November 2021


A round up of latest news in brief...

Octopus Hydrogen powers up MIRA Technology Park

Octopus Hydrogen, Octopus Renewables and MIRA Technology Park have confirmed plans to develop a green refuelling forecourt, providing hydrogen and EV charging on site at MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton.

On the forecourt, a number of high-power EV chargers providing up to 300kW will also be installed to build on the existing network of more than 70 charging points already on-site.

The campus is home to 40 automotive businesses, with a growing number focused on fuel cell technology, and many others seeking to incorporate green hydrogen into their motive power options. North Warwickshire Borough Council recently adopted a new Local Plan, which includes 100 acres of land for manufacturing.

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Aston Martin reports stronger results for 2021

A strong growth in wholesales driven by customer demand and the delivery of more than 2,100 new Aston Martin DBX has helped the Gaydon-headquartered luxury car company report revenues almost trebling to £736 million.

The company is continuing its “Project Horizon” transformation, scaling up production of its Aston Martin Valkyrie with the first customer car completed and deliveries starting in Q4.

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Vivarail showcases production-ready battery technology at COP26

Vivarail Limited, the Southam-based designer and manufacturer of modular trains, demonstrated its battery-powered trains at COP26 in Glasgow, earlier this month.

The demonstration trip for invited guests operated on the 11.8 km Glasgow Central – Barrhead line. Vivarail design director, Mr Neil Bates, explained that using assumptions for a two-car train operating on a 160km line, battery technology will cost £1.37 per kilometre compared with £2.49 for diesel and £2.58 for fuel cell hydrogen.

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And Porterbrook showcases hydrogen technology in rail at COP26

Delegates at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow had the opportunity to take a trip on the Hydroflex four-car hydrogen-electric multiple unit that has been developed into a demonstrator vehicle by Porterbrook in just 10 months.

As well as hydrogen fuel cells, the retrofitted class 319 unit, now reclassified as class 799, is equipped with a pantograph to support electric operation. Trips took place in electric mode on the Cathcart Circuit from Glasgow Central with the unit’s “hydro chamber” left open so delegates could see up close the hydrogen-based technology that when active can power the train at up to 160km/h and offers a range of around 480km.

The Porterbrook HydroFlex, which has been tested and developed at the Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre near Startford-upon-Avon, was prepared for COP26 onsite, supported by local train maintenance company Chrysallis Rail.

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Bladon jets expands into spa park, Leamington Spa

UK manufacturer Bladon Micro Turbine has signed a 20-year lease on Unit 3, a 61,076 sq ft warehouse unit with integral office space off Spartan Close. Bladon is a pioneer in the design, development, engineering and manufacture of micro turbine engine generators. The expanding business has relocated its manufacturing, R&D and sales and marketing functions to the new headquarters building, which will house more than 150 staff. The company was formerly based at The Proving Factory on the edge of Coventry, but outgrew the space.

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WMG collaborates with Severn Trent on hydrogen

Researchers from WMG, University of Warwick, have produced Hydrogen from wastewater for Severn Trent following the water company’s challenge to the university’s researchers to find a more sustainable way to treat wastewater.

Hydrogen is valuable as it is a renewable source, and could be sold to the chemicals and plastics industry or used in hydrogen fuel cells for energy storage or electric vehicles. The ability to take hydrogen from waste water provides a new economic and environmental opportunity, however until now it has been incredibly expensive to achieve.

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FSB event to return with special guest hosts 

The Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Business Bootcamp and Networking event is returning to the Coombe Abbey Hotel in January and bookings are open for eligible Midlands businesses to secure a free place. The event, which takes place on Monday, January 31 from 7.30am until 3pm, is designed to benefit entrepreneurs, the self-employed and small businesses from across the region, with representatives from 250 small businesses attending the last bootcamp. It will be hosted at the historic Warwickshire location by Sandra Garlick MBE, founder of the Woman Who Network, and Dave Sharpe, International MC and BBC Broadcaster.

The agenda will include a business networking breakfast, which gives visitors the opportunity to network with local businesses and a bootcamp to hear from inspirational speakers on how to develop and grow a small business.

Read more here.


MTC working with CITB to support off-site construction

The Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty has been selected by the Construction Industry Training Board to produce training materials to support the development of offsite construction.

The MTC is to create a set of high-quality materials to upskill trainers in education and industry in offsite manufacturing and construction.

The programme is part of a £1.2 million CITB project to increase the skills capacity in this fast-growing area which is revolutionising the way schools, hospitals and houses are designed, manufactured and built. The project was paused last year due to the pandemic, but is now re-starting. MTC is part of the Construction Innovation Hub which is developing a range of technologies and processes to improve productivity in the construction and social infrastructure sectors.

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Exhall manufacturer Staircraft joins Travis Perkins

Building materials giant Travis Perkins has fully acquired Staircraft – which has operations in Hampshire – after owning a minority share in the business since 2015. Staircraft is headquartered in Exhall and operates from three manufacturing sites across the UK. The business, which also has a site in Whitchurch under its Independent Construction Technologies brand, provides integrated stair, floor and door services.

Northampton-headquartered Travis Perkins first bought a 15 per cent stake in 2015, and announced its intention to fully acquire the remaining share at an investor update on 29 September.

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GE to Re-organise into Three New Business Units

General Electric plans to break into three separate companies focused on healthcare, energy and aviation. Shares in GE jumped more than 10 per cent in pre-market trading as investors welcomed the move, which will make it easier for them to decide which of the businesses they want to back.

GE Healthcare will be spun off in 2023, with GE retaining a 19.9 per cent stake in the unit. GE Renewable Energy, GE Power and GE Digital will be combined into one energy-focused company that will be spun off in 2024. Once these transactions are completed, the original GE will focus on aviation. GE Power Conversion and the RMR (Rotating Machines Rugby) site in Rugby will sit within the renewable energy business.

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Belfy Golf and Hotel Complex under new ownership

The world-famous golf resort and hotel in North Warwickshire has been bought by two leading investment companies which have announced upgrade plans.

The Belfry Hotel and Resort in Lichfield Road, Wishaw, between Coleshill and Sutton Coldfield, has been purchased by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Cedar Capital Partners from KSL Capital Partners.

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Wigley Group creates flexible office space at Number 11 Waterloo Place

A grade II-listed building in the centre of Leamington Spa is to be converted into flexible office space after being acquired by The Wigley Group. Number 11 Waterloo Place on Warwick Street will undergo an internal refurbishment to create office space with meeting rooms and other facilities designed for companies that have made changes to working practices post-Covid.

The six-storey building is part of an early 19th century terrace of former houses that are said to be named in honour of the Duke of Wellington, who visited Leamington Spa in 1827, 12 years after his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Waterloo.

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National Grid and WCG Support inclusive skills for young people

A partnership between a leading college group and National Grid is helping students get ahead by gaining valuable workplace experience and transferrable skills as it enters its fifth year.

Three students at WCG (formerly Warwickshire College Group) have started supported internships at the electricity and gas utility company’s Warwick office.

Over the course of the year-long supported internships the students will take up placements around the business and gain experience in a wide range of roles. The supported internships scheme at WCG is aimed at young people aged 17-to-25 who have learning difficulties and disabilities.

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Three in four West Midlands companies hit by supply chain disruption

Supply chain problems have caused disruption to nearly three-quarters of businesses in the West Midlands in the past 12 months. According to research carried out by risk management and insurance brokerage Gallagher, in the past year, businesses in the region experienced serious supply chain disruption six times on average. This directly led to a loss of income, with a third of companies taking the extreme step of temporarily shutting down elements of their business.

The vast majority of business leaders in the West Midlands (80%) expect supply chain issues to continue in 2022 – with 72% of bosses concerned about the potential negative impact they could have on their organisation. Businesses predict that COVID-19 legacy issues (54%), the Brexit fallout (28%), plus changes to regulations (19%) and labour issues (18%) will cause continued disruption.

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