to just one 60-minute call – you can book follow-up calls or have calls with other experts in different fields, which are geared towards helping businesses and charities become more visible online.
“There are 2,000 mentors across the UK taking part in this scheme and they have in-depth expertise in specific digital skills.
“There is also an opportunity to join interactive webinars and workshops, again for free, to find out more on subjects including Facebook advertising or creating a great social media presence.
“All this can seem like a minefield if you are not used to it, but the whole programme is designed to help small business owners and charities in a way which is easy to understand, so they can learn at their own pace.
“Digital Boost will help SMEs and charities who may not have business or digital experience to help with their recovery and the area’s economic growth as well as have a better understanding of digital technology.” To find out more, please visit: https://www.digitalboost.org.uk/partner-org/cwlep
Workshops will support businesses looking to start their export journey
Warwickshire businesses looking to expand into exporting can gain valuable insights from a two-part workshop next month.
The workshop, delivered by the Department for International Trade's Export Academy, is designed for businesses that are new to export to give them an introduction to what is involved and help them with their strategy. It should help any company looking to kick start their export journey.
The support is free of charge and open to any business at all, provided they are new or inexperienced at exporting. The course is designed to help businesses grow their international sales in new markets overseas.
There will be two half-day workshops providing a practical, interactive forum to explain the fundamentals of exporting. The sessions will encourage delegates to consider how they can develop their own individual export action plans.
PART 1 - 2nd June, 9.30am-12.30pm, will cover:
- The benefits of exporting and the potential barriers
- How to select the right target markets and conduct market research
- An introduction to the basic procedures associated with exporting products and services
- The different routes to market available and how to select the most appropriate options
PART 2 - 9th June, 9.30am-12.30pm, will cover:
- How to set the right price for your product or service
- Understanding International Commercial terms
- Customs procedures, tariffs and export controls
- Managing money and getting paid
- How to develop a strategic export action plan and successfully win business
The programme is for managers working within the export function. For further information please call 0345 222 0159 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New venture to help start-up and scale-up businesses receives support
"After meeting with Business Ready, we saw we could pivot towards companies by developing our toolkit further, and it’s already gaining really good traction."
A Warwickshire entrepreneur is helping start-up and scale-up businesses to grow after receiving support to get his own idea off the ground.
Warwick-based Clive Bawden developed Governance360, a digital toolkit that helps leaders in small companies and charities ensure they have the necessary processes in place to secure growth, mitigate risks and run their boards effectively.
The company has already landed projects with 10x10 – a leading business accelerator programme, Loughborough University and Leicester Start-ups Festival assisting with potentially high-growth, start-up businesses.
The Governance360 platform started life as a portal product called BoardSecure which focussed principally on charities and their trustees. But, after receiving advice and support from the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme during the pandemic, Clive developed the business further to offer a fully digital platform which enables businesses, from pre-start to scale-up to learn, manage and embed strong processes, gain confidence in their governance and form good habits from day one.
The platform includes everything from training directors and trustees through to ensuring key business information is shared safely and securely through a board portal.
As well as receiving direct mentoring from Business Ready’s Luke Pulford, the business recently closed a small private funding round and secured significant grant funding.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses which is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Clive said: “With the uncertainty that Covid caused within our initial target market, charities, we needed to re-consider our initial strategy last summer and consider a pivot. After meeting with Business Ready, we saw we could pivot towards companies by developing our toolkit further, and it’s already gaining really good traction. We’ve already landed our first contracts and to have been a regional finalist in the TechNation Awards is very prestigious and a real feather in the cap for Governance360.
“Ultimately, we are here as a service to businesses and charities that are just too small to have strong governance processes in place, which could really hamper their opportunities to grow. I’ve seen throughout my career that without strong processes in place, the opportunity to grow a business can be hampered, and in the worse cases as families or directors fall-out or fail to comply with basic legislation, businesses fail entirely. Board meetings, board processes and compliance can be dull – but they need to be more effective, efficient and impactful for a business to grow properly and that is the pain we aim to address.
“Our platform is easy to use and helps leaders to concentrate on doing what they do best – growing their business, knowing that Governance360 has got their back.”
Matthew Lawrence, of Business Ready, said: “The global pandemic has affected businesses in a myriad of ways and, in many cases, they’ve had to completely changed focus. It’s been great to work with Clive Bawden to support that pivot towards Governance360 and it is already seeing success.
“As an organisation that helps so many businesses through the start-up and scale-up phases, we know the exact market that Clive is aiming for because we have seen in real life the very problems this platform can solve.”
Businesses gravitate in force towards FindItIn network
A business network for Coventry and Warwickshire has celebrated a successful first year after reaching 2,750 members since it opened its virtual doors.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub joined the West Midlands Finditin network a year ago, to give companies access to high-profile supply chain opportunities, news, events and relevant support programmes in the area.
Since the launch, there have been 500 tender opportunities promoted on the www.finditincw.co.uk website worth over £20 billion, over 64,000 website visits and 8,000 website users.
FinditinCW brings together the CWLEP Growth Hub, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the local authorities and district and borough councils.
During the past year, the collaboration has provided a one-stop shop for all kinds of business information, opportunities, news and events, while an exciting plan for new functionality and a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event programme is firmly in place for the future.
A major employment hub has also been launched for FinditinCW members to advertise their job vacancies and access support regarding job retention, upskilling and redundancy. The University of Warwick, Coventry University, Coventry City of Culture Trust, University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, HS2 and dozens of other organisations have promoted their contracts, tenders and requests for quotes, alongside the linked Birmingham 2022 Business Portal, which is used by the Organising Committee to advertise all current and upcoming Games tenders.
University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire has used the website to engage with local suppliers and is keen to support in the coming year.
Lucy Gilbert, Innovation Lead at University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, said: “We wanted to see if there were any local companies that could support us with prototyping and app development so, as an organisation keen to further support the local economy, we posted the opportunities online at FinditinCW.
“Within two weeks of the opportunities going live on the website we had seven offers of prototype support from companies in Coventry and Warwickshire and a further five businesses came forward to support the app development.
“We are looking forward to following these up and working with local businesses in a partnership to develop our innovative projects.”
Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said FinditinCW has exceeded its original target.
“We were hoping in the first year to attract 2,000 businesses to register so to have exceeded that by 40 per cent is extremely encouraging,” he said. “It shows the value of the website and its increasing importance in becoming a one-stop shop for the place to go to find out about business opportunities in our area.
“One of the benefits of this website is that it is for SMEs as well as larger businesses and the breadth of contracts available means it is attracting a wide range of sectors which is one of our aims.”
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "FinditinCW has proved to be a great success in helping businesses tap into potential contract opportunities within the region and further afield. It is now also offering support with recruitment and employment, making it a fantastic resource for companies across the patch."
The FinditinCW team is working closely with the region’s principal contractors and large organisations to give its business members, further access to local contracts and opportunities.
Local businesses can register for free at www.finditincw.co.uk to receive notifications of opportunities and events relevant to their sector.
News in Brief
All the latest local news in brief...
Jaguar Land Rover sales up but loss posted for 2020
Like other carmakers, JLR has been boosted by a revival of sales in China after the worst of the pandemic. Revenues in the quarter to March were improved, but a major write down was made on the investment for the now cancelled Jaguar XJ. https://www.ft.com/content/558f6160-7df3-4777-960f-f1e547dd61be
Meggitt sees sluggish take-off of revenues continue into 2021
Meggitt, the manufacturer of components for the power and aerospace industries, has seen its revenue slip for the first quarter of 2021. Group revenue dropped by 29% in the first three months of the year, said Meggitt, which was an improvement on the final quarter of 2020, when turnover slumped by 35%. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051121-revenues-sluggish-at-manufacturer-as-it-warns-of-softer-recovery
Gigafactory site consultation launched
Proposals for a Gigafactory in Warwick District have accelerated following the launch of a public consultation. The consultation aims to understand the views of residents and the local community before a planning application is submitted in the coming months. In February, Coventry Airport was announced as the preferred site for a West Midlands Gigafactory with Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd forming a joint venture partnership to bring forward a planning application. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051549-job-boosting-gigafactory-plans-move-a-step-closer
Ex-Ford boss joins Britishvolt
Graham Hoare has left his role as chairman of Ford of Britain and joined Britishvolt, the UK’s biggest investor in automotive lithium ion battery technologies, as president of global operations. Hoare will lead global functional operations at the company from 1 June and will search for future expansion opportunities ahead of the company’s first battery gigafactory starting operations in 2023 at Blythe, Northumberland. The company announced earlier this year it’s plan to build a HQ and R&D base at MIRA Technology Park, on the outskirts of Nuneaton.
Viritech to develop Hydrogen Hypercar at MIRA
Warwickshire’s MIRA Technology Park is now home to the development programme of a 1100bhp hydrogen-powered hypercar from nascent engineering firm Viritech, which aims to become “the world’s leading developer of hydrogen powertrain solutions.” https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/viritech-developing-1100bhp-hydrogen-hypercar-mira-uk
Baxi Heating scoops industry award for hydrogen boiler Innovation
Baxi Heating’s development of a boiler fuelled by hydrogen has won the Innovation category at the Gas Industry Awards. Baxi’s Hydrogen boiler has been developed as part of its commitment to be a cleaner, greener manufacturing business. Karen Boswell OBE, Managing Director of Baxi Heating, said: “As a leading player in the British heating and hot water industry we are determined to play our part in achieving the goal of being a net-zero economy. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/warwick-based-baxi-heating-scoops-prestigious-gas-industry-award-for-hydrogen-boiler-innovation/
University of Warwick - UK’s top esports university - invests £275,000 in new esports centre
The University of Warwick has announced that is investing £275,000 of its own earned income into establishing a new flexible esports centre to be located at the heart of Warwick campus. It will operate alongside new facilities to stimulate innovation in the, in the newly named ‘Junction’ facility. https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/warwick_-_uks/
Leamington Spa games studio bought by global mobile games company
Supersonic Software Ltd and its subsidiary Appynation Ltd, based in Leamington Spa, have been bought by Miniclip, the Swiss headquartered world leader of market-defining mobile game titles. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/leamington-spa-games-studio-bought-by-global-mobile-games-company/
Games art degree course in Leamington Spa hailed by industry skills body
A games art degree course taught in the heart of ‘Silicon Spa’ has been accredited by the industry-led skills body for the screen industries. Royal Leamington Spa College’s foundation and bachelor degrees in Games Art have been awarded ScreenSkills Select accreditation. ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the screen industries – film, television (including children’s, unscripted and high-end), VFX (visual effects), animation and games.
The college is one of only eight institutions in the country to have the ScreenSkills Games badge and is the only college to have received the accreditation, with the others all being universities or training schools. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/games-art-degree-course-in-leamington-spa-hailed-by-industry-skills-body/
Tata Consultancy Services moving to new regional HQ in Leamington Spa.
The IT consultancy has agreed a ten-year lease at the Aura building at Precision Park, a former HQ building for Wolseley. The Mumbai headquartered company is consolidating under one roof following its move from Victoria Court and Bishops House in Leamington. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051976-new-hq-for-global-it-consultancy
Accenture acquires REPL
Accenture has acquired REPL Group (“REPL”), a U.K.-based technology consultancy specializing in solutions for supply chain, workforce management, store operations and retail customer experiences. Founded in 2007, REPL is headquartered in Henley-In-Arden, U.K., with additional offices in London, Warwick and Leeds in the U.K. as well as in the U.S., South Africa and Germany. REPL’s team of approximately 440 professionals will join Accenture Technology. https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/accenture-acquires-repl-to-expand-retail-technology-and-supply-chain-capabilities.htm
Yotta joins forces with Finnish company to make smarter use of road data
Yotta, the Leamington based connected asset management and services provider, has partnered with Vaisala, the Finnish weather, environmental and industrial measurements company, to enable UK councils to collect accurate high-quality data from across their highways network much faster than before and use it to make more intelligent decisions about the future of their roads. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/leamington-spa-based-yotta-joins-forces-with-finnish-company-to-make-smarter-use-of-road-data/
Dutch tech company chooses Coleshill for UK office
A hi-tech company from Holland has set up an HQ for its UK and Ireland operations at Quartz Point business park on the M42 corridor. Lely Atlantic, which specialises in automated and robotic systems for housing, feeding and milking dairy cattle, is also opening a showroom on the site to display its equipment to potential customers. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051742-dutch-robotics-specialist-picks-m42-business-park-for-hq
Warwickshire outperforms Midlands peers in high growth businesses
A new report from Beauhurst shines a light on high growth Midlands businesses. Warwickshire top the Midlands local authority areas for share of high growth businesses as a percentage of the total number of businesses (6.8%) and is second after Nottinghamshire for equity invested (£282m and £323m). Meanwhile University of Warwick tops the 16 Midlands universities listed with 40 spinout companies 2011-2020. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/a-bright-future-for-midlands-based-businesses-says-new-report/
West Midlands local authorities create 5G Challenge for Smart Cities Revolution
5PRING – the consortium delivering the UK’s first 5G commercial application accelerators – is working with West Midlands local authorities to launch the Smart Cities challenge. The collaboration is laying down a new challenge for innovative start-ups and small businesses to shape the future of UK Smart Cities, through the exploration of 5G applications in the West Midlands. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/west-midlands-local-authorities-challenge-innovators-to-lead-the-5g-smart-cities-revolution/
£43m forward funding deal agreed for market quarter scheme
A £43m forward funding deal has been agreed, paving the way for a build-to rent development in Rugby. Located at Railway Terrace, the development, called Market Quarter, will provide 360 one and two-bed apartments for rent. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051964-43m-forward-funding-deal-agreed-for-market-quarter-scheme
Moto set to open flagship electric vehicle charging motorway service area in Rugby
Originally due to open in July 2020, but delayed due to COVID-19, the new service area opened on April 30th, following a £40m site investment creating 120 jobs. Located at Junction 1 of the M6 it features 24 ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging points, 12 Tesla & 12 Electric Highway, making it the largest ultra-rapid charging site on the motorway. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051125-120-jobs-created-as-moto-opens-flagship-40m-ev-charging-motorway-service-area
Nuneaton & Bedworth secures design dunding
A new national design code meaning areas are “beautiful, well-designed and locally-led” is being tested across 14 areas in England, including Nuneaton and Bedworth. It gives local planning authorities a toolkit of design principles to consider for new developments, such as street character, building type and façade as well as environmental, heritage and wellbeing factors. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051907-north-west-leicestershire-given-50k-to-ensure-developments-are-beautiful
£10m Future High Street funding confirmed for Leamington Spa
A £10m injection from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for a programme of investment for Leamington Spa town centre has been confirmed. Receipt of the ‘Future High Street’ funding comes on the back of a business strategy which was put together and submitted to the government by Warwick District Council as part of a competitive process. The council worked in partnership with a range of stakeholders including Leamington Chamber of Trade, Leamington Town Council, BID Leamington and Warwickshire County Council. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2051864-10m-future-high-street-funding-confirmed-for-leamington-spa
CORE 42 pre-let to Marshall Fleet Solutions
CORE 42 Business Park, located on the A5 and J10 M42, at Dordon, North Warwickshire, has pre-let a new 25,000sqft unit to Marshall Fleet Solutions. The location provides excellent access to local food processors and e-commerce businesses, such as Bunzl, Ocado, Greencore and Aldi. https://www.costar.com/article/1604452395/hodgetts-estates-signs-marshall-fleet-solutions-at-core-42-tamworth
Coventry 2021 opens retail store
Coventry City of Culture Trust’s vibrant new retail store, ticketing and information centre has opened in the city centre. The Trust has been working with partners to fit-out the unit at 31-35 Hertford Street over recent weeks to launch before the UK City of Culture year starts on 15 May, remaining open through to May 2022. It will showcase and sell original artworks and products created by artists and makers from Coventry and Warwickshire. https://www.cwlep.com/news/coventry-2021-opens-retail-store
NAEC reopens for exhibitions and conferences in Warwickshire
NAEC at Stoneleigh Park has been announced as the new venue for the underwater exhibition Go Diving. The top event in the UK diving calendar will take place at the venue on 4-6 March 2022. NAEC Stoneleigh reopened for business last weekend with the new National Camping Show from Thursday 20th May 2021. Other new events planned at the venue in 2021 include Kidztopia, a family event utilising indoor and outdoor event space in July, and The Movers and Stores show, a trade show for the removals & self-store industries taking place in Hall 2 in November. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/go-diving-announces-naec-stoneleigh-in-warwickshire-as-its-new-home/
WCG gains degree awarding powers
WCG has become the first college group in the country to be granted a duo of degree awarding powers. The college group which has sites across Warwickshire will now be able to design and award full three-year honours degree courses and has pledged that all of its degrees will have a technical or professional focus. https://www.businessinnovationmag.co.uk/wcg-granted-bachelor-degree-awarding-powers/
Focus on the Business and Economy Team
Strength, resilience, innovation and sheer hard graft...
"I’ve just got a fantastic team, determined to support me, each other and above all Warwickshire’s businesses and residents."
Warwickshire County Council's Business & Economy team has a broad brief at the best of times.
The last year has not been the best of times. Add in the challenges and pressures that a pandemic brings to the county's economy and that brief takes on even greater dimensions.
During the last 12 months, businesses in Warwickshire have reacted to Covid-19 with incredible strength, resilience, innovation and sheer hard graft. And it is exactly those attributes which the Business & Economy team have shown throughout an incredibly taxing year to offer every possible strand of support, says Matthew Epps, WCC's Lead Commissioner for Business & Economy.
Matt's team currently manages programmes worth over £27 million which help drive economic recovery and growth in Warwickshire. In the last five years, the team’s services and programmes have supported over 1,500 businesses and helped over 500 people with starting their own business. This support has so far helped create or safeguard over 1,750 jobs and many hundreds of more new jobs are expected to be created as the economy recovers.
In the last year, more than ever, the team has been shoulder to shoulder with businesses every step of the way. At the forefront of the council's response to Covid-19, they have moved with energy and purpose to put new support programmes in place.
"I’m not sure where to start with the team," said Matt. "Their hard work, dedication and commitment never ceases to amaze me.
"The hours they put in to help businesses with a particular problem, make sure grant claims are paid quickly, or develop and submit a business case for funding are just amazing. We have had business owners in tears on the phone, either with worry or with relief when their grant application has been successful.
"I’ve just got a fantastic team, determined to support me, each other and above all Warwickshire’s businesses and residents.
"Most of the team are unsung heroes behind the scenes. We deliver most of our services and programmes through partners, suppliers and consultants but none of the support would exist without the team securing the funding in the first place and then managing and administering the programmes largely out of sight of businesses and the public."
The team works closely with partners driven by the same objectives. The projects and programmes are funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the UK Government through Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the five District and Borough Councils in the county. Their delivery partners include the CWLEP Growth Hub, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, University of Warwick Science Park, Coventry City Council and Coventry & Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency as well as a number of specialist and industry-specific consultants. The team also works with other strategic partners including the Federation of Small Businesses.
All have pivoted adroitly to adapt support in the wake of COVID - none more so than the county council.
"We moved quickly to develop innovative new programmes like Survive, Sustain and Grow," said Matt. "It was clear that businesses faced a whole new set of challenges and that existing programmes were not designed for sectors most impacted by Covid-19.
"That's why we also devised the Retail & Hospitality and Adapt & Diversify schemes to complement Government support. We’re also developing a new programme to support tourism businesses which will be launched over the summer when the SSG support ends."
The team’s many programmes further power the local economy by securing external funding and levering private sector investment. Every £1 invested by the County Council in its business support programmes is at least matched by other funders. The team also work with funders and partners to influence and shape how Government and European funding for business support and economic development is spent in Warwickshire.
For more information on all their work please visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/businesssupport
- Warwickshire Start-Up Service – 1:1 support and workshops/ masterclasses for businesses in their first 24 months of trading and Warwickshire residents looking to start a business. The service is delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce on behalf of WCC
- Support for Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust’s JumpStart project – Community-based project for residents and communities needing additional support with their business ideas.
- Business Ready – Support for tech-based and other innovation-led early-stage businesses in partnership with University of Warwick Science Park.
- Advice and support for businesses looking to grow with focus on access to finance.
- Business Ready – Support for tech-based and other innovation-led early-stage businesses in partnership with University of Warwick Science Park.
- Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme – Support with developing new products or services.
Access to Finance
Meet the team...
Lead Commissioner - Business and Economy
I joined Warwickshire County Council in 2003 after working in Brussels, in a joint role for Lancashire County Council and Lancaster University, and then spending three years back in the UK for Buckinghamshire County Council.
I’ve had a number of roles at WCC, all in economic development – European Officer, Policy & Funding Manager and Projects, Programmes & Funding Team Leader, as well as two years on part-time secondment to Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Partnerships to co-ordinate a sub-regional regeneration programme. More recently, I took an interim role overseeing the wider operational work of our Economy & Skills team.
I have worked on Government and European funding projects and programmes worth well over £600 million during my time in Warwickshire. I was delighted to keep much of my old team in my new role of Lead Commissioner (Business & Economy) and have been just as thrilled with how the new recruits have settled into the team.
In my spare time, I am Honorary Treasurer of the Chief Economic Development Officers’ Society (the voice of economic development professionals from local authorities across England)...and a passionate supporter of Sheffield Wednesday!
Business Support Programme Manager (ERDF)
I have been with WCC for over four years and currently manage the 'CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale' business support programme. This provides intensive bespoke support to businesses and is delivered both internally and with our delivery partner (University of Warwick Science Park) and suppliers (Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce).
We deliver to many different types of businesses from start ups all the way to the high tech and rapidly expanding businesses.
Since 2019 we have claimed grant income of over £600,000 from the from the European Regional Development Fund which has enabled us to help many more businesses than we could with just our own funding. We are currently adding a new strand to deliver to businesses in the Tourism and Leisure sector to help them to grow and thrive in a post-Covid world. This strand is due to start delivery in the summer.
Since the programme started, in Jan 2019, we have delivered over 12 hours bespoke support to well over 300 businesses, created almost 100 jobs and helped over 50 entrepreneurs achieve their dream and set up new businesses. The programme has now delivered over 6,000 hours of business support.
I have recently been joined by Hayley and James and its fab to have such a valuable and experienced team in place.
Business Support Programme Manager
I joined Warwickshire County Council in January, having made the leap from Coventry City Council. I have worked in business support roles within local authorities for over seven years now, having joined straight out of University.
Since joining WCC, it’s been a whirlwind of learning, adapting, delivering and managing...and much more. I’m currently managing programmes including Survive, Sustain & Grow which is a key part of the county council’s economic recovery plan. Over 500 business have actively engaged on the programme which has already safeguarded over 300 jobs and created over 100.
I find the work I do at WCC very rewarding. It is challenging at times, but in a good way and, since joining my new team at Warwickshire, I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and knowledgeable bunch of colleagues.
A number of new projects are in the pipeline that I am excited to manage and I'm also excited to see how they help Warwickshire's economy to grow and our brilliant businesses to prosper.
Contract and Project Monitoring Officer (ERDF)
I started my new position at Warwickshire County Council in January and am finding it very enjoyable. My role is to support the management of the ERDF funded CW Business Start, Grow and Scale programme, leading on project monitoring to ensure our business support projects remain compliant with ERDF guidance.
I came from an adult education background, managing an ESF skills project for employed individuals in Coventry and Warwickshire and prior to that, supporting a Leadership and Management project for employed individuals in the roads sector, both of which supported business growth.
I was quite anxious about starting a new job virtually. I had no idea what to expect, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the friendliest team who always take the time to check in with each other throughout the day. I already feel like I have been here for years! I am so impressed with how much WCC leadership invest in their staff and care about their wellbeing and mental health - it makes you feel like a valued member of the organisation.
Contract and Project Monitoring Officer
I primarily deal with our various business grant programmes. When I joined WCC in August 2019, my main focus was our Small Capital Grant programme, a capital investment programme funding up to £35,000 of capital investment with a maximum 30% intervention rate.
Prior to joining WCC, my background was in the private sector and quite varied, most recently four years as a Finance Manager/PMO in a manufacturing environment, so I really relished the challenge of helping to write a bid for further funding for our Small Capital Grant programme; as well as the introduction of our Retail & Hospitality grants and discretionary grants associated with our Survive, Sustain & Grow business support programme. This bid was successful and I am delighted that, in the grip of the pandemic, these programmes have greatly assisted many Warwickshire businesses.
I have also overseen our Adapt & Diversify grant scheme, a specific Covid Investment Recovery programme for the retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. I can honestly say that the last 12-14 months have been the busiest I have ever experienced, but I am really enjoying working within the fabulous Economy & Skills Team and with some truly amazing Warwickshire businesses.
Business Growth Advisor
My time is spent engaging with businesses in the county and supporting companies on their growth plans, helping them access the various support offered in the area and achieving their potential.
Day-to-day, I am one of the advisors on our European-funded support programme which provides free support to SMEs with a focus on access to finance. This can include support with applying for grants from a range of programmes including WCC’s Small Capital Grants programme. This is a Warwickshire County Council-funded grant scheme that part-funds capital investments that lead to business growth in the county, ultimately boosting the local Warwickshire economy.
There are so many great small businesses in Warwickshire, run by so many creative and talented people, and it is very rewarding to see that our support can help them to become established and grow.
Project Officer (Business and Ecomomy)
After graduating from the University of Surrey with an Economics and Politics degree in 2018, I spent a wonderful year in Australia before returning to the UK in November 2019, feeling grateful, refreshed and energised. I got a job at a council in North Worcestershire, supporting economic development then, after a year, wanted to progress, and was lucky enough to get this great job at Warwickshire County Council.
My current role is to support the delivery of our business support programmes. Most programmes are funded by more than one organisation so we often work closely with national government, our district and borough councils, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, University of Warwick Science Park and other great partners to fund and deliver business support in Warwickshire.
All this requires a lot of work to make sure everything is running smoothly and we are getting the best value for money, so that is where my role comes in. It’s a very busy time but it's all great work. The team is passionate about supporting our businesses in these challenging times, to enable them to survive and sustain their business then grow into the future - it is a great team to be part of.
An outstanding, dedicated team...
"I just want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to every single member of the Business & Economy team for their hard work and outstanding commitment over recent months.
“Continuously amazed by their dedication and commitment” is how Alison Robinson (Strategy & Commissioning Manager, Economy & Skills) describes the work of her Business & Economy team.
During the last 15 months, the team has delivered a major step-change in business support in a concerted effort to help Warwickshire businesses deal with the impacts of the pandemic.
"I am full of admiration for Matt Epps and team and really proud of the support they have given, and continue to give, to so many businesses in all sectors in all parts of the county," Alison said.
"They have really pulled out all the stops to deliver a series of innovative programmes to Warwickshire businesses. These include: WCC being the first local authority to support the Government’s Coronarvirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the Retail & Hospitality grants last summer; the innovative Survive, Sustain & Grow programme; and, more recently, the Adapt & Diversify grant scheme.
"The additional work created by these extra programmes has required every member of the team to go above and beyond the day job - and, without exception, they have stepped up.
"I just want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to every single member of the Business & Economy team for their hard work and outstanding commitment over recent months. It’s great to know that such a dedicated group of people, under the highly experienced leadership of Matt, is there to support Warwickshire businesses."
That support has been delivered, and those countless hours put in, during the last year despite the personal pressures and restrictions that the pandemic had brought to everybody as individuals. The team are truly unsung heroes - but there will be no let-up in the demands upon them in the months ahead.
"Economic recovery is critical to the delivery of Warwickshire County Council’s Recovery Plan, so there is no chance of the Business & Economy team slowing down any time soon," said Alison. "This year we have strengthened the team with three new members who have got up to speed really quickly and are now integral members of the team. The team will be joined by another Contract and Project Monitoring Officer in early June and we will also be recruiting shortly to fill a vacant External Funding Officer role and appoint a number of new Business Advisors.
"Just as businesses have had to adapt to the constantly changing needs of life post-COVID, so does our team and the support they provide. We will continue to proactively monitor and assess the local economic situation to ensure that future schemes meet the needs of Warwickshire businesses as we all recover from the pandemic."
Grants scheme receives 211 applications in one day
The second round of a Warwickshire County Council grant scheme designed to help businesses adapt to future challenges following the pandemic closed after just one day this week due to overwhelming demand.
In its first round, earlier this year, the council's Adapt & Diversify business support grant scheme delivered over £600,000 of grant funding to 52 business.
Round Two opened at 9.30am on 17th May and was closed at 5pm the same day after WCC's Business & Economy team was deluged with bids. In seven and a half hours, they received 211 applications, worth over £2.7m, for grants from the £850,000 pot.
The second round had been launched a month before the scheme actually re-opened to applications, in order to give businesses plenty of time to prepare their bids. A webinar to provide more information on the process was attended by over 75 businesses and the council would like to thank all businesses who completed their applications with all the required information.
All applications are being assessed with the necessary thoroughness as quickly as possible. All applicants will be provided with an update on their project by Monday 31st May.