Business festival all set to put Coventry & Warwickshire on the map
Monday 20th November will see the start of the first annual Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival.
In its inaugural year, the two-week Festival has immediately taken its place as the largest business event in the region. A programme of 114 events will be attended by thousands
of visitors from within the Coventry and Warwickshire region and beyond.
The Festival comprises an array of business events hosted by organisations from across the region. It contains everything from trade shows, conferences and workshops to seminars, debates, showcases, networking meetings and webinars.
Events will be staged in every district in the region from North Warwickshire, Nuneaton & Bedworth and Rugby to Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon and Coventry.
The packed Festival programme consists of over 100 events covering topics and subjects including professional and financial services, automotive and advanced manufacturing, education and logistics, gaming, health and wellbeing and digital and cultural.
With so much on offer, there will be something to appeal to everyone – whether a small or micro-business owner or large corporate organisation.
Nearly every event is free, though tickets must be booked in advance and are available on a first come, first served basis through the Business Festival website www.cwbusinessfestival.com
There is still time to get tickets but many events have already sold out, so it is advisable to book as soon as possible.
The brand-new Business Festival initiative has been developed by the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub. It is designed to bring the local business community together and shout about the fantastic opportunities this region has to offer to investors under one branded banner – the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival.
With such an impressive range of events, the festival will certainly showcase Coventry and Warwickshire’s strengths,
opportunities and potential as a beacon for investment, to the rest of the UK.
The 2017 Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival is supported by headline partner, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). Other partners include the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Coventry University, Jaguar Land Rover and the University of Warwick.
Sponsors include CityFibre, Coventry University Enterprises, the Federation of Small Businesses and The Futureworks.
The Festival is also supported by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021, Coventry City Council, Deeley Construction, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, Rugby Borough Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Tisski and Warwick District Council.
For tickets or more information, visit www.cwbusinessfestival.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0247 601 1447.
Quarterly Labour Market Report: Robust labour market augurs well for Warwickshire
Warwickshire's labour market remains encouragingly robust, the latest Quarterly Labour Market Report (QLMR) from Warwickshire Means Business reveals.
Our fourth QLMR shows the employment rate in the county continues to consistently outperform regional and national averages.
Data drawn from a wide range of sources suggests this trend is fuelled by strong job-demand amongst businesses with a higher-than average share of jobs advertised in need of high-skilled occupations.
About eight in ten working-age residents in Warwickshire are economically active which, if the trend continues, will lead to resilient growth, living standards and wellbeing.
The QLMR, compiled by Natalie Maposa from Warwickshire County Council's Economy and Skills Group, can be viewed in full here. Part of our commitment to keep you fully updated on the very latest Labour Market trends in the county, it gives insights and analysis into employment and unemployment, economic activity and inactivity and real-time demand in the current labour market.
All labour market research is collected and released every January, April, July and October and brought to you in the QLMB as soon as we have it to keep you right up to speed with everything you need to know about employment trends in Warwickshire.
The latest issue includes a special article exploring how Warwickshire’s spatial labour market is working together to achieve sustainable growth.
Our next Quarterly Labour Market Report will be published in January.
Business confidence in Coventry and Warwickshire still above national average
Business confidence in Coventry and Warwickshire is higher than the national average but the overall outlook of companies for the next 12 months has dipped slightly, according to new data.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with Warwickshire County Council, has published the results of its latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) of businesses in the region.
The survey, covering the third quarter of 2017, shows that overall business confidence fell by 1.7 points to 63.4, down from 65.1 in the previous quarter. But any score above 50 shows the majority of companies are feeling positive and, while slightly down, the latest figure remains higher than national and West Midlands-wide surveys.
The slight drop in confidence is coupled with small falls in domestic and overseas orders in both manufacturing and service sectors as well a small fall in recruitment expectations. However, all the indicators are still above the 50 mark which means the regional economy is forecast to continue growing, albeit at a slower rate than previously hoped.
Dave Ayton-Hill, who heads Warwickshire County Council’s Economy and Skills team, said: “Despite the slight fall in the overall economic outlook index, the strength of the Coventry and Warwickshire economy is still very much evident. The area continues to see good growth and demand for employment in the local area remains high with nearly every business surveyed looking to increase or maintain their current employment levels.
“We hope and expect this growth to continue into 2018, despite the current uncertainties that exist in the economy.”
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The region's economy remains healthy and we have some outstanding businesses here of all sizes and sectors that are performing extremely well.
“We know the barriers to growth on our patch include the availability of land and access to a strong, skilled labour market that can fill the jobs that are out there. But the outlook for businesses here is stronger than in the wider West Midlands and the rest of the UK, though we must also recognise that there has been a small dip in confidence.
“Is that surprising? Not really. While the region performs well it cannot be immune from the uncertainty that continues at a national level. The path to Brexit remains unclear and the conflicting noises around striking a deal are unhelpful.
“In light of that, it’s great to see that the overall business outlook in Coventry and Warwickshire remains on the positive side and that is testament to the companies based on our patch who continue to look for opportunities to grow."
* The Quarterly Economic Survey supplies vital information which shapes future strategy so the more people that participate in it the better. It takes around two minutes to complete and can be accessed here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZY2Q9CP
The findings of the current survey will be presented on November 29th, 8-10:am at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook event at Stoneleigh Park. Please click here to sign up if you would like to attend.
The booming business that grew out of Dan's field of dreams
Turning a lifelong passion into a profitable business takes considerable expertise, a lot of hard work and the right support - but it can be done, as illustrated by the remarkable rise of Cotswolds Distillery in south Warwickshire.
One day in the summer of 2013 Daniel Szor was looking out of his farmhouse window in south Warwickshire at the field of barley that lay before him and pondering what a beautiful sight it was.
Nothing new there. Millions of people have admired the immense natural beauty of the north Cotswolds.
But another thought also occurred to Dan. An idea.
And that idea was unique - and would grow into a plan which would transform a lifelong passion into a thriving small business
Cotswolds Distillery, opened by New York-born Dan and his English wife Katia, on July 1, 2014, recently launched its first single malt. That's a significant milestone for a distillery but the business has evolved beyond the distillery process to also become a major tourist attraction at its base at Stourton, just outside Shipston-on-Stour. While, most importantly, its stock has established a high-reputation (not just whisky - last year they sold 100,000 bottles of gin), Cotswolds Distillery now attracts 30,000 visitors per year.
It is a success story powered by all the essentials of starting a successful small business - good advice, diligent research, deep knowledge and hard graft - along with some crucial early support from Warwickshire County Council.
"I had the idea one day literally when I was staring out of our window at a field of barley," said Dan. "As I looked at it, I thought: 'why isn’t there anyone distilling in this part of the world?' All the components were in place - wonderful barley, grains, fruit and a history of agriculture which has traditionally always brought about some form of distilling.
"I'd worked in currency management for nearly 30 years and didn't want to do that for the rest of my life and have always had a passion for whisky, not just drinking it but the process behind making it. So I thought why not give it a go?
"I thought there was room for a destination distillery in the north Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is a wonderful area with 23 million visitors a year but has nothing like this."
Dan's hunch proved spot on. His business now has 30 employees and is set to expand further next year with the addition of a new bottling plant and visitor centre, accompanied by further recruitment.
Dan has every right to feel proud and he does - though more appreciative.
"I am proud of the team and the collective effort," he said. "But above all I am very thankful for all the support we have had. I was lucky enough to get some wonderful help. I had never manufactured anything but got some amazing advice from two Scottish consultants, one a specialist in engineering, the other in flavour, with around 80 years experience between them.
"I also got some great advice from Tim Powell at the University of Warwick Science Park on possible grants. And the grants we obtained from Warwickshire County Council were a huge help."
Cotswolds Distillery first received a £22,000 Warwickshire Rural Growth Network Micro-enterprise grant for new fermenters and brown tourist signs. Two subsequent small capital grants, amounting to £27,000, from the county council enabled the purchase of two new grain silos and blending vat.
"Those grants were very important to our development," said Dan. "The first one enabled us to double production at a critical time, in our third year, and the tourists signs are wonderful because tourists are such an important part of that we do. The county council's support really helped us to get established and then grow.
"We've also had great support from local investors who believed in us and backed that belief with support, and then we crowdfunded which brought in a lot of small investors, each one a brand ambassador.
"When I started the business I thought maybe three years down the line we would employ four people - we employ 30 and need to employ more, but have no desks to put them at until the new buildings go up in the New Year!"
2018 Skills Conference to take place in Stoneleigh in March
The fourth Warwickshire Skills Conference for business and education leaders will take place on Wednesday 7th March 2018 at the National Agricultural and Exhibition Centre, Stoneleigh, between 8am and 10am.
The annual Skills Conference, organised by Warwickshire County Council, has become an important part of the county's business calendar and its theme in 2018 will be the Brexit Skills Challenge. Full details will appear in the January edition of Warwickshire Means Business.
In the meantime, for more information about the conference, or to find out how your business could work with a local education provider, please e-mail email@example.com or call 01926 418027.
Collective support helps Jo hit the ground running in Nuneaton town centre
"Like going from crawling along to running the 100 metres against Usain Bolt."
That's how Jo Williams describes moving her small business from outer Nuneaton into the heart of town.
But it is a challenge to which the mum-of-two has risen impressively.
Joco Interiors is ticking over nicely at its base in Abbeygate Shopping Centre, as recently recognised by Jo's short-listing for the Coventry and Warwickshire 'Best New Business' and 'Entrepreneur of the Year' awards. Joco, with its mix of gift products covering different tastes and price ranges, is also short-listed in the 'Best in Customer Service' category.
It's a success story underpinned by Nuneaton-born Jo's hard work - with some vital help along the way.
When you set up and then expand a small business, some expert advice makes a huge difference. In Jo's case that advice has taken numerous forms, stemming from her own enterprise in entering, and winning, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council's 2016 Christmas Windows competition.
That connected her to the borough council, whose economic development officer Chris Lawes put her in touch with Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub. And the Growth Hub's ongoing input opened up access to support including the borough council's own Local Discount Scheme, which led to a rate-reduction, and a county council Digital Business Skills for Retailers course run by project manager Aaron Corsi as part of the Warwickshire Towns Network programme.
"For 20 years I thought about starting a business," said Jo. "Then I started a shop in Queen's Road but it was really hard to get people in. It reached the point where I asked: 'Do I close or do I move?'
"I took the plunge and moved into the Abbeygate - and hit the ground running. I had to. It was like going from crawling along to running the 100 metres against Usain Bolt!
"I have had some great business and mentoring support from the Growth Hub after the borough council put me in touch. Gareth Edwards has been a huge help, often just by asking the questions that, because you are so busy, you probably would not ask until months later. It's great to have someone with that knowledge and experience to bounce things off. It's been really good, practical help, for example making sure I got all the rate-relief I was entitled to.
"The county council's Digital Marketing Course was fantastic. I knew my business in terms of stock and what customers want but needed help getting my business presence out there. I learned so much about logos, branding, business cards, leaflets and signage and bringing it all together which means I can adopt a dual sales approach with an online platform to service remote customers while also operating the shop."
Since opening in the Abbeygate in June, Joco has grown from effectively a one-person operation to a bustling business with four staff and one apprentice, with more recruits likely before Christmas.
Jo is delighted to be established in the heart of a town which, she says, has much to offer shoppers.
"I am Nuneaton born and bred and love the town and am really pleased to be in the centre," she said. "Nuneaton has loads to offer as a retail centre but sometimes does not shout enough about what it has going for it.
"I know I still have a lot to learn, with a lot of hard work ahead, but that's fine. I've got a great team at the shop and access to some top-class support."
That support is part of the wide range available from Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, the Growth Hub and Warwickshire County Council whose business skills advisor Fay Winterburn chatted to Jo to pinpoint exactly which help suited her requirements.
"We are very keen to help support skills growth for the retail sector and it's wonderful that Jo has harnessed that support so effectively," said Fay. "It's great to see her achieving such growth and we would love to hear from other retail businesses keen to expand in a similar way."
For business skills advice and more information please contact Faywinterburn@warwickshire.gov.uk or call 01926 412216.
To see the full range of business support available from Warwickshire County Council, visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/business
Phil assembles world class engineering team backed by Business Dream
Real Madrid had the Galácticos, the USA had the Dream Team in basketball – now a growing Warwickshire company is putting together a team of world-class engineers to help drive growth.
P&D Engineering is based on the Bayton Road Industrial Estate, Exhall, and designs and engineers a range of machines and 3D parts for clients, including JCB, Jaguar Land Rover, Caterpillar and even British Cycling.
The company, which is run by Phil Vandries, has grown its workforce in the last 12 months and is still on the hunt for more engineers. It wants to grow by another 50 per cent over the next three years and is forecasting a jump in turnover this year of 25 per cent.
In 2003, Phil won the UK stage in Mechanical Engineering CADD of the World Skills Competition – the ‘Olympics’ for practical skills and trades such as engineering, construction and baking. He went onto to represent the UK in St. Gallen, Switzerland where he finished 12th among engineers from around the world.
Since buying P&D Engineering in 2015, he’s added two more international finalists from the World Skills Competition to his team as well as drafting in four apprentices.
The company has been supported by the Business Ready programme at the University of Warwick Science Park, after a referral by the CWLEP Growth Hub - and without that help, its growth would not have been as strong. The Business Ready team also helped the firm access a £32,000 grant from Warwickshire County Council to purchase a new machine that will speed up its processes and make it more efficient. That will allow the company to bid for and win new work as well as fulfil existing contracts for its expanding client-base.
Phil was also assigned a Business Ready mentor in John Griffiths, who has a background in engineering, who has been a source of wisdom to assist with P&D Engineering’s growth.
“I bought the business in 2015 and we were facing a number of challenges,” said Phil. “There was the need for liquidity to grow, we had older machines which meant we were not as efficient as we needed to be. We needed to optimise productivity.
“We didn’t want to stand still, we wanted to move the business forward but were at a stage where if we didn’t invest we were going to be unable to fulfil orders, let alone bid for new business.
“Of course, the grant towards the machine is huge and that really does help us to drive up productivity - and the support from John has been invaluable. Sometimes, I’ve put ideas to him and he’s given me the confidence to say ‘go for it’.
“As for the team, I am a huge believer in backing skills and talent. It really disappoints me that we don’t make more of the World Skills Competition over here – other countries treat their competitors the same as we treat Olympians! It’s a massive competition so to have three people here who’ve competed on the international stage is testament to our investment in skilled people.”
Alex Toft, a Business Ready adviser, said the firm should be hailed for its growth and commitment to skills.
He said: “P&D Engineering are a wonderful success story for this region. The grant came at a critical time when other source of financing would have been difficult. It not only enabled this business to grow but secured the roles for the existing employees.
“They are now on the path to future success and growth and we are extremely pleased that the intervention from Business Ready, together with our work with the Economy & Skills Group at Warwickshire County Council and the county council grant, has had a significant impact which will lead to jobs, investment and growth at a local company.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “This is just the kind of ambitious company that Business Ready and the Warwickshire County Council grant fund is designed to support. The council is committed to generating economic growth in the north of the county so we are delighted to support businesses with such good prospects for growth and jobs in the area.”
* Business Ready is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with further funding from Warwickshire County Council. It is part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme.
For more information about Business Ready, contact University of Warwick Science Park on Tel. 024 7632 3121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skills Challenge taken up by HORIBA MIRA to train young engineers
Nuneaton-based Japanese automotive engineering consultancy HORIBA MIRA is creating a new work experience network for local schools, colleges and other businesses.
The project is being supported by a Warwickshire County Council Skills Challenge grant worth £36,497.
Work experience placements will not only be offered at HORIBA MIRA, the global provider of pioneering engineering, research and test services to the automotive, defence, aerospace and rail sectors, but also other businesses on the MIRA Technology Park.
Firms will work with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers and careers-leads in schools and colleges to provide opportunities for students.
‘There is a real shortage of young people entering engineering and other STEM related careers,” said MIRA Technology Park Skills Manager, Torin Spence. “By bringing together the industry-leading companies on the MIRA Technology Park with local young people, schools and colleges, we want to be able to show what the Automotive Engineering sector is like in 2017 and inspire local young people to choose engineering as a career path."
Introduced in April 2017 and able to offer grants between £20,000 and £40,000, the Skills Challenge funding supports projects which directly address a high-priority skills need in a particular occupation, sector or geographic area in Warwickshire.
Warwickshire County Council's Skills for Employment manager Glenn Robinson said: "The work experience network set up by HORIBA MIRA is an excellent project which we are pleased to support with Skills Challenge funding.
"By helping to equip local students with the skills they need to pursue a career in engineering, this project will benefit the students themselves and also the business community in both the short term and the medium and long terms as we develop a new generation of highly-trained engineers."
Leamington Old Town regeneration as Creative Quarter takes exciting step closer
Ambitious plans to regenerate the Old Town of Leamington Spa as a new Creative Quarter focused on the booming creative/digital sector have advanced with the appointment of a development partner by Warwick District Council.
Regeneration specialist Complex Development Projects (CDP), which developed FarGoVillage and Electric Wharf in Coventry, has been selected by the Council to deliver a long-term masterplan for the area’s renaissance. The regeneration programme will include the restoration of several key buildings and public realm.
The project will further enhance the town’s strengths as a centre of creative industries and its national ‘Silicon Spa’ reputation.
CDP, which has been appointed after an open procurement process, will work with the Council to develop a masterplan for the 10-year initiative, identifying how best to grow the diverse range of vibrant creative industries in the town largely around the under-developed riverside and Old Town area.
Warwick District Council leader Cllr Andrew Mobbs said: “We are delighted with the appointment of CDP and looking forward to working with them to develop this new hub for creative industries in Royal Leamington Spa.
“Warwick District is already home to a wide range of successful enterprises and we hope this new initiative offers an exciting proposition for even more vibrant and interesting businesses wanting to set up in the area.”
A recent report by the innovation foundation Nesta and Creative England identified Leamington as one of 47 “creative clusters” in the UK, and the only one in the West Midlands. There are over 1,500 creative businesses in Leamington employing over 7,000 people with software and digital companies accounting for half of the total.
The games development industry is worth £1.7bn to the UK economy and the town has a range of games developers with many based in and around the vicinity of the new Creative Quarter.
The council hopes to secure Government funding to support the regeneration of the area but acknowledged that attracting the right regeneration partner with experience of complex projects is the major first step in securing the success of the scheme.
Brian Harrabin, a director of CDP, said there is already a thriving creative and digital sector in Leamington but there remains considerable scope to build on its national and international reputation.
“The Old Town area needs major regeneration and the focus on creative industries will help to unlock the cultural and commercial potential of this area which is very much under-developed,” he said.
“The first thing we will do is talk to local businesses and the community to gain an in-depth understanding of what’s happening at the moment and what people’s aspirations are for the future. Creative areas are organic and are ultimately made by people, not buildings, but you need the right environment to allow them to thrive. Each place is unique and we will be doing a lot of listening before we come up with any proposals.
“There is definitely real potential for growth in Old Town, creating a quarter that is very different to Leamington’s current offer and bringing a positive impact to the local economy over the next decade.”
Diverse range of speakers at Warwickshire Food & Drink educational programme
John Conod from the Purity Brewing Company will be among guest speakers as part of the educational programme at the Warwickshire Food & Drink Event on Wednesday 22nd November at the Warwickshire Golf & Country Club.
All aspects of the county's vibrant Food and Drink sector will be covered at the event which has been organised by Warwickshire County Council, in partnership with Shakespeare’s England, as part of the inaugural two-week Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival.
And part of the event is an educational programme which will include talks a range of speakers including Mr Conod and Dr Rosemary Collier from the University of Warwick.
Mr Conod will deliver an insight into the passion, planning and principles that have turned the Purity Brewing Co, a small farm-based brewery, into a national success story. He will demonstrate how over the last 12 years Purity has grown from a two-person enterprise delivering direct to good local pubs to a regional brewer with 50 employees.
Also speaking during the event will be Dr Rosemary Collier from the University of Warwick. Food is one of the University of Warwick's Global Research Priorities (GRP) and Dr Collier will consider the research and debate on issues of food production and supply.
Other speakers will be Richard Biggs, managing director of The Farm, who will share his views on the future of bricks and mortar retail, whilst Jeremy Eaton from Vital Marketing will discuss how marketing trends and topics can help businesses to flourish.
With other sessions from Russell Allen of Aubrey Allen, Neil Williams from the British Beer & Pub Association, the Department for International Trade and Industry Training Leaders IGD, the educational programme is one of the key highlights of the event which is free to attend for buyers.
Registration is free to trade and there is a nominal charge for suppliers who wish to attend, alongside an exhibitor package. For more information, please visit: www.warwick-food-drink.co.uk or telephone Laura Taviner on 01926 418004.
Farm business diversifies with targeted support from Chamber
A north Warwickshire couple have revealed exciting plans to diversify the land around a historic hall to help keep an agricultural business alive.
Carl and Teresa Pickworth have been taking advice from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce on the potential to develop a new tearoom building at Whitacre Hall to attract a regular stream of visitors to the farm and woodland.
The couple are prepared to invest a six-figure sum in the development to safeguard the future of the farm and, after working with the Chamber, have reached the second phase of a potential £35,000 grant through the Leader Fund.
Carl, whose grandfather bought Whitacre Hall and the land in 1958, and Teresa want to create the new tearoom to attract woodland walkers, anglers and school trips to generate steady income to ensure the farm’s survival.
They will submit plans for the development later this year and believe it would be the beginning of a brighter future for the historic property, which was originally built in the 1600s and is believed to be where the composer Handel was given the words to The Messiah by Charles Jennens.
Carl said: “Farming is a struggle. There are doubts around future funding because of Brexit but, actually, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a sustainable living anyway.
“But we are not prepared to just let it all go. If that’s going to happen, we are going to make sure that we have fought for it and done everything we can to keep it alive.
“The development of the new tea room is at the heart of everything – that’s the beginning of the future for us. My father and grandfather made sure they conserved the land here and I’ve done the same, so there are wonderful woodlands that are perfect for walkers and for school trips.
“We’ve held a couple of events here to test out our idea and they have been a huge success so we believe there is really strong potential.”
Teresa said the support from the Chamber had helped to move the plans forward.
She said: “We’ve worked with Martyne Manning at the Chamber and she has been the missing piece of the jigsaw for us.
“We are effectively starting up a whole new business and that’s a very daunting task to do on your own – you don’t really know where to start or what’s available to you. Martyne not only pointed us in the right direction when it came to grant funding, she was very helpful in advising on the grant application and ensuring supporting documentation was appropriate. The applications can be quite intimidating when you first look at them.”
Martyne said: “Starting a business from scratch is never easy but the great thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. We are particularly keen to support young farmers with their ambitions to keep their traditional family businesses alive.
“The Chamber can offer support on planning, marketing, research and funding, including where grants are available. I’ve worked with five farming businesses over recent months and have seen that they are on the go through all of the daylight hours. So having someone who can support and provide coaching and advice on how to diversify is a big help to them."
If you are a rural business looking to diversify or are planning to start a new business then please email email@example.com.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and the District and Borough Councils.
£31 million boost will help keep region at forefront of low carbon vehicle sector
A total of £31 million has been awarded to projects across the West Midlands region to further develop the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles.
The schemes were awarded the funding by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
HORIBA MIRA in Nuneaton will build a new site alongside its current testing tracks where automated vehicles will be assessed at the limits of their speed and handling. The company, supported by Coventry University, will be given £13m towards the project with a total cost expected to be £26m.
The Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) has been given £17.6m towards a £25.3m scheme to set up real-world test environments in Coventry and Birmingham. WMG will be supported by Amey, AVL, Costain, Coventry University, HORIBA MIRA, Transport for West Midlands and Wireless Infrastructure Group and its test bed will be based on 80 kilometres of urban road in Birmingham and Coventry.
The projects are the first to be funded from the government's £100m connected and autonomous vehicles testing infrastructure programme and will be fully operational in the next 18 months to two years.
The funding is a big boost to innovation and research in the region. And it comes as further recognition of Warwickshire's high reputation in those areas, says Steph Williams, an Inward Investment Officer at Warwickshire County Council.
"Coventry and Warwickshire has a long automotive history with big names such as Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Geely and the London Electric Vehicle company along with niche manufacturers such as CAD CAM Automotive, RDM Group and Detroit Electric," said Steph.
"The area remains the automotive hub for research and innovation and many international companies have opened UK operations to access assets and expertise within the supply chain here.
"With vehicle manufacturers racing to meet future low carbon targets, this area has increased its R&D activity within electric and connected vehicles. We are lucky to have such a high number of research institutions and investment from UK Government to be at the forefront of vehicle technology."
How to Jumpstart a passion into a profitable business
"JumpStart changed my mindset into that of an entrepreneur," says Sharon Hendricks.
Sharon had a great idea for a business but, with a full-time job and three small children, how could she find the time to run one?
Well, that business is now up and running thanks to the support of the Warwickshire County Council-backed JumpStart programme. Project manager Sheridan Sulskis outlines Jumpstart's mission - to help people like Sharon turn a passion into a profitable business.
Perhaps you can relate…you have a hobby or skill that you believe has the potential to become a successful business.
But you struggle with family and work commitments, you don't really know where to start and are perhaps a little bit scared of turning your dream into reality.
And, yes, it may be a long, hard journey…if you go it alone.
If any of the above statements relate to you, then the Inclusive Enterprise Programme can help, through a programme that will guide you through the enterprise journey, step by step, at a pace that suits you.
The JumpStart programme is designed to help and support you to set up a business, become established and grow.
Project manager Sheridan Sulskis explains: “Our offer is a long-term business support service featuring locally delivered group workshops, access to relevant resources and start-up finance.
"We believe there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to starting a business. That is why our unique approach provides clients with specialist support tailored to their needs. We believe that what clients learn through our support can always be applied to their own business venture, job search or indeed any other activity they choose. If any budding entrepreneurs would like our help turning their dream into a living, breathing startup, we are here to support them.”
Among those to have benefited from that support is Sharon Hendricks. Sharon had to juggle family commitments, personal interests and a “nine to five” job but recently set up her business - “Inspired By Word” Christian T-shirts - after the programme helped her.
“In 2015 I was a married mum of three boys aged three, four and nine and working full time as a medical secretary," she said. "I was always busy, sometimes stressed and constantly on the go at work or at home.
"I was exploring the idea for a business that would be workable from home and also flexible around the needs of my family.”
Sharon admits that at first, she “didn’t have the courage to call JumpStart” - but after meeting the team she “jumped at the opportunity.”
“I soon got a call inviting me to a workshop and attended my first workshop in February 2017. I signed up for the programme because I knew I needed help to get my business legally off the ground and advice from people who knew exactly what they were talking about when it came to setting up and running a business.”
The result? Sharon launched her business in July, just five months after attending that first workshop. It is the perfect example of what JumpStart is all about– turning a person’s passion into a profitable business.
“A YouTuber called Martin Butler was advertising a business that you could easily do from home – T-shirt printing," she said. "He had run his business from his home successfully for six years and I realised this was definitely something I could do too.”
Sharon's new venture, both exciting and challenging, is set to go from strength to strength as she will promote it through her website, social media, engagement in major Christian festivals and bookshops. She describes the support of JumpStart as “invaluable.”
“It changed my mindset and knowledge-base into that of an entrepreneur," she said. "It has been really great to mix with people in the same position as myself, just starting out in business, and to be taken seriously as a new entrepreneur. The networking sessions were great with lots of nuggets of information and inspiration to keep me going.”
For more information about the JumpStart Programme please visit www.inclusive-enterprise.co.uk, call 07494 442869 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, forming part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Support Programme.
Skills shortages highlighted by Quarterly Economic Survey
Skills shortages facing employers throughout Warwickshire were brought into sharp focus by findings of the latest regional Quarterly Economic Survey. Sam Van de Schootbrugge, from Warwickshire County's Council's Economy & Skills Office, reports.
The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is a national survey of businesses which informs government and policy-makers about developments in the economy.
It is widely understood that the changes in business confidence and expectations in the QES precede changes in the economy. As such, this well-regarded survey is used as a key tool for the Bank of England, the European Commission and HM Treasury.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce undertake the QES fieldwork for the LEP area. In conjunction with Warwickshire County Council, the results are then analysed and presented at the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Outlook Breakfast Event.
In quarter three, questions in the QES focused on skills shortages. With the unemployment rate at a record low across the country, it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to attract workers with the right skills. The survey enables us to understand the extent of a skills shortage locally, why businesses believe there is a shortage of skills and what alternatives they are considering. The analysis helps inform local policy makers, enabling targeted-policy implementation that can ease skills pressures.
Key headlines from the full report: (https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/economicassessment):
- Over the last three months, more than three in four businesses have looked to recruit. Of those looking to recruit, 70% believe that recruitment difficulties are attributable to a skills shortage. Of these, 44% considered a lack of workers the biggest reason for a skills shortage.
- Regardless of recruitment decisions, 62% of businesses currently believe their firm is suffering from a skills shortage. Micro businesses, employing fewer than 10 people, believed competition for workers with the right skills was the biggest reason for their business facing a skills shortfall. These firms were also least likely to be able to afford to employ people with the right skills.
- The survey also shows that 80% of all businesses facing a skills shortage are implementing a pay rise in the next 12 months. This proportion increases to 87% if we focus on businesses employing 10 or more people. This means as many as 315,000 workers in Coventry and Warwickshire are set for a pay rise in the next 12 months. Those in the construction, consumer services and transport & distribution sectors are most likely to receive a pay rise over the next 12 months, whereas those in the retail, public and creative sectors are least likely.
- Almost one in two (45%) businesses in the sample are implementing a pay rise to retain current employees. These types of businesses were also more likely to quote a ‘lack of workers’ as the reason for a skills shortage.
- We conclude that pay increases in Coventry and Warwickshire over the next 12 months will most likely be borne out of a skills shortage, rather than inflation. This is an important finding coming out of the survey.
- On average, 57% of businesses in the sample are looking to increase non-wage related pay over the next 12 months. Large businesses are most likely to increase non-wage related pay in the next 12 months. Micro businesses are most inclined to increase annual leave entitlement. Medium-sized businesses are most comfortable with increasing training/development opportunities, whereas large businesses are looking to offer more employee benefit schemes incentives.
- Overall, seven in 10 businesses will implement either a pay or non-wage related pay increase over the next 12 months. This figure increases to 85% of businesses if we exclude micro-sized businesses, and could cover up to 78% of Coventry and Warwickshire’s workforce.
- A third of businesses have considered both apprenticeships and graduates, and retraining existing employees. These options are particularly popular for large- and medium-sized firms, with 86% of large firms using apprenticeships and graduates, and 68% of medium-sized firms retraining existing employees. Overseas labour is the least popular selection, although 1 in 5 large businesses still find this an important option. Recruitment outside of the workforce, which includes those with physical and learning disabilities, is more popular in the manufacturing service – 46% compared to 23% of services sector businesses.
- More than one in two micro-sized businesses are not considering labour force alternatives. These businesses account for 75% of total businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire and gives a clear direction for the types of businesses that need skills support. Although a number of micro-sized businesses may feel as if they do not need to consider alternatives if they are not facing a skills shortage, there is still a much larger-than-average proportion who are not considering alternatives despite facing a skills shortage. That would suggest that the reason for not looking towards alternative labour force options is capacity.
The next quarterly economic survey will be available from 23rd October to 21st November 2017. The questions focus on the expected impact of Brexit and an interest rate rise on investment in innovation. The analysis of these questions will be available in December.
If you have any question related to this report, please contact us on 01926 412949 or email email@example.com.
Coleshill engineering students get great grounding from BMW project
Students from The Coleshill School were invited to BMW Group’s engine manufacturing plant at Hams Hall as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project funded by Warwickshire County Council.
The programme, backed by a £21,232 from the county council, was launched last May and came to a conclusion on Thursday 19th October.
The event at BMW, Hams Hall, allowed the students to showcase all they had learnt from BMW engineers and apprentices, who supported the students throughout the project, during a five-minute presentation and question and answer session.
Students presented their research on hydrogen fuel cell technology and car designs and the results of their speed and efficiency testing, all of which were judged by staff from BMW, The Coleshill School and Glenn Robinson, Skills for Employment programme Manager at Warwickshire County Council.
Ian Smith-Childs, school headteacher, said: “It was inspirational to see these boys rise to the challenge and present to both their peers and professionals. I hope that the experience will now spur them on to fulfilling their amazing potential.”
Mr Robinson added: "The council is delighted to have funded this project and I hope to hear in a year or so that at least one of the pupils involved has become an apprentice at BMW."
Support available for medical and healthcare SMEs
Warwickshire-based SMEs in the medical and healthcare sectors can tap into expertise from a programme run by Coventry University Enterprises.
The Innovative Coventry and Warwickshire Place Test Bed Project supports SMEs by offering free services including:
- Workshops to enhance knowledge and skills in areas such as new product development and user testing
- Usability tests and user evaluations carried out on the SME's behalf to provide impartial feedback which can be used in developing and marketing products.
Working closely with public and private sectors, CUE Business Solutions helps companies to innovate, grow and internationalise and works with local and regional governments to find and shape best practice in infrastructure development and sustainable innovation support.
Nina Jassal, CUE Business Solutions business delivery manager said: "CUE has developed a comprehensive range of services to support SMEs to refine and scale up their operations and are here to advise and support SMEs or people thinking of starting a small business.
"If you have an idea for a health or well-being product that you need help with developing, want to find out what your potential customers think about your product or would like to hear from a health expert who specialises in your product area, we can help."
To be eligible for support from this project a company must be an SME operating in the digital healthcare, assistive technology or e-health sectors OR be developing a product that might be applied to these areas. Companies must be based in Coventry or Warwickshire and have a product to develop, evaluate and/or take to market.
To find out more about the project and how you can sign up, please contact Nina Jassal, Business Delivery Manager on Tel: 0739 209 6041 or email: Njassal@cad.coventry.ac.uk.
For more information about CUE business solutions please visit www.cuebusinesssolutions.com
Warwickshire is right behind Coventry's City of Culture bid
Warwickshire’s backing for Coventry’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021 was celebrated at an event at Warwick Castle, where the county heard how it can benefit if the city is successful.
The event was organised by Coventry City of Culture Trust – the organisation behind Coventry’s bid for the prestigious title – to thank Warwickshire County Council and the local district and borough councils for their support.
Around 150 delegates attended the event which heard about the potential “ripple effect” for the region’s economy and tourism as well as how it could bring cultural and social benefits to a region.
Businesses from across the county were also encouraged to pledge their support in order to help Coventry – which is up against Paisley, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea – seal victory.
Speaking at the event, Cllr Izzi Seccombe OBE, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and board member of the Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Warwickshire is 100 per cent behind Coventry's bid. We know that cultural investment can help transform communities and economies and we are already seeing the positive impact it is having on people’s lives, local businesses and tourism in Hull and the surrounding areas.
“Warwickshire County Council and the district and borough councils are supporting this bid every step of the way - and we have all given financial support, to fund a report on the profile of visitors and the economic impact that this could have on the whole county.
“The message to businesses and organisations in Warwickshire is clear - we will all benefit from Coventry’s win. So, on behalf of all the districts and boroughs in Warwickshire and all our regional partners; we are all supporting you Coventry.”
Claire McColgan, of Culture Liverpool, spoke about the benefits that Liverpool and the surrounding region had seen from being European Capital of Culture and how other areas had taken the initiative to attract visitors during the year.
She said: “When Liverpool was European Capital of Culture the whole region won. If Coventry wins, the whole region are winners too and the benefits expected can be substantial.”
The audience was entertained by music from Positive Youth Foundation’s Changing Trax musicians and also heard from Laura McMillan and David Burbidge, of Coventry City of Culture Trust.
Laura said: “It’s great to see the region is right behind us. We feel the time is right for Coventry – the city really needs to win this title and, if we do, it would bring major benefits to the city, the county and the wider region.
“This is not just about economic benefits, we want to change the future for the people of the region, especially the young.”
As well as Warwickshire County Council, Warwick District Council, Rugby Borough Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Solihull Borough Council are all backing the back.
Coventry City Council, The University of Warwick, and Coventry University are Principal Partners of the bid and are providing significant support. The Ricoh Arena is Bid Sponsor while Jaguar Land Rover, Adient, Friargate, Coventry Building Society, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Airport, PET-Xi, SCC, Pertemps, CEF (City Electrical Factors) and Listers are also Bid Development Sponsors.
To show your support for Coventry’s bid on social media, go to @Coventry2021 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information, log onto www.coventry2021.co.uk
How do we make Digital thrive in Warwickshire?
In her latest contribution from Tech Central, Sarah Windrum argues that Warwickshire could be a place that lives and breathes digital - in all the best ways.
I recently accepted a position on Andy Street’s West Midlands Combined Authority Digital Board and at our first meeting we discussed our aims and objectives. Mine was to make the West Midlands a place where digital thrives and is seen to thrive.
That is a vision open to wide interpretation, as the rest of the Board told me. What does it mean for digital to thrive? What are the markers and the targets we can measure against?
At the same meeting, we also gave our commitment to the UrbanTech Challenge, subsequently launched on 6th November. This was a project on which I had worked previously in the West Midlands Digital Group where we discussed how to place public sector problems in front of the innovative digital SME community in order to explore collaborative solutions.
The UrbanTech programme launched by the WMCA has four key challenges around wellbeing, homelessness, youth unemployment, and citizenship. There is a £10,000 cash injection for successful businesses plus a three-month pilot with the Combined Authority. You can find out more at https://urbanchallenge.io/
While the marketing is geared towards start-ups, I was assured in our Board meeting that all SMEs will be considered. If you have a digital-led solution that could help with these key challenges, it is certainly worth a look.
Transport is a clear omission from the challenges. In a recent article for Tech UK I discussed the role of the West Midlands, positioned at the heart of the country, as crucial to the movement of people and things for the whole of the UK: http://www.techuk.org/insights/opinions/item/11376-techukps2030-is-utopia-possible-for-a-digital-west-midlands Transport is a key challenge for this region and also a clear strength. It has been deliberately left off this round of challenges as Transport for West Midlands has its own Tech Accelerator. Information about this is not that easy to find but it appears to be part of the national Transport Systems Catapult: https://ts.catapult.org.uk/workwithus/open-calls-opportunities/
Back to my question: What does it mean for the West Midlands to both be, and be seen as, a place where digital thrives? In my mind, we have to start with the movement of people and things. Why do we still have people in hi-viz employed to direct us where to park when we have digital signage and beacons that could direct us? Why do we have people patrolling to deliver parking fines when they could be issued automatically with machine learning?
I will hear the argument about jobs being lost and to that argument I would respond that we can upskill those people to work in a place where digital thrives. The world of technology is so vast and there is much that can be picked up easily. I am not just saying this. Emerald, the IT business I own, has done it with our own employees from careers in hospitality, retail, and hair & beauty. All of them are now able to work in a place where digital thrives.
Warwickshire is home to some incredible digital businesses. We are home to a high value games cluster. We are home to autonomous vehicles. We are home to businesses exploring cutting edge technology and software development. This should not happen behind closed doors and non-disclosure agreements. We should see it and use it in our everyday lives.
Warwickshire could be a place that lives and breathes digital. In all the best ways.
How do we make digital thrive in Warwickshire? TechCentral and I welcome your ideas. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts!
You can also attend our CW Business Festival event on 30th November: https://cwbusinessfestival.ticketleap.com/what-does-digital-mean-to-leamington-spa or our Christmas Drinks on 7th December: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/christmas-drinks-and-chat-tickets-37999329016