THE METAVERSE EXPLAINED Published by
THE METAVERSE EXPLAINED Published by
There’s power in positive thinking and it’s a great philosophy to live by. Someone somewhere wrote on the internet that when we look at situations through a positive lens, we spot more good stuﬀ which in turn boosts our capabilities to deal with stress and improve our resilience.
We don’t know if this is science-based, but it’s always worked for us, so we’re happy to share our secret for eternal business success with you.
To kick start the New Year, and inspire and motivate us all, in this issue of Business & Innovation Magazine, we oﬀer stories of brave entrepreneurs, celebrate businesses delivering apprenticeships to close the UK’s skills gap, report on exciting health tech innovations which are already saving lives and driving economic growth, and showcase the best in manufacturing from one of our regular invitation-only visits to some of the country’s most successful manufacturers – this time to an aerospace business right at the top of its game.
We were also lucky to chat at length with two phenomenally successful business people. Both are applying their life experiences to making the world a better place to live.
Paddy Lowe is one of the most successful engineers that Formula 1 has ever seen. Now he’s turned his talents to sustainable ﬂight and the development of synthetic fuel (and he’s already bagged a Guinness World Record for his eﬀorts).
Brusk Korkmaz is investing millions
to help solve the UK’s construction skills crisis. His business supplies hundreds of skilled workers into the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects, and he’s planning to build new training facilities to teach more people construction skills of the future.
When you listen to people like this, the world of business seems simpler than some would have us believe.
Both men have identiﬁed a major problem either holding the UK back or slowing down our journey to net zero, and are throwing their experience and passion at solving it. They’ve also surrounded themselves with talented teams (because no-one can change
the world on their own) and refuse to be distracted in their objectives.
In every sector of business, there are people able to cut through the claptrap and we’re backing them.
In 2023, across our magazines you’ll hear much more from some of the region’s most and successful entrepreneurs, because inspiring stories motivate, encourage more of us to say: “we can do that”.
And if anything is going help the UK’s economy back on track, it’s that can-do, will-do spirit of adventure.
Happy New Year.Nicky Godding Print Editor Kirsty Muir Head of Print and Advertising
The world’s ﬁrst metaverse live streaming studio, a spectacular and sustainable alternative to ﬁreworks and a pioneering technique set to transform sensory products and experiences are among six technology trailblazers to be awarded a share of £1 million.
And start-ups from across the West of England will be the ﬁrst to beneﬁt from MyWorld funding, led by the University of Bristol to drive innovation in creative technology.
The successful bidders are drone show performance innovators Celestial Labs, sensory pioneers Zero Point Motion, event virtuosos Condense Reality, soft robot studio Air Giants, and metaverse ground breaker Awarri, all based in Bristol.
Condense Reality has developed the ﬁrst metaverse livestreaming studio.
Zero Point Motion’s sensing technology deploys photonics – the science of light waves – to achieve ultra-low noise tracking of motion. Its sensors can be more than
100 times more sensitive than those currently used in smartphones, cars and games consoles.
Air Giants, which creates giant robotic soft creatures, will explore new territory for large-scale tactile interaction between robots and people. It is working with the Bristol Interaction Group from the University of Bristol.
Richard Sewell, director at Air Giants, said: “Our project, Giant Tactile Robots, will allow us to extend our unique work with giant joyful robots. We’ll build new kinds of bodyscale touch-based interactions in a way that’s never been seen before, oﬀering audiences wonderful and emotionally eﬀective experiences.”
Awarri, founded by Silas Adekunle, is developing an avatar system that relies on 3D artists and uses Non-Fungible Token (NFT) technology to give users control over their representation and personal data in virtual worlds.
MyWorld is supported by £30 million of
funding from UK Research and Innovation. Partners include the BBC, Aardman Animations, BT, Digital Catapult, and Bristol Old Vic.
The programme, which could generate more than 700 new jobs and boost the regional economy by £223 million, aims to support collaborations between academic institutions and creative industries to develop technological innovation and creative excellence.
Other creative enterprises from across the region will have the chance to pitch for funding in the next R&D call, scheduled for this month – so get your bid in now.
“Our project, Giant Tactile Robots, will allow us to extend our unique work with giant joyful robots”Air Giants, one of the successful bidders of MyWorld funding
Cotswold Hills, the Royal Agricultural University’s award-winning wine social enterprise based in Gloucestershire, has become the ﬁrst UK vineyard to trial the use of ﬂat wine bottles.
A small run of its 2021 English white wine was bottled into sustainable eco-ﬂat bottles as part of a student-led project undertaken at the university looking at how the English wine industry can be more sustainable.
Hugo Sain-Ley-Berry-Gray, who is studying for a degree in Applied Farm Management, said: “Reducing weight and changing the material of our bottles is a step in the right direction to solve an existing problem.”
Packamama’s 100 per cent recycled PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate) eco-ﬂat wine bottles use low energy material feedstock, and the ﬂat shape allows double the number of bottles to ﬁt on a pallet.
A Worcester business has secured £250,000 to help furnish its new production facility.
Little Mixers creates fruit purees and syrups for use in cocktails, smoothies and desserts.
The funding, from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund provided by The FSE Group, which helps fund scale-up enterprises, and backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme, will help purchase machinery for a new production facility in Worcestershire.
Little Mixers is the ﬁrst UK manufacturer of fruit purees speciﬁcally for the drinks industry. Cocktails now account for 10 per cent of total venue drinks sales.
Co-founders Shaun Elder and Simon Little previously worked as agents for another manufacturer’s product but are now delighted to be producing their own branded purees.
Halfords is the latest big business to start wooing the over-50s and women back to work.
The Redditch motoring retailer has launched a recruitment drive for its autocentres business to meet a rapidly increasing demand for vehicle servicing, MOTs, maintenance and repairs.
The company, which is creating 1,000 new automotive technician roles over the next 12 months, wants to attract retirees back into the workforce and increase the number of women it employs in automotive technician roles.
According to government statistics, from May to July last year, there were
386,096 more economically inactive adults aged 50 to 64 years than before the pandemic, but nearly 760,000 want to work, and with more than one million unﬁlled job vacancies across the country, businesses need to go the extra mile to encourage people back to work.
Halfords is now the UK’s largest provider of motoring services with more than 600 garages and nearly 700 vans on the roads.
Simon said: “With the hospitality industry impacted so heavily by the pandemic, we re-evaluated our business model, identifying an opportunity to develop a premium, UK-manufactured product for this category. As such, despite our extensive experience and commercial success in the sector, we are eﬀectively starting a new business, meaning traditional lines of funding were not available to us.”
Little Mixers has direct relationships with fruit growers and aims to bring all manufacturing in-house to become the market leader for fruit purees that are allergen and gluten free, kosher and halal, and suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Halfords wants to encourage women and the over-50s back to work
They’re ﬂat, but that’s OK – you can pack more on a palletCotswolds Hills wine is ﬂat out Halfords wants to encourage women and the over-50s back to work
Bicester Heritage, part of the 444-acre Bicester Motion site in Oxfordshire, welcomed its 50th automotive specialist just before Christmas, bringing this area of the former RAF base – now a thriving ecosystem of classic car and automotive specialists – to capacity.
The latest four tenants are electric performance car manufacturer Polestar, NEOM McLaren Formula E, Zapp Electric Vehicles and Zero Petroleum (you can read our interview with founder Paddy Lowe in this issue). They join a line-up of businesses that includes vintage Bentley specialist Kingsbury Racing Shop, classic Porsche experts
Founded in 2013, Bicester Heritage is now a destination for historic motoring enthusiasts and businesses, a sector worth £18.8 billion per annum. Bicester Heritage, which includes Bicester Aerodrome Company, is one of four planned quarters on the site. The others are Innovation, which will oﬀer access to technology development and testing in new buildings, Experience - a family day-out destination where driver training and handling tracks are planned, and Wilderness – open park land for visitors oﬀering nature trails around a lake.
A Leamington-based beer brand is adorning the shelves of Waitrose after the upmarket supermarket agreed to stock its new lager.
Empress Ale’s craft beers are already stocked in restaurants across the country but the business has now added a lager to its range for the ﬁrst time, with the new creation snapped up by the supermarket chain for sale across the country.
Leamington entrepreneur Surj Virk set up Empress Ale in 2016 and has grown
it into a premium brand whose Pale Ale and IPA are stocked in hospitality venues across the country, including restaurants owned by top chefs Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton, as well as local venues in Leamington including The Terrace, Oscar’s French Bistro, Bedford Street Bar and Jomo.
The company has now created a Britishproduced Pilsner-style lager, which is gluten-free, organic and vegan. It is now available in 273 Waitrose stores in what is an emotional moment for Empress Ale’s
founder and managing director Surj.
He said: “Empress is hugely personal to me - it’s a British-made beer using old English recipes, but also gives a nod to my Indian heritage and some personal tributes to members of my family.”
Like many food and drink businesses, Empress faced difficult times during the Covid pandemic but grew year on year, securing investment from Grenville Turner, former chief executive of Countrywide PLC and former Zoopla board member.
Entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic development and recovery and a vital source of new jobs and incomes. We kick off 2023 by introducing you to some of the region’s most inspiring entrepreneursBy Nicky Godding, Editor
Does setting up your own business mean you’re an entrepreneur? Not necessarily.
The most widely accepted deﬁnition of an entrepreneur is “a person who makes money by starting or running businesses, especially when this involves taking ﬁnancial risks.”
So, if you’re an accountant, lawyer or ﬁnancial adviser your clients may feel distinctly uneasy if you describe yourself as one.
Not everyone starting or running a business has a brilliant new idea or wants to take risks. They may prefer to enter an existing
industry where they see an opportunity to use their skills and experience to seize market share proﬁtably. That’s not particularly entrepreneurial, but it is an important and valuable part of the UK’s economic activity.
So why is entrepreneurship important? Because while growing a business in an established sector is important, developing and bringing new ideas, products, services and production processes to market are key drivers of economic development and recovery, and a vital source of new jobs and incomes. Entrepreneurs create employment opportunities not only for themselves but for others as well.
Early-stage entrepreneurial activity is signiﬁcantly higher in the UK than in Germany or France, but we’re still not as entrepreneurial as the USA.
That’s according to the 2021 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK Report, which has been measuring the entrepreneurial activity across a wide range of countries since 1998.
In the UK in 2021, just under 29 per cent of working age individuals were either engaged in entrepreneurial activity or intended to start a business within the next three years – but that was an increase on 2020 and has been steadily increasing since 2018. But more recently the fear of failure has increased among would-be entrepreneurs, as has their perceived lack of skills.
What motivates someone to start a business? According to the GEM research, there were four broad reasons: to make a diﬀerence in the world; build great wealth or very high income; continue a family tradition and or earn a living because jobs were scarce.
New businesses drive new ideas, technologies and products and can deliver major social beneﬁts by making communities more dynamic and vibrant. Many entrepreneurs are helping to combat climate change by developing and commercialising solutions to global problems.
educational attainment. Men are more likely to start new businesses than women, younger people are more likely to do so than those who are older, and graduates are more likely to start a business than non-graduates.
And the report says measures to support under-represented groups could make a signiﬁcant contribution in increasing the level and variety of entrepreneurial activity, further boosting our economic recovery from the pandemic.
The UK also has the highest percentage of early stage entrepreneurial businesses and established ﬁrms in the high or medium tech sectors compared with other countries. Surprising, the USA has the lowest. This country also had the highest rate of exporters for entrepreneurial earlystage businesses and established ﬁrms.
known for its vacuum cleaners, the company is now a huge problem-solving, technology-led company which is present in more than 80 world markets.
Around half of Dyson’s global team are engineers and scientists, and its research interests span robotics, artiﬁcial intelligence, solid state battery development, material science and highspeed electric motors.
And he believes in training future engineers too.
In 2002 he established the James Dyson Foundation to challenge misconceptions about engineering and inspire more young people to pursue careers in engineering and science.
Who are the entrepreneurs? According to the GEM report, levels of entrepreneurial activity vary by gender, age and
Across the region, thousands of successful entrepreneurs are growing their businesses in every sector. Many have been inspired by Sir James Dyson –inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist – who has devoted his life to solving problems and developing products through inveseting in new technologies. While Dyson is probably most widely
In 2017, Sir James founded the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, based on the Dyson Campus in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. It is a new form of degree, in which school-leavers study while undertaking a full-time salaried role in Dyson’s engineering team.
And his most-quoted words of wisdom? “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You never learn from success.”
More men than women likely to be entrepreneurs (well that’s a surprise…)
“In 2017, Sir James founded the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, based on the Dyson Campus in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. It offers a new form of degree, in which schoolleavers study while undertaking a full-time salaried role in Dyson’s engineering team”Dyson’s research interests now include robotics as well as other technologies
Julian Dunkerton is the fashion industry’s comeback kid. In 2018, he left Superdry, the fashion brand he set up with co-founder James Holder in 2003, only to return in spectacular style the following year to rescue the company which was losing its way.
He promised tp reinvigorate the brand and return Superdry to be a design-led business and achieve its great potential.
While he was out of the business, he busied himself with his Lucky Onion Group which went on a buying spree of pubs, hotels and venues around his home town of Cheltenham, but the call of the rag trade was too much, especially when you see the brand you nurtured struggling.
It’s been a tough ride, but last October the company reported a return to proﬁtability, with group revenues of more than £609 million and proﬁts before tax of nearly £22 million. With the UK in recession and retailers in all sectors suﬀering, while this iconic brand isn’t out of the woods yet, Julian Dunkerton has done what few founding entrepreneurs have the courage to do: return to his roots and help his business ride the storm.
Sales are soaring at Chipping Sodbury online clothing brand Goose & Gander, which enjoyed sales growth of 119 per cent last year.
Goose & Gander is the brainchild of Olly White and his girlfriend Maz Hewish who set it up after leaving school nine years ago.
They make baggy T-shirts, sweatshirts, ﬂeeces and hoodies, and orders have shot up from 27,000 to 150,000 in the last four years as 18-24s increasingly look for comfortable unisex clothing.
The retailer was 13th (lucky for some) in the Lightning 50 – a list of the UK’s 25 leading ecommerce companies compiled by Bristol-based Brightpearl, a leading retail operating system. The ﬁrm was also crowned the fastestgrowing brand in the South West of England.
Olly, 28, is responsible for business strategy, running the website and
production at their Chipping Sodbury HQ. Maz, also 28, specialises in photoshoots and social media.
The couple rejected university to set up Goose & Gander. They started by selling T-shirts embroidered with their designs out of a small shop in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.
In 2016, after being featured on ASOS Marketplace, their Lino T-shirt began generating attention.
They moved to their current 5,300 sq ft workplace in Chipping Sodbury where they have industrial embroidery machines, printing equipment, sewing machines and stock.
They have since acquired 10,000 sq ft of industrial space to help their growth.
The brand’s unisex collections are sold exclusively on Gooseandganderltd.com because Olly and Maz want to keep it exclusive.
Around 34 per cent of UK households own a dog, a rise on previous years probably because with more of us at home through the pandemic, man’s best friend could provide comfort and companionship.
But as we all return to work, the practicality of feeding your dog responsibly becomes more complicated.
Enter Caboodle, a new all-inclusive daily dog food box. It includes wet and dry food, treats and a chew all portioned for your dog’s size, wrapped in sustainable packaging, ready to grab and go.
The brains behind the brand are Gillian Quek, co-founder of The Dog House Trading Company, Karen Hanton, cofounder of PetsPyjamas, the dog-friendly travel company and Simon Arkwright a consumer innovation expert.
Gillian spent 20 years owning and running an exclusive training school for dogs in West Wales. One of her clients was Michel Roux Snr (who sadly passed away in 2020). He helped her create snack ranges for dogs: Random Rewards and Sleepy
Snacks which are now sold online and through around 200 upmarket retailers across the UK. They caught the eye of Karen, a tech entrepreneur who founded Top Table, the restaurant reservation app (which she sold in 2010 for around $55 million to competitor Open Table).
Karen went on to launch PetsPyjamas and invited Gillian to supply her range to guests arriving with dogs at their holiday accommodation.
It was easy to adapt the concept commercially to meet the needs of the growing dog-owner sector and the business is now based near Cirencester.
“We are not just creating a new dog food concept,” said Gillian. “Caboodle is looking at the practicality of how lifestyle shifts –where dogs are very much by our sides throughout the day – have changed the ways we feed our dogs. Nutritionally we are right up there, (scoring up to 93 per cent on the independent website All About Dog Food). We source our food from the UK, where we can better control quality. The only exception to this is the healthy
dental chew which we currently have to source from Germany because we can’t ﬁnd a similar quality natural product here.”
Sustainability is also a priority. Gillian says that 99 per cent of all Caboodle packaging is fully recyclable for the circular economy, and she’s working on the ﬁnal one per cent with her manufacturers.
The business has been self-funded to date, but as Caboodle grows and springboards oﬀ its partnerships with several established businesses including PetsPyjamas, ManyPets and Paw Squad, a 24/7 veterinary support line, it is now looking for expansion capital.
Caboodle is now rolling out its oﬀering to pet-friendly hospitality, convenience retail and pet-friendly workplaces.
“We source our food from the UK where we can better control quality”
Why would a former bio scientist who worked for NASA set up a laundry industry? Washing other people’s bedsheets, towels and smalls isn’t a very alluring business.
That’s why it’s ripe for innovation, according to Kyle Grant who set up Oxford-based sustainable laundry Oxwash in 2018.
“One of my mentors said his biggest impact was in the pensions industry,” said Kyle. “You might not tell someone you were dating you worked in pensions, but in sectors such as these, which may not have undergone innovation for years, you can have a massive impact.”
Kyle set up Oxwash while completing a PhD at Oxford University. He regularly had to deal with broken washing machines in his college laundry, and having an entrepreneurial frame of mind, he decided that solving his short-term problem could present a bigger business opportunity.
Kyle’s ambition is to eradicate the
impact of washing on the world's ecosystems.
He is completely re-engineering the laundry process, aiming to achieve clinical-grade hygiene and net zero carbon emissions for the whole washing process, from collection, through washing and to delivery.
Oxwash built its ﬁrst lagoon in Osney Mead, central Oxford. The technology concentrated on reclaiming water from the wash cycle and ﬁltering microﬁbres.
Kyle explained: “We looked at technologies which allowed us to wash cold and still get an awardwinning result. We use ozone to achieve that – deodorising and disinfecting the laundry at the same time, and we are trialling other processes.”
Last August, Oxwash raised £10 million in funding, making its total raise to date £15.7 million. The cash will help the company build a washing facility to cater for clients across the UK and expand into the USA.
Sarah Jordan never set out to be an entrepreneur. But on a volunteering trip to Uganda in 2016 she encountered Period Poverty – girls forced to miss school because they were menstruating and had no access to sanitary products or underwear.
“I was shocked at the number of women and children I met who didn’t have access to something we take for granted every day – underwear,” she recalls.
When she returned home to Oxford she decided to launch a business selling underwear on a buy-one-give-two model. Her aim is to have donated 23,000 pairs of underwear by 2023.
Y.O.U Underwear is a sustainable fashion brand that operates in an ethical, kind and sustainable way and has a positive social and environmental impact, using proﬁts from the business to donate underwear and give back to women and girls across the world.
Y.O.U Underwear is Fairtrade, PETAapproved vegan, and made from 100 per cent certiﬁed organic cotton.
In 2022 the company became the UK’s top-scoring B Corp cementing its sustainable commitments.Sarah Jordan
Last October, leading marketplace “super-seller”, Boulevard, said it had successfully accelerated growth by an impressive 180 per cent over the last 12 months, after investing £3 million in further development of its unique technology platform, Eiger.
It was all a long way from 33-yearold founder Dominic Portman’s ﬁrst commercial venture, selling fancy dress outﬁts as a university side-hustle.
By 2019 Fancy Dress Worldwide was a £3.4 million turnover business, selling through online marketplaces via Eiger.
Why did he focus on his technology platform? “Some retailers struggled to go online because they had legacy systems. I thought our software could work on a just-in-time warehouse stocking solution.”
While Covid did for his fancy dress business (parties were cancelled for two years), he focused on his Eiger platform.
Worcester-based Boulevard now partners with more than 200 brands across 17 diﬀerent categories to UK consumers across online marketplaces such as Amazon and OnBuy.
It’s now a global success story, but Gymshark was another brand launched while its founder was at university.
In 2012, ﬁtness fanatic Ben Francis ( who celebrated his 30th birthday last year) started making and selling gymwear with university friends. They felt there was no sportswear which reﬂected their personalities, so they did it themselves, spending hours on a sewing machine and screen printer.
And boy did they hit a rich seam of demand. As a teenager, Ben had built websites (his ﬁrst fully functioning
website sold licence plates), moving on to developing ﬁtness apps. So Gymshark’s website was born. Sending their products to YouTube ﬁtness stars they admired, they quickly learned the beneﬁts of online inﬂuencer marketing, which remains their fundamental marketing strategy today.
In three years, Gymshark was achieving a turnover of £4 million. Within less than a decade it was turning over more than £437 million. Despite his phenomenal success, Ben is as ambitious as ever.
“I want Gymshark to be a global iconic brand,” he said.
Dr Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins are co-founders of Bromsgrove-based Aceleron, an award-winning clean technology company.
They started the business after dismantling and testing hundreds of battery packs and realised that batteries are not designed to be maintained.
So they designed a battery pack built with sustainability in mind. They are now making what they claim are the world’s most sustainable lithium battery packs which are serviceable, upgradable and recyclable.
Amrit holds a PhD in Fuel Cell Technology and previously worked in the low carbon vehicle space. Carlton began his career in solar technology, coordinating more than 100 installations in the Caribbean before moving to the UK to pursue a Master’s in Business and Sustainability.Ben Francis
Irish and Gloucester Rugby player, sporting hero portrait artist, cage ﬁghter (yes really), now podcasting entrepreneur, Shane Monahan has enjoyed a diverse career.
But podcasting is where he sees his future, after his father Peter was put oﬀ doing a podcast to support a voluntary campaign in Ireland a few years ago by the complexity, time commitment and expense of it all.
Shane has now launched Limor, a social audio app which helps new and experienced podcasters create audio content in minutes.
It allows them to share their audio instantly on a new platform to engage directly with their listeners via an innovative voice comments section.
What Limor also oﬀers is the capability to measure and manage podcast content with its unique analytics.
It’s all very diﬀerent from the early
podcasting entrepreneurs, who recorded using expensive equipment with no central platform to share their content.
“People shouldn’t be put oﬀ recording podcasts by the cost of the kit they’re told they need,” said Shane.
“What if I could make it easier for people to record their own professional podcasts? I began to dive into the industry and saw a massive opportunity.”
But developing software is a costly operation. “I was a bit naïve on the cost of the platform I wanted to build – my feeling was “go big or go home”. I’ve since been on a hell of a learning journey.”
The biggest obstacle was to remove all the expensive equipment which most people say is needed to record professional podcasts.
Another obstacle for listeners is ﬁnding
podcasts, but Shane’s solved that through building a centralised platform along the lines of Instagram or Twitter.
“We live in the era of social media yet podcasting is not social,” said Shane.
“Limor users can talk directly with podcast creators with voice comments. This is where the term social audio comes from.”
Having a platform solved another problem, providing podcasting analytics, which then solved the problem of monetisation.
Currently podcasting monetisation is built on advertising revenue, Limor will provide analytics and also aims to introduce multiple audio monetisation features.
“Statistics on podcasts show that they are the most powerful form of marketing that a content creator and business can possible do,” said Shane. “People just don’t realise it yet.”
Tumelo was established by Will Goodwin, Georgia Stewart and Benjamin King who campaigned for the sustainable investment of their university’s £6 billion fund.
They recognised a global problem: millions of ordinary people contribute to the investment system through ISAs, workplace pensions and other investments. Yet most have no visibility over where their money is going and no voice at the many companies they own through their investments. The result? A society that is disengaged and an investment system that is failing to address critical social, environmental and governance challenges.
Tumelo, now based in Bristol, was founded to change this. Its software shows investors the companies they
own and empowers them to engage on issues they care about. In doing so, the company helps investment
ﬁrms connect with customers so they can better serve people and protect the planet.
Victoria Forrest designs groundbreaking multimedia publications, designed to bridge the gap between traditional book arts and creative technologies. She is also a 2022-23 InnovateUK “Women in Innovation” award-winner.
Over the last 15 years, Victoria has designed books for world-renowned artists, master photographers, publishing houses, museums, galleries, charities and corporate clients. Her book design and publishing company, VIKA Books, is based in Bristol.
VIKA's most recent innovation is an augmented reality (AR) book called “Where is the Bird?” It is designed to inspire a new generation of children, deaf and hearing, to play in British Sign Language. Last October VIKA received the prestigious Design and Art Direction Impact Funding to expand her AR buggy books to a new publication “Where are the Fish?”.
Gordon Sanghera is co-founder of Oxford Nanopore with Spike Willcocks and Hagan Bayley. Appointed CEO in 2005 he has since led the company through multiple ﬁnance rounds, and in 2021, a listing on the London Stock Exchange. The company has developed a new generation of nanopore-based sensing technology. They are the ﬁrst to enable the real-time, high-performance, accessible and scalable analysis of DNA and RNA.
Gordon’s career has been spent coupling biology with technology. He joined Oxford University spin-out company, Medisense in Witney, in the 1980s rising to Head of Research. The company ﬂoated on the Nasdaq
Both books work with a smartphone app that brings magic illustrations to life. Animations jump out of the page and deaf presenters, children from Elmﬁeld School for Deaf Children, demonstrate the accompanying British Sign Language sign.
“British Sign Language is a language for everybody,” said Victoria. “It allows deaf and hearing children to communicate
freely without speech. It’s also valuable for hearing parents communicating with pre-verbal toddlers. Any parent will be familiar with the terrible twos, a time when children have complex thoughts that are far more advanced than their ability to express them. Using British Sign Language reduces frustration in hearing children and increases awareness of deaf language and culture in the hearing community.”
He tapped up Oxford University contacts and met Spike Willcocks, a PhD graduate who translated academic science into something investors would understand. Gordon and Spike trawled through a list of projects – one was to become Oxford Nanopore. “With my bioelectronics background, I could see similarities between that and the way we manufactured the Medisense platform,” said Gordon.
From the outset, Gordon wanted to establish high-volume manufacturing.
“We knew we had a fantastic product, which could be deployed in a number of ways.” The company settled on DNA sequencing, which oﬀered the widest range of commercial opportunities.
in 1994 and was bought by Abbott Laboratories for around $900 million in 1996. Having spent ﬁve years with Abbott in the USA he hankered for one more big adventure – to apply everything he’d learned and build a UK company with global potential.
Oxford Nanopore now employs about 900 employees excelling in disciplines such as nanopore science, molecular biology and applications, informatics, engineering, electronics and manufacturing.
A new electric vehicle home charging manufacturer has set up business near Cirencester.
Simpson & Partners, a family-run technology business, has been launched by the original co-founders of Andersen EV, Mandy and David Simpson, after leaving the company in 2020.
The South West’s largest Dobbies garden centre was opened in Tewkesbury by broadcaster Jo Whiley just in time for 2022’s Christmas shoppers.
At 70,000 sq ft, the new store is among the brand’s largest, and is expected to serve more than 750,000 customers every year, creating approximately 100 jobs.
Dobbies is now the UK’s leading garden centre retailer with 75 centres nationwide.
The new store is the ﬁrst phase of a major development being brought together by Gloucestershire developer Robert Hitchins, which also includes the forthcoming Cotswolds Designer Outlet, expected to
open in 2024, and 1,310 homes being built to the south of the site.
Last year Robert Hitchins appointed specialist outlet asset manager Realm to pre-let the 90-unit design outlet scheme and operate it when it opens.
Realm also operates Resorts World Birmingham and the London Designer Outlet at Wembley, among other destinations.
While a recession is a tough time to open new retail destinations, over the years outlet centres have been seen to perform well compared to the traditional retail market.
The brand’s ﬁrst products, The Home Series, are wall boxes that are smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and engineered using highquality materials.
All the chargers are designed and manufactured from a new 5,000 sq m facility between Malmesbury and Kemble.
The Home Series is compatible with all hybrid and electric vehicles and can be controlled using a mobile app, which connects to the charger whether the internet is available or not.
Dunkerton Park, the fast-growing upmarket food and drink destination near Cheltenham, welcomed two more artisan food businesses when La Boulangerie Artisan and Waghornes Butchers opened their doors to customers.
They are the latest businesses to join the roster at this growing food/retail
destination, alongside Dunkerton’s Cider, a range of street food vendors and Jade Dunkerton’s Holland Cooper Boutique.
Park owner Julian Dunkerton, who is also CEO of global fashion retailer Superdry, said that there is more scope for expansion on the site, a former industrial estate, when the time is right.
A partnership between family business
Highﬁeld Garden World in Whitminster and Severn Wye Energy has seen the garden centre able to generate half the electricity it uses from solar power alone.
Highﬁeld Garden World is one of the largest independent garden centres in the county and welcomes approximately 20,000 visitors a week. The team worked with the award-winning sustainability charity to understand the opportunity presented by its vast roof space and hilltop setting. Highﬁeld then employed 2020 Solar PV from Worcestershire to project manage the entire solar panel installation, which has so far run to 875 solar panels.
Highﬁeld Garden World Director, Tim Armstrong, said: “We have been impressed by how much help there is locally for businesses wanting to consider a greener future and encourage others to investigate it for themselves.
“We use around 600,000 KVA (kilo volt amperes) a year. With the energy market as it is, we fast tracked our planned solar panel project to minimise our dependence on the national grid as quickly as we could. Looking at the average sunshine hours in a year, our
roof space is projected to generate around half of our total electricity requirement. That’s a signiﬁcant saving, and it’s the equivalent of planting 3,123 trees, so good news for the environment too.”
Property development company Markey Group, based at Hardwicke, near Gloucester, has also committed to solar, investing £700,000 in a megawatt solar PV system and electrical upgrade.
Generating 75,797 kWh of green electricity last September alone, the solar PV system has had a dramatic and immediate reduction on the carbon footprint of the group.
Over the course of a year, the green energy system will provide more than a third of its total electricity requirement.
Paul Markey, Group Managing Director, said: “Producing our own clean green electricity has provided us with a huge leap forward
in our bid to reduce our impact on the environment.”
The system is consistently providing more electricity than is required by the building and the machinery used by Markey Group’s on-site kitchen manufacturing business, Premiere Kitchens. As a result, kitchens are now leaving the Premiere factory having been largely constructed using renewable electricity.
Two-thirds of the electricity generated by the system will be used on-site helping the Markey Group avoid more than 178 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The remaining third will be sold to Wiltshire-based Good Energy, the decentralised renewable energy specialist and retailer.
Gloucestershire-based solar PV company Mypower installed 2,439 solar panels using the solar mounting systems from Cheltenham-based Sunﬁxings. The onsite electrical upgrade required to integrate the solar PV system into the building was carried out by Gloucester-based JEC Electrical using a bespoke switchgear supplied by Cheltenham-based Sub-Distribution.
The Western Gateway Partnership’s bid to bring the UK’s fusion energy STEP programme to Severn Edge may have been unsuccessful, but there is still hope for the future.
While the government announced late last year that the UK’s ﬁrst fusion plant will be built in Nottinghamshire, Rolls-Royce revealed that its Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design, which uses established nuclear technology to build low cost, scalable plants, has prioritised four Nuclear Decomissioning Authority (NDA) sites for 15 gigawatts of new nuclear power. And one of them is Oldbury on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.
Berkeley in Gloucestershire could also undergo further investigation by RollsRoyce SMR to assess its potential.
Any formal commitment of NDA land would require government approval via the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway Partnership, said: “It is great to see both of our Severn Edge sites, Oldbury and Berkeley being considered as part of the Rolls-Royce SMR programme.
“We are conﬁdent that both Oldbury and Berkeley can provide unique access to a highly-skilled workforce, supportive community and a chance to level up areas of England and Wales.
“This is part of the wider work the Western Gateway is doing to promote the area as a centre for low carbon energy to help drive national eﬀorts to reach net zero.”
Rolls-Royce SMR hopes it can have sites operational by the early 2030s.
Each Rolls-Royce SMR would create enough clean energy to power a million homes for 60 years.
Tom Samson, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce SMR, said: “Identifying the sites that can host our SMRs is a key step to our efficient deployment – the sooner that work can begin at site, the sooner we can deliver stable, secure supplies of low-carbon nuclear power from SMRs designed and built in the UK.”
“SMRs could make an important contribution to our ambition to deploy up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050, lowering energy costs for consumers, and helping us meet net zero.”
Electric vehicle subscription business Voltric has announced its next seed fundraiser following an initial investment round this year.
The fast-growth start-up is seeking to increase electric vehicle driving through hassle-free, cost-eﬀective tech-enabled solutions.
Chief Executive Julian Mensah and Chief Operating Oﬃcer
Brent Oldﬁeld founded Voltric in Bristol in 2019 and joined tech support hub SETsquared Bristol last January to help scale the company.
Voltric has already secured signiﬁcant pre-seed investment from a syndicate of eight business angels including lead investor and ﬁntech entrepreneur Eamon Tuhami.
The company is now working with automotive manufacturers MG UK, Kia UK, Fiat, Tesla and Mercedes among others. Additional dealer partners include Fish Brothers, Richmond Motor Group and DSG Morecambe and the company continues to scale up its mobility oﬀering, creating a true MaaS (mobility-as-a-service) platform.
Julian Mensah said: “We provide a subscription service for electric vehicles. Users pay one monthly fee that covers an electric car hire, insurance, road tax, breakdown cover, maintenance and repair.
“They get an electric car from one month up to 12 months’ commitment with minimal hassle compared to standard leasing agreements.”
A Bristol bottling and warehousing facility has been sold by global wine and spirits company Accolade Wines, to glass container manufacturer Encirc360.
As well as manufacturing glass containers, Encirc (part of the Spanish glass bottle and packaging business Vidrala) oﬀers services throughout the supply chain, including ﬁlling facilities, warehousing and logistics.
The Park, based at Avonmouth, used to bottle and store solely Accolade wines,
but in 2020 it became a contract packer for any business in the drinks industry. Accolade Wines will have a 10-year contract bottling and distribution agreement with Encirc to ensure ongoing support for its ﬂagship beverage brands.
The Park is capable of producing the equivalent of more than 30 million, ninelitre cases of wine a year. The facility is currently zero waste and carbon neutral, with the installation of wind turbines in 2019 contributing to the use of 100 per cent renewable electricity.
The move will enable Encirc to provide an efficient, sustainable supply chain service across the UK beverage market.
Accolade Wines Chief Executive Officer, Robert Foye, said the decision to divest The Park facility and enter a long-term bottling and distribution agreement with Encirc would support the company’s growth in key markets, including the UK and Europe.
As part of the transaction, approximately 400 employees at The Park have transferred to Encirc.
Leading cloud commerce marketplace, Pax8 has opened a new office at tech hub The Distillery in Bristol, after revealing growth of 800 per cent in the year.
Remember The Little Chef restaurants on an A road near you? Most of them closed a few years ago, but now Loungers, the Bristol-based nationwide operator of all-day café-bars and restaurants under the Lounge and Cosy Club brands, is resurrecting the idea by launching a new roadside restaurant brand, Brightside.
Loungers has acquired four sites with the ﬁrst set to open on the A38, south of Exeter.
The company has ambitious plans to roll out Brightside across the UK predominantly on A-roads in a sector increasingly dominated by drive-through and QSR (quick service restaurant) concepts in recent years.
Brightside will oﬀer classic, comfort foodstyle dishes – including a brunch menu,
burgers, pizzas, and kids’ menu – in “nostalgic” surroundings.
Alex Reilley, Founder Chairman of Loungers, said: “We’ve had the itch for a while to create a roadside restaurant concept that’s ﬁt-for-purpose in the 21st century. For many people, the highlight of childhood road trips in days gone by was a stop at the likes of Little Chef. We believe there is a gap in the market for a fresh concept for customers to take a proper break and enjoy wholesome food and hospitality, in a landscape that is currently dominated by drive-thru and QSR formats.”
Loungers currently operates 175 Lounges and 35 Cosy Club venues around the UK. The Group recently announced it was targeting 30 new Lounge openings in the current ﬁnancial year and between 32 and 34 on an ongoing basis.
Pax8 simpliﬁes the way organisations buy, sell, and manage cloud solutions. Its consolidated billing, automated provisioning, and PSA integrations aim to modernise the channel’s cloud journey.
Last year, Pax8 raised $185 million in new equity capital from investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2, which increased the company’s valuation to a hefty $1.7 billion. Pax8’s number of partners is now close to 3,500, after globally cloud-enabling more than 350,000 businesses with its marketplace, education, support, and solutions. The company won the “Distributor of the Year” and “Biggest Impact New Partner” at the 2022 Network Group Exhibition and Gala Awards and has now celebrated more than 55 award wins.
An Oxford-based cycle courier business is working with city traders to oﬀer a zerocarbon delivery service for customers shopping locally.
Shoppers can buy from a range of Oxford businesses either in person, or online and have their purchases delivered by Velocity’s ﬂeet of e-cargo bikes, trikes and electric vans.
The ‘Buy by Bike’ service oﬀers home delivery or gift delivery, within the ring road from an expanding list of local traders.
The company was only launched in March 2022 by Will Pepper and Jake Swinhoe.
Jake said: “Oxford can be a nightmare in
a car, and for local traders delivering from one end of the city to the other, bikes are the perfect option for speed, and to help reduce traffic on our already clogged roads. There are so many amazing smaller
independent traders in Oxford, and we are aiming to make home delivery easier for them, and their customers. Shoppers can get their stuﬀ quickly and easily and know that delivery is zero carbon.”
The Oxford Science Park, one of Europe’s leading locations for science and technology companies, has submitted a detailed planning application for a new laboratory and office building. The new building, which will comprise more than 75,000 sq ft of laboratory and office facilities over four storeys, is expected to be completed at the beginning of 2025.
According to property consultancy Bidwells, Oxford saw an acceleration in the critical mass of life science and technology companies since the pandemic, accounting for 73 per cent of take-up over the past 18 months. Lab requirements reached a record of nearly 0.9m sq ft, but with less than 20,000 sq ft available, rents have risen rapidly and further uplifts are forecast.
Rory Maw, CEO of The Oxford Science Park, said: “With demand for research and development space in Oxford showing no signs of abating, we are stepping up our own investment to provide the supporting infrastructure for growing companies. The submission of the detailed planning application for Plot 27 follows rapidly after three buildings on Plots 23-25.”
Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford PV), which has set multiple world records for the amount of solar energy that can be converted into electricity by a single solar cell, has won a top award at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) E&T Innovation Awards.
The Instutition of Engineering and Technology conferred the Most Cutting Edge Solution in Power and Energy on Oxford PV, which has developed technology to put a thin layer of its unique perovskite solar absorber material on top of standard silicon solar cells to convert signiﬁcantly more of the sun’s energy into electricity.
The resulting “tandem” solar cells are incorporated into conventional solar panels to generate more power and can reduce the cost of solar energy.
Oxford PV CEO Frank Averdung said: “This award is a recognition of the signiﬁcant role that Oxford PV’s cutting-edge solar cells can play in the global renewables transition. We are incredibly proud of our team for developing the technology over the years, and we look forward to bringing our product to market.”
The company was established in 2010 as a spin-out from the University of Oxford. It now has a large global team focused on developing and commercialising its perovskite-based solar technology and is building the world’s ﬁrst volume manufacturing line for perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells in Germany, which will open later this year.
Last year Oxford PV was also named a 2022 Global Cleantech 100 company.
Multi-national drinks company Diageo has made a minority investment in The Oxford Artisan Distillery through Distill Ventures, an independent drinks accelerator which builds and scales drinks brands of the future.
The distillery will now further develop and scale its grain crops whisky production, working with populations of heritage seeds and English farmers in a form of agriculture that sequesters signiﬁcant amounts of carbon and rebuilds soil health.
Oxford Artisan Distillery’s CEO, Dave Smith, said: “Over the last few years we have seen the industry take major steps towards addressing the climate crisis, but we have a responsibility to do more in tackling sustainable farming and grain production.
“With Diageo and Distill Ventures’ support, we believe we can use whisky to further a revolution in the ﬁeld. We have been blown away by their belief in our mission and could not be happier to continue our journey with them.”
The Abingdon-based real estate business Barkby Group has renewed its focus on building and scaling a substantial portfolio of modern, roadside real estate investments.
Barkby Group revealed that construction is progressing well at its commercial schemes at Wellingborough and Maldon, with Wellingborough scheduled to complete construction imminently.
The company will retain the development as an investment. The total contracted rent is £234,000 per annum with tenants including Greggs, Formula One Autocentres, City Plumbing Supplies and C Brewers & Sons.
Maldon is scheduled to complete construction by April, with a total expected rent of £268,000 per annum. Here tenants include Costa Coﬀee, Formula One Autocentres and Toolstation with the remaining unit under oﬀer.
A revised planning application has also
been submitted for a 27,000 sq ft scheme at Swindon, and a decision is expected either this month or next. The scheme will be anchored by a national drivethrough operator with trade and industrial occupiers taking the remainder of the site.
The company said: “Given downward valuation pressure in the commercial property market over the last six months we are seeing high quality assets, at attractive valuations, becoming available with a lot less competition to acquire.
“We are seeing a signiﬁcant opportunity to scale our pipeline, and are in negotiations on a number of new roadside developments and investments. We are targeting increasing our ongoing pipeline to £200 million.”
Before Christmas, the company announced that it had acquired the leasehold of the Eliot Arms at South Cerney, near Cirencester, which recently underwent a half million-pound makeover by Wiltshire brewery Arkell’s.
Solar company is shining light as it wins another award
Local artist Andrew Manson, better known as Mani, had help from schoolchildren at St Swithun’s CofE Primary School for a mural to celebrate the opening of Europe’s most powerful electric vehicle-charging hub at Redbridge Park & Ride. The hub is part of Energy Superhub Oxford, a four-year project designed to help Oxford reach net zero by 2040.
The pupils designed and built their own electricity pylons out of willow, with help from Mani and Sandy Kelly, a graduate engineer from EDF Renewables UK, the lead partner on Energy Superhub Oxford.
The winning team’s design, a turtle-dragon inspired pylon, has been incorporated into the mural and can be seen alongside the new EV charging hub.
The mural is one of the largest outdoor art projects in the city and took Mani a week to paint. It was commissioned by Oxford City Council and EDF Renewables.
Energy Superhub Oxford is a world-leading urban decarbonisation project pioneering an integrated approach to decarbonising power, transport and heat. The mural showcases each aspect of the project – including the ground source heat pump installations at Blackbird Leys, the giant battery at Cowley substation, charging hub at Redbridge Park & Ride and the electriﬁcation of more than 40 of Oxford Direct Services vehicle ﬂeet – and provides a vision for a net zero Oxford. QR codes throughout the mural provide more information on the design.
Bar operator Revolution has acquired Oxfordshire-based gastropub chain the Peach Pub Company for £16.5 million.
Manchester-based Revolution, which operates 69 bars across the UK, said the acquisition, late last year of 21 premium food-led pubs would complement its city centre bars and restaurants.
Rob Pitcher, CEO of Revolution Bars Group said: “Peach is a quality business with great pubs, oﬀering a premium experience. It has rebounded strongly from the dark days of the pandemic.”
Peach was launched in 2002, when the founders Lee Cash, Hamish Stoddart, Victoria Moon and Jo Eames opened The Rose & Crown in Warwick. Lee was general manager of Le Petit Blanc in Birmingham, Hamish had just sold his 100-year-old family business (food wholesalers Cearns & Brown) and was living in Provence. Jo was a property lawyer and Victoria led the marketing at Le Petit Blanc.
The Little Car Company, which manufactures limited-edition hand built electric scaled cars, has launched a Series B funding round, following a rapid expansion of the business to meet surging global demand for its vehicles.
Since launching in March 2019, the luxury brand has experienced increasing momentum, producing more than 200 authentic scale electric cars in partnership with car manufacturers such as Bugatti, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Each car is hand built at the company’s Bicester headquarters, using around 95 per cent British sourced components.
Responding to unprecedented international demand for its scaled electric cars, The Little Car Company has acquired a neighbouring manufacturing facility at Bicester Heritage to treble production capacity, alongside dramatically expanding the workforce. The Series B funding will allow the business to grow even further, both in
personnel and manufacturing space. Currently, the luxury brand’s main 10,000 sq ft headquarters allows for a maximum weekly output of up to ﬁve cars, but the 10,000 sq ft manufacturing facility addition allows The Little Car Company to treble that number in the next twelve months.
Ben Hedley, CEO of The Little Car Company, said: “We’ve got some incredibly exciting projects coming up which we can’t wait to share.”
In February 2023, Severn Arts and The Arches Worcester Festivals team will deliver the fourth Light Night for Worcester.
Over the past three years they have delivered three wonderful Light Night festivals; each one a unique celebration and presentation of high quality, interactive experiences that have delighted and engaged audiences from all over the city, county and beyond.
The team have built a loyal following and attracted acclaim nationally and internationally for their work, demonstrating the impact light festivals can have on a city’s economy and civic pride. There is now a chance for Worcestershire businesses to be a part of this 2023 Light Night festival to support the growth of the event, the local economy and promote their business. For information on getting involved and sponsoring Light Night 2023 download our sponsorship brochure www.severnarts.org.uk/2023sponsorship-opportunities
Taking 5 away from your desk is proven to increase productivity. If it’s all getting too much, or even to give yourself some creative space, there are times when escaping work is needed.
Whether it’s some quiet time before work, a break or lunch our out of the office or some after work chill time, in Worcester city centre, there are businesses who oﬀer the ideal spot to escape the stresses of life and the workplace.
The Zen Shed in New Street has a full programme of yoga and meditation classes of all styles and levels to calm the
mind and body after or during a hectic day. Choose from a full programme of diﬀerent yoga styles taking place either in the city centre studios or online. Blow out the cobwebs and stress vibes and set yourself up for the rest of the day with an early morning or lunch-hour work out at Fitness4Less in Cathedral Square. Lift some weights or book a bike in a spin class and pedal away from the outside world for a short while.
Time out for brunch should be on every chill-out prescription. Head to Good Roots café in the Royal Porcelain Works for coﬀee your favourite way with pastries.
Hash in Crowngate serves up brunch and lunch all ways – sit, eat, drink, relax. Lift your mood with the ultimate sugar hit from Izzy’s Ices and Donuts’ new location in Worcester High Street.
Whilst you are living or working in the area, Worcestershire has a fantastic array of leisure attractions and picturesque destinations to allow you to spend your free time in the county. Worcestershire oﬀers rolling hills, glorious green space, awardwinning family attractions, and over a thousand years of history. So make Worcestershire part of your story.
Wyre Forest - Worcestershire’s Wyre Forest is alive with energy and nature. There is even a Go Ape! course for all thrill seekers!
Wayland’s Yard - The ideal brunch spot in the heart of Worcester city. The Malvern Hills - Ahhh fresh air and pure beauty. Enjoy a hike up the Malverns.
Worcester Theatres - See the latest touring shows right here in Worcestershire.
Broadway - A historic chocolate box village on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Witley Court & Gardens - Once used to host the most lavish historic parties now a spectacular day out.
Attwell Farm Park - A fantastic and educational way to enjoy a family fun-ﬁlled day. Meet your favourite farm animals.
Habberley Trail - Outdoor nature and adventure trail located near Kidderminster.
The Valley - Shop until you drop at The Valley with discounted designer outlets.
The Fleece Inn - A traditional, cosy village pub operated by the National Trust. Perfect for a roast.
Find out more about what Worcestershire has to o er. - www.visitworcestershire.org
Following COP27 in Egypt in November 2022, Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.
At local level, Worcester BID member business Harrison Clark Rickerbys (HCR) has committed to remove carbon from their operations and activities to reach a net-zero position by 2040. Working with local Worcestershire consultants, Go Green Experts, the ﬁrm has audited its emissions and outlined the steps it will take to reach its ambitious carbon reduction plan.
Philip Parkinson, HCR Partner said: “We recognise that our social responsibility extends to doing all we can to reduce our impact on the climate and protect the environment. Since commissioning the report we’ve made signiﬁcant improvements but there is much work still to do. We’ll be working collaboratively with suppliers, employees, clients and stakeholders to make a di erence to the communities we work and live in.”
Dominic Lavelle, Managing Director at Go Green Experts said: “I’d like to congratulate HCR for setting their ambitious Net Zero target and committing to a robust plan to reduce their carbon
emissions over time. We have worked closely with HCR over the past year – the seriousness and rigour with which they are taking on this challenge will set them in good stead as they look to transform their business activities over the coming years.”
New Year resolutions - In the workplace or at home, these resolutions will help you go greener in 2023.
• Limit food waste - Make a meal (or several) with leftovers or share any unused food with friends or foodbanks. Free up space in your freezer for any leftovers that won’t keep otherwise. And compost any food waste, like peelings, rather than bin them.
• Reduce and Recycle - Recycle electricals and mobile phones, don’t just leave them in the cupboard. They contain valuable metals that can be used again. If you are having a New Year sort out, take clothes, books and miscellaneous items to a charity shop, and recycle all your batteries.
• Shop Local - Sourcing local produce is not only more sustainable but it supports your local community.
For information on Net Zero visit www.gogreenexperts.co.uk or www.sciencebasedtargets.org
and to learn more about HCR visit www.hcrlaw.com
Seven early-stage businesses taking part in a Worcestershire technology accelerator, recently named best in the UK, showcased their innovations in front of an audience of development partners, customers and investors at a special event at Yamazaki Mazak UK.
The event, which is organised by the county’s technology accelerator BetaDen, is the culmination of nine months’ work for Cohort 5.0 on the programme and took place faceto-face for the ﬁrst time since Covid-19 drove the popular accelerator online in early 2020.
Donston Powell, communications manager at BetaDen, said: “We were really excited for the return of the inperson showcase, which provided an invaluable opportunity for founders to demonstrate their work and secure the customers, investors and development partners they need to support the next phase of their development. The seven companies who took part in this evening’s showcase are developing game-changing technologies here in the heart of Worcestershire, with several already receiving regional and national award recognition since joining the programme.”
One of those who has received national
recognition is BetaDen’s Cohort 5.0 founder, Paula Bedborough of Secure Socialising, who has won a Tech Entrepreneur Award at this year’s Women In Tech Awards.
Secure Socialising is a project that Paula took to BetaDen, to elevate her route to market and gain professional support and funding. The project looks at how technology can be used to promote safe socialising and support outstanding customer experiences. They have developed a keyless smart locker system made for spaces where people meet or socialise and are currently working on a new app for smartphones to make the Secure Socialising experience even more intuitive.
Their smart lockers will help to reduce crime and vulnerability and help people to have a stress-free experience.
Paula said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the Tech Entrepreneur Award. What an amazing event… A huge thanks to the BetaDen team and all the mentors for all of your invaluable advice and support. It’s been an absolutely incredible few months since I was lucky enough to join you”.
Find out more about BetaDen www.beta-den.com
The Worcestershire Apprenticeships hub celebrated their 8th annual awards in November 2022 to recognise the exemplar eﬀorts of all those involved in delivering and supporting apprenticeships in the county with over 300 attending the awards gala dinner.
11 winners were crowned, with the highly coveted Worcestershire Apprentice of the year named as Georgina Davies from Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust, sponsored by Platform Housing Group, and Worcestershire Apprenticeship Employer of the Year announced as Redspeed International, sponsored by Heart of Worcestershire College.
Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It was a real privilege to be a part of the Worcestershire Apprenticeships Awards, and I would like to congratulate all the winners and ﬁnalists.
“Each year we see more and more great examples of how the community across Worcestershire is embracing apprenticeships as a viable career path and I look forward to continuing this work into 2023 and beyond.”
Building on the success of the Worcestershire Apprenticeships Awards, the Worcestershire Apprenticeships hub is also preparing for National Apprenticeship Week. During the week the hub will be sharing a series of case studies, best practice advice as well as sharing news on new incentives available.
To stay up to date with Worcestershire Apprenticeships during National Apprenticeship Week, visit the website www.worcsapprenticeships.org.uk or follow the hashtag #WorcsApprentice
Accounting, Audit, Tax and Advisory ﬁrm Bishop Fleming has been recognised among some of the largest organisations in the UK for its apprenticeship programme.
The national ﬁrm, which has its Worcester office in Deansway, ranked 14th in the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers list for 2022. They recruited a record 64 apprentices in 2021 and appointed a further 70 in 2022 taking the total number of apprentices who embarked on the programme to over 180 since it started three years ago with 8 of these based in Worcester. With record fee growth of 19% in 2021-2022, Bishop Fleming expects its overall headcount to grow to 500 this year.
Amongst these two Worcester-based apprentices are proud and delighted to be part of this success story.
Oscar Bird, an Audit Associate joined Bishop Fleming in September 2021 straight from college through the Launchpad Apprenticeship Scheme. “This apprenticeship has enabled me
to get straight into working towards my ACA qualiﬁcation whilst gaining valuable work experience,” Oscar says. In the Launchpad role, Oscar has gained experience in di erent departments. He has already completed rotations in accounts; audit and moves into the tax department this month. “It has been really useful to gain experience in each department,” adds Oscar “It will help me decide where I want to work at the end of my rotations and give me more knowledge to help deliver a better all-round service to our clients.”
Lauren Astley is a Tax Associate apprentice. After ﬁnishing her A-Levels, Lauren was torn between university and an apprenticeship, and now three years into her apprenticeship says she is conﬁdent that she made the right decision. “My role has allowed me to work in a number of departments here at Bishop Fleming, gaining valuable knowledge and experience that has supported my exams, and allowed me to make decisions about my desired career path,” Lauren adds:
Heart of Worcestershire College currently train hundreds of apprentices across multiple sectors to not only enhance their skills and knowledge, but to strengthen the future workforce within Worcestershire and beyond.
The below data, used and compiled by the National Apprenticeship Service, highlights the many beneﬁts of employing an apprentice.
• Hiring an apprentice is a productive and eﬀective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualiﬁed workforce.
• 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.
• 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity.
• 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.
Ivan Campbell from Heart of Worcestershire College says:
“We take great pride in our apprenticeship programme and continue to advocate and support apprenticeship provision not only as a training provider but also as an employer. We recognise the importance of nurturing and supporting local talent across a wide variety of industries within the Worcestershire County and actively champion past, present and future apprentices to begin successful careers.”
“I am now pursuing a career in tax and Bishop Fleming are supporting me through my CTA qualiﬁcation alongside ACA.”
Partner and People Director at Bishop Fleming, Anna Averis, is delighted to hear this feedback and adds: “We are so pleased to receive this recognition from our own apprentices, Oscar and Lauren, for our leading apprenticeship programme which is now among the very best in our sector. As one of only a few accounting ﬁrms to have been awarded Employer-Provider status, we are able to develop and deliver our own tailored apprenticeship programme. This is now delivering real results and is integral to our wider growth ambition.”
Abbey Tocchini is an apprentice at the college, working as a Digital Marketing Apprentice at Worcester BID. She adds: “I was drawn to an apprenticeship when I decided on a career change after having my two children. I have worked in hospitality for a number of years but wanted to move into digital marketing. I am currently on a digital marketing apprenticeship with Worcester BID. I am 3 months into an 18 month apprenticeship and am learning so much, with hands on work, developing useful skills alongside studying the theory at Heart of Worcestershire College. I would thoroughly recommend an apprenticeship for those looking for a career change, as well as those starting out in the workplace.”
Finalists from across the county celebrated at the North Worcestershire Business Awards at Hogarths Stone Manor, with nine winners taking home crystal trophies.
The awards were organised by North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration and North Worcestershire Business Leaders (NWBL).
Business Leader of the Year was won by Aaron Kernaghan from security systems supplier Ecl-ips.
Best Business Start-up was won by The Dry Spy, a new cocktail bar and venue based in Bromsgrove. The business was funded, designed and developed by local businesspeople.
Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award was won by Bumble Hole Foods, which makes egg products for the UK food manufacturing industry. The award recognised Bumble Hole’s work within the Bromsgrove community, including the support for local schools, Primrose Hospice, food banks and fundraising for local community charities.
Best Customer Service Award was won by Invoco Telecom which provides communications for small businesses throughout the UK.
Employer of the Year went to Kidderminster-based Citizen Communications while Business Innovation of the Year was won by appCURE. The company has simpliﬁed application migration to new digital workspace environments using its unique capture and delivery capabilities.
Best use of IT was won by accountants Hayward Wright and the Worcestershire Wide Stand-Out Award was won by Indegu which provides customised eLearning resources and course management to education, businesses, and charities.
Worcestershire Wide Sustainable You Award was won by Dr Lizzy Bernthal, of Leadership Training and Resilience Coaching business Release Your Potential.
Melanie Hawkett, from business networking company North Worcestershire Business Leaders, said: “The event has been a real celebration of North Worcestershire businesses.”
Jane Doyle from North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration added: “The event highlighted some hidden gems in the area. We are part of an inclusive, innovative and proactive business community and would encourage anyone looking to launch their own business to relocate and grow here.”
Worcestershire’s ﬁrst tech accelerator BetaDen has been named Best Tech Accelerator at the UK Business Tech Awards.
The team, based at Malvern Hills Science Park, has so far supported six cohorts of technology entrepreneurs since it launched in 2018.
Kate Snell, programme manager at BetaDen, said: “To date, BetaDen has supported 42 early-stage businesses to develop a wide range of technologies, from cyber security and blockchain-driven innovations to autonomous vehicles and industrial internet of things software, and workplace wellbeing apps.
“This diversity is one of the key strengths of the programme, with founders repeatedly highlighting the support and camaraderie provided by other cohort founders and the wider BetaDen network of alumni, mentors, and businesses, as one of its biggest beneﬁts.”
Previous businesses on the accelerator have not only delivered world ﬁrst innovations but created jobs in the region and secured contracts with the likes of HS2, United Utilities, Royal Mail and the NHS.
BetaDen recently recruited its sixth cohort of businesses. They include early stage companies developing technologies ranging from aerial intelligence, meters for hydrogen and future energy sources. Also included in the cohort are businesses developing anti-money-laundering compliance software and environmental social and governance management for SMEs. A mental health and wellbeing platform for young adults and schools and a site signposting people to local events, activities and social content in real time are also included.
ETL Systems, which manufactures and distributes critical satcom radio frequency (RF) equipment and components, has completed the development of a major production facility at its Herefordshire site. The expansion follows the opening of a new research and development centre in Rickmansworth last year.
The technology company has seen impressive growth of an average of 21 per cent a year over the last 19 years, working with global brands within the satellite communications sector.
The new building includes signiﬁcant investment in leading assembly technologies to support the company’s engineering, production and test team capabilities and will be the ﬁfth building at the business’s headquarters, located in Madley.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Edward Harley OBE, officially opened the facility.
He said: “The UK space sector is currently booming and it’s fantastic to see a local business leading on such innovative and cutting-edge projects.”
Ian Hilditch, Chief Executive Officer, added: “I’m incredibly proud of what the ETL team has achieved in recent years, especially given the huge challenges businesses faced during the pandemic and beyond. The fact we’ve opened two new sites is testament to the talent and dedication of our team. Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do, and the ability to showcase our expertise to potential customers and partners here is incredibly exciting and something few companies our size can oﬀer.
“As a signiﬁcant employer in Herefordshire, we are also proud to announce that the building will provide capacity for expansion of the 150-strong staﬀ by oﬀering new job opportunities within the local community.”
ZwickRoell, a global supplier of advanced technology materials testing products, has moved its headquarters from Leominster to new purpose-built premises near Worcester.
The company – which has been operating in the UK for more than 40 years – manufactures testing machines and systems used in a wide range of industries and academia to evaluate the mechanical properties and performance of materials and components.
The new 20,000 square feet facility on the Worcester Six Business Park, is part of ZwickRoell’s continued expansion programme, creating a new HQ and customer experience centre which includes a fully equipped demonstration laboratory.
The new headquarters will support the company’s planned growth as well as providing an outstanding working environment for their employees, the company said.
Benno Sadowski, managing director for ZwickRoell UK & Ireland, said:
“With more than 160 years in the materials testing equipment industry, we are always investigating ways in which we can better support our customers.”
The facility will be oﬃcially opened early this year.
Housing and care company Sanctuary has bought Cornwall Care, the county’s largest older person’s care provider which owns and manages 15 residential, nursing and dementia care homes.
Worcester-based Sanctuary, a 50-year-old,
not-for-proﬁt company, owns and manages more than 105,000 homes, making it one of the largest housing associations in the country.
Under its Sanctuary Care brand, with the acquisition of Cornwall Care, Sanctuary
now manages 111 care homes across England and Scotland, providing care for more than 5,500 residents.
Sanctuary aims to build aﬀordable homes and sustainable communities where people choose to live.
The pandemic stopped the world for a moment, but it also created opportunities for young people to rethink their career choice.
William Hunt, 30, was one of them.He decided to launch a new interior design business in 2021.
“After working in the hospitality industry for 10 years, I found myself reﬂecting that this was not the line of work I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “It was a scary realisation to come to as it could make you feel that the last decade had been wasted.”
Lockdown was the perfect opportunity to change this. “I realised that throughout my time in hospitality I always observed the way customers would feel in the restaurant's environment. Such as how lighting, layout and overall ambience would aﬀect the customer's experience.
“I started to research various interior design courses that would help me into a role that would allow me to enhance people's experience through the design of space.”
William set up his William Hunt Interiors. “Creating my own company is something that I never considered before, and I felt that I’d need support to teach me how to turn my interest into a sustainable business. This is when I contacted the Prince's Trust.”
The Prince’s Trust’s enterprise programme helps 18-30 years old turn their ideas into a business reality.
“They oﬀer advice, guidance and support for entrepreneurs. I received one-to-one support to plan and test my business idea. We looked at market research, wrote a business plan and considered the ﬁnancial aspect of running a business.”
William now has half a dozen projects under his belt and another dozen in the works.
EDF Renewables UK is building a new 50 MW/100 MWh battery site at Energy Superhub Coventry, which will support the decarbonisation of energy and transport across the UK.
The battery – capable of powering 100,000 homes with clean energy for two hours – will help to support the integration of renewables in the UK by storing energy when supply is abundant
and discharging it when supply is lower.
The lithium-ion battery, delivered by global technology company Wärtsilä, will be directly connected to the UK’s high-voltage transmission network. It will be controlled via Wärtsilä’s GEMS Digital Energy Platform.
Energy Superhub Coventry will also bring an EV charging network with multi-
megawatts of power to strategic charging locations around the city.
Construction at the battery site began last August and should be live this year.
Energy Superhub Coventry will replicate the mode rolled out by EDF Renewables UK in Oxford last year and is one of up to 40 similar projects it is developing across the country.
“I realised that throughout my time in hospitality I always observed the way customers would feel in the restaurant's environment”William’s work
Warwickshire domestic appliance company Halo has secured a new distribution deal which will open European market access for its awardwinning cordless vacuum cleaner, the Halo Capsule. The agreement with German-based production company BranoFilter came as Leamington Spabased Halo entered the latter stages of its ﬁrst investment round. The company had just secured more than £300,000 investment through crowd-funding to help grow its presence within the global vacuum cleaner market, valued at $53 billion.
BranoFilter has also invested a sixﬁgure sum into the UK company.
Halo was founded by husband-andwife team Paul and Rachel Bagwell in 2020. Paul had previously worked in senior leadership roles for vacuum cleaner brands including Dyson, Vax, and Shark Ninja while Rachel is a marketing professional.
The Halo Capsule uses new technology to address the limitations of other cordless vacuum cleaner models which are typically heavy, with small capacity and poor performance. Its designers say that the Halo is “built to last”. The company oﬀers a refresh service for its customers where it updates software, and sustainably replaces batteries and internal ﬁlters to maximise the longevity of its products.
A UK-ﬁrst trial completed late last year connected two Midlands hospitals by a drone ﬂight “corridor” to speed up medical deliveries.
Drone company Skyfarer, based in Coventry, and partner Medical Logistics UK began a collaborative Medical Drone Delivery Beyond Visual Line of Sight trial.
The Medical Logistics UK corridor connects 32 km of airspace between the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire Trust’s hospitals in Coventry and Rugby and operated for around two months, conducting a record-breaking number of routine and ad hoc medical drone deliveries.
The aim of the trial is to help ease growing pressures on the healthcare system, where there is an expanding need for hospitals to receive vital, time-sensitive medical supplies.
Project Manager for Skyfarer, Georgia Hanrahan, said: “As a result of signiﬁcant road congestion and heavy infrastructure, drones can help support medical deliveries and speed up the process.
“There are no potholes in the sky, or as much congestion, and without the need for heavy infrastructure to land, unmanned aerial vehicles can add to the ﬂeet of logistical transfers and provide a faster, more sustainable and cheaper solution.”
Skyfarer was founded in 2017 by Elliot Parnham, an aerospace and engineering graduate from Coventry University with the aim of using drones for good in society. The ﬁrst of its projects is medical drone delivery.
This trial was sponsored by London-based medical couriers, Medical Logistics UK, which provides time-sensitive medical deliveries and personalised on-demand medical tests.
This trial also kicked oﬀ the ﬁrst leg of the Future Flight Phase 3 project’s corridor called “Skyway”, led by Reading-based Altitude Angel.
Skyway is a drone superhighway connecting 265km of the UK by the sky, for operators such as Skyfarer to ﬂy Beyond Visual Line of Sight safely and routinely.
An enterprising husband and wife from Leamington, who both walked away from successful careers to set up balance bike business Kidvelo Bikes, are celebrating their latest triple national awards success.
Kidvelo Bikes, run by Karen and Gary Wood was named the winner at the 2022 British Business Awards in the Start-Up Category
as well as scooping Gold for the Best Balance Bike in the Made for Mums 2022 Toy Awards and Best Bike in the Organic Baby Awards.
Kidvelo specialises in manufacturing good quality aﬀordable, balance bikes designed to help children learn to ride, from their base in Warwick Street’s Chandos Business Centre.
Launched in 2021, the founders set out to improve the performance and quality of children’s bikes and make them available to parents at aﬀordable pricing, using their combined 40 years of knowledge gained from specialist balance bike distribution, teaching thousands of kids to ride and hosting balance bike racing.
Here are some commonly overlooked tax-free beneﬁts that can be provided to employees.
Free or subsidised workplace meals: These can be provided tax-free, as long as they are available to all employees at the same location. This does not require the employer to have a canteen, and not all your people need to take up the oﬀer, but this may be an eﬀective way for employers to provide some direct support to their employees.
The ﬁrst and natural instinct of many business owners, when faced with a recession is to think immediately about ﬁnancial steps that can be taken to mitigate a potential drop in sales and therefore proﬁtability.
This is clearly important, because understanding where you are now - and the potential implications of an economic downturn over the next two or three years - is vital to creating a plan for survival.
But something just as important is your ‘people plan’.
How you fare through a recession, and more importantly how you come out of it, is in no small part due to the resilience, commitment and loyalty of your people.
The cost of living has been increasing since early 2021 and is now at its highest recorded level.
With employees feeling the squeeze on their ﬁnances, how can you help them without necessarily introducing an extra cost to your business?
Tax-free car parking at or near the o ce: Although not a realistic option for all employers, the cost can be met directly or reimbursed to employees via a voucher/ token etc.
Tax-free transport home: If employees have to work later than usual, and this is not a regular occurrence, this can be provided if certain conditions are met.
Tax Breaks on support: There are also tax breaks when employers provide welfare counselling, pension advice, small loans, training courses and trivial beneﬁts (less than £50) without triggering any tax or NIC liabilities.
Salary sacriﬁce: Many employers take advantage of the reduction in national insurance when a salary sacriﬁce arrangement is put in place (often for pensions and electric vehicles). The national insurance savings can be shared with the employee to provide an eﬀective increase in take-home pay. With pensions auto-enrolment, there is also nothing
to stop the employer taking on the employee’s obligation to contribute to a pension, which further increases their take home pay.
Flexibility is key: Recruiting or retaining people could be aﬀected by your attitude towards ﬂexible working. To some this is a real lifesaver in terms of staying in employment. The ability to buy and sell holiday is another potentially cost-saving initiative that can make a diﬀerence to employees.
But the clue is in the word ’ﬂexible’. How important is time keeping to you, versus results achieved? Where there are tangible outcomes required, such as reports prepared and delivered on time, how critical is it when the employee started and ﬁnished work on a particular day?
A ﬂexible approach to all manner of issues, such as dentist appointments, school events, hospital appointments for elderly relatives – set against the perceived value among your people – can lead to happy employees who will go the extra mile to ensure their productivity and quality of work remains high.
So while the business facets of the Autumn Statement are likely to dominate your boardroom agenda, with Corporation Tax rates increasing to 25% in April 2023, and reduced R&D tax credits for SMEsdon’t forget that it’s your people that row your boat.
Your job is to steer – and encourage.
To start the conversation on how we can help your business, call Nick Latimer on 01242 234421, or email Nick.Latimer@crowe.co.uk www.crowe.co.uk
Partner in the Cheltenham office of national audit, tax, advisory and risk ﬁrm Crowe, advising business owners, entrepreneurs and families on appropriate ways to structure their affairs to make the most of tax allowances and reliefs.
Molson Group, the Bristol-based UK equipment dealer has bought Powerscreen of Washington.
The company, which generates more than £375 million in revenue, made its ﬁrst move into the US market last April through the acquisition of Powerscreen of California and Hawaii. Following the success of that deal, the acquisition of Powerscreen of Washington gives Molson coverage across the whole of the US West Coast
Jason Powles, Molson Group Chief Operating Officer, said there will be more acquisitions as the Molson business continues to expand across the globe.
He said: “Molson Group is a highly successful equipment dealer, working with some of the world’s leading equipment manufacturers. We know how to optimise the performance of dealer businesses, using our own tried and tested practices.”
Solid State, which manufactures and supplies computing, power and communications products, has been awarded a £7.3 million contract by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency to supply communications equipment to a defence customer through its systems division.
The Redditch-based business’s revenues rose to around £59 million in the six months ended September 30, 2022, with proﬁts before tax of around £5 million, a 54 per cent year-on-year increase.
The company also completed the acquisition of US-based Custom Power last August, part funded by an oversubscribed placing raising £28.26 million before expenses.
Solid State’s order book at the end of September 2022 was £112.5 million, reﬂecting an increasingly diversiﬁed geographic footprint, broader product range, the ability to engage with clients on larger and more complex solution sales, and better cross-selling across the Group.
Puredrive Energy, the Cheltenham-based developer and distributor of solar energy storage solutions has received a £4 million lending facility from asset-based lender, Cynergy Business Finance.
Puredrive provides innovative solar energy storage solutions. Manufacturing its products in the UK and distributing internationally, its technology helps consumers increase their renewable energy consumption by up to 85 per cent.
Having continued to invest heavily in the research and development of its products, the facility from Cynergy Business Finance will support Puredrive’s fastgrowing order book.
Oxford accountancy ﬁrm Shaw Gibbs has secured a £10 million investment from Apiary Capital.
Shaw Gibbs has more than 100 team members and is led by Peter O’Connell, who has been Managing Partner since 2016.
Apiary’s investment will allow the accountancy business to accelerate ambitious expansion plans through a targeted mergers and acquisitions programme. The investment will also facilitate the expansion of the service oﬀering to new and existing clients.
Peter O’Connell, Managing Partner at Shaw Gibbs said: “We are very proud of the business we have built, supported by a loyal team and entrepreneurial client base, and are convinced that Shaw Gibbs is ideally placed to capitalise on the compelling consolidation opportunity in the sector. To achieve our ambitious growth plans, we needed a like-minded partner to support the next chapter of our growth and I am delighted to have found that in Apiary.”
Protestors stayed away from the Three Counties Defence and Security Expo (3CDSE) last November after an injunction banned them from demonstrating.
Richard Morgan, Head of Defence, Security and The Forces Sector at HCR Law, sought the injunction on behalf of the Three Counties Showground before the 2022 event.
In 2021, peace protestors blocked the entrance to the site while other demonstrators turned out with picket signs. The urgent case was heard in the High Court, and although contested by counsel for Extinction Rebellion and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the full injunction was granted by the court.
More than 1,500 delegates and 100 exhibiting companies met potential buyers and collaborators from both sides of the Atlantic at the event.
BPE Solicitors’ Corporate team and Hazlewoods Corporate Finance team advised Keystone Environmental Limited on its share sale to Origin Enterprises plc based in Dublin.
Origin’s acquisition of the Gloucestershire based ecological specialist ﬁrm will strengthen the group’s positioning within the international ecology market.
As Origin continues to pave the way for optimising sustainable agriculture and food production through innovative expertise, Keystone’s dedicated investment in research and development, along with new sector and regional location focus, is well placed to support the group’s growth strategy.
Law ﬁrm Freeths has advised Photovolt Development Partners on its development of Europe’s largest solar farm, based in Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
Following special government classiﬁcation, which can be applied for this year, the Botley West Solar Farm would aim to generate enough power for up to 330,000 homes.
Michael Bray, Real Estate Partner at Freeths LLP, said: “This nationally signiﬁcant infrastructure project represents another leap forward for the UK’s clean energy pipeline. It’s the largest solar farmever to be constructed in Europe, further decreasing the UK’s reliance on imported energy and helping to plug the gap being left by coal generation and the loss of baseload nuclear power over the coming years.
“The Freeths clean energy team are thrilled to be advising PVDP on this ambitious project”
The ﬁrst public consultation on the proposals for the site, which is due to be built north of Woodstock, west of Kidlington and west of Botley, was held late last year.
The proposed solar farm intends to generate about 840MW of power to the National Grid.
Bristol law ﬁrm Burges Salmon has advised Michelmersh Brick Holdings on its acquisition of the UK’s largest independent brick fabricator – Oxfordshire-based FabSpeed Holdings.
Established in 1997, Michelmersh has grown through acquisition and organic growth, now producing more than 120 million clay bricks and pavers per year.
The company currently owns most of the UK’s premium manufacturing brick brands and is a leading speciﬁcation brick and clay paving manufacturer.
The deal will complement Michelmersh’s growing portfolio of premium products and services, increasing the company’s ability to grow its methods of construction product oﬀering in support of its sustainability-centred ethos.
The enlarged group will also beneﬁt from Watlington-based FabSpeed’s customer base and distribution channels to oﬀer a broader product portfolio.
In October 2021, the parent company of Facebook changed its name to Meta in reference to a developing technology called the metaverse.
But what is the metaverse, could it become the “next big thing”? Why does Mark Zuckerberg want to own it and what could it mean for business?
The ﬁrst question is relatively easy to answer: The metaverse combines social media with virtual and augmented reality (think of it as a 3D internet). Imagine being able to participate in world events without leaving the office, ﬁght a bush ﬁre in Australia or coming face-to-face with world leaders or that captain of industry you’ve always admired – all without leaving your lounge.
Mark Zuckerberg wants to “own” the metaverse because he can see the vast economic potential of a new virtual economy as the value of his ﬁrst-born Facebook diminishes. According to Bloomberg, the metaverse could be a $800 billion market within just a few years.
For businesses, there is huge potential and some are already taking advantage.
Callum Gill is Head of Insight and Innovation at creative communications group DRPG, which has its headquarters in Kidderminster. Callum leads a core team of 10 already working in this new creative sector.
“The metaverse is complicated and at the moment frankly it’s a mess,” he said.
“There are many platforms – none of which integrate. Meta’s metaverse platform is called Horizon, and you can only access it through a virtual reality headset. Microsoft’s is called AltspaceVR and no headset is needed, but a user’s avatar can’t move from one to the other. And there are literally thousands of other platforms vying for supremacy.”
For those of a certain age, think Betamax versus VHS. For Gen Z’ers, think Apple versus Android. They do the same thing, but they’re totally separate technologies.
Some platforms only accept blockchain and cryptocurrency, while others will take real world currencies.
So in this wild west world, who’s using the metaverse?
It’s the big brands such as Gucci and Nike which are leading the way, according to Callum.
“Gucci is present in Roblox, an online gaming platform. Earlier this year the luxury brand set up “Gucci Town”, which includes games spaces, a café and a virtual store where players can buy virtual Gucci gear for their Roblox avatar.”
And here’s the thing: a Gucci handbag on the high street could cost you £1,000, but in the metaverse, it could cost £1,200 – such is the value that Gen Z’ers put on virtual reality possessions, according to Callum.
So what’s in it for smaller businesses?
“If you’re in luxury consumer goods, you should be looking at the metaverse now, because the big brands are already there,” said Callum.
“If you’re in other sectors such as, for instance, banking or consumer services, it’s likely that it’s not going to be of beneﬁt to your business yet.”
But pre-warned, is pre-armed, and Callum suggests that every business should get itself a VR headset and have a “mooch around”, see what it’s like, because you could spot new opportunities, if not now, for the future.”
Callum predicts that a universal platform, or at least the coalescing of technologies so that an avatar can wander from Microsoft’s AltspaceVR to Meta’s Horizon and carry the virtual goods they’ve bought in one into the other, is more than a decade away, but it will come.
“Your use case has to come down to your audience. If your business is targeting the Gen Z audience, my advice is look at the metaverse now,” he said.
As legal advisors at the forefront of this emerging technology, our role is to not only help our clients to beneﬁt from its rich commercial opportunities and enhance their enjoyment of its potential as a communications channel, but to support our clients in identifying and addressing the new legal risks that arise, in particular given the inability of legislation to keep up with the pace at which technology is developing.
Oliver Bruce, CEO & Founder of Pinpoint Media expects the metaverse will certainly have a role to play in our daily lives over the next 3-5 years, with the potential surrounding the emergence of web3 and blockchain technology which could enable a crossover from reality into mixed/virtual reality (VR), which he feels has a greater chance of adoption than VR exclusively.
For James Nam, Creative Director at DRPG, the ability for VR and AR to enable ﬂuid interaction with each other is paramount to extracting the best level of collaboration and creativity. DRPG regularly assists clients to engage audiences in the metaverse, with exciting opportunities arising as hardware is developed to integrate visual experiences seamlessly into our daily lives.
Jan Heuﬀ, CEO and Co-Founder of Spaceform, a platform which provides metaverse solutions, champions the metaverse as a tool for experiencing and developing plans for new buildings, spaces and cities, as it allows you to use your entire body to sense scale and proportion.
Despite such opportunities, companies need to deal eﬀectively with the novel risks posed by this new technology which include risks like safely handling unprecedented amounts of personal data (including eye movements and facial gestures) and guarding against cyberattacks (such as hacked avatars).
Whether you are concerned about the risk or excited to introduce the metaverse in your business, BPE’s Technology team can help.
“Mark Zuckerberg wants to “own” the metaverse because he can see the vast economic potential of a new virtual economy”
Businesses are beginning to step into the metaverse, using it for its creative experiences across all sectors including
Oxfordshire-based Grundon Waste Management has appointed Neil Grundon (right) as chair – the third generation to run the family business. Neil’s father, Norman Grundon (left), who held the role from 1993, will become honorary president - a position previously occupied by his own father and founder of the business, Stephen Grundon.
Oxford-based manufacturer and logistics business Unipart Group has appointed Darren Leigh as Chief Executive. He was previously Chief Finance Officer and brings more than 20 years’ experience in creating value in manufacturing, logistics and supply chain alongside software and technology.
Paula Baleson has joined Beard Construction as communications manager. She is an experienced marketeer who spent four years at building ﬁrm Midas Group, which closed in February. Based in Beard’s Bristol office, Paula will support the company’s three regional offices – Bristol, Oxford and Guildford – and its head office in Swindon.
UK-based design and engineering consultancy Contechs has made a new appointment aimed at boosting its global automotive design capabilities. The Warwick company has appointed former Ford of Europe chief designer Chris Hamilton to head up its vehicle design studio team.
Property consultancy Alder King has elected Simon Smith as its senior partner from March 1. Simon joined Alder King in 2005. He was appointed to the ﬁrm’s senior management board in 2020. Simon also heads up the ﬁrm’s residential development and energy teams, having established the energy specialism in 2013.
Coventry-based Nasmyth Group has appointed Tony Upton as its new Chief Executive Officer. Tony has held several senior executive roles within the aerospace and defence industry, and most recently was the CEO of Gardner Aerospace, having previously been CFO since 2018. Prior to this Tony held ﬁnancial and operational roles at Eaton, UTC Aerospace Systems and Goodrich.
Stourport-based OGL Software has boosted its executive team.
Cheltenham-based BPE Solicitors has promoted corporate solicitor
Angharad Doyle to Senior Associate and Commercial Property partner
Douglas Armstrong to Equity Partner. Douglas, a highly experienced property lawyer is a key member of BPE’s thriving property team. Angharad joined BPE as a trainee in 2013, and since qualifying has become a key member of the ﬁrm’s corporate team.
Worcestershire’s St Richard’s Hospice has appointed Mike Wilkerson as the charity’s new Chief Executive. Mike joins St Richard’s from Saint Catherine’s Hospice in North Yorkshire where he has been Chief Executive for the last eight years. He has extensive experience of working in palliative and end of life care, with previous roles at Rotherham Hospice and St Wilfrid’s Hospice in West Sussex.
Professor David Main has been appointed as the new Pro ViceChancellor (Academic Planning & Resources) at the Royal Agricultural University.
David, who was previously Professor of Production Animal Health and Welfare at the Cirencester university, is a veterinary surgeon and worked at Bristol Veterinary School before joining the university in 2018. He is also chair of the Home Office Animals in Science Committee.
Sharon Moreno (pictured) and Gary Haynes will lead the company following its split from OGL’s cyber security and IT services subsidiaries, which were bought by Wavenet earlier this year. Sharon takes over as Chief Operating Officer and Gary as Chief Financial Officer following OGL Software conﬁrming it will continue as an independent business.
Bristol-based international legal practice
Midlands-based property, construction and development company the Deeley Group has appointed a new chief ﬁnancial officer.
Neil Martin (pictured centre with Peter Deeley and Eleanor Deeley), has joined the Coventry company as it seeks to grow and expand its presence across the region. He most recently held the position of CFO at a national property and construction plc.
Osborne Clarke has elected Conrad Davies as its new UK Managing Partner with eﬀect from January 1. Conrad, currently a corporate partner and the international head of the urban dynamics group, will succeed Ray Berg, who fulﬁlled eight years in the role. He helped to establish the ﬁrm’s corporate real estate practice 10 years ago and also headed up the ﬁrm’s international real estate and infrastructure sector for seven years.
Apprenticeship opportunities have surged, increasing 20 per cent year on year according to a new report.
The report, published late last year by international job aggregator Careerwallet, which processes millions of jobs daily, said that if the trend continued for the remainder of 2022, numbers could trump the 389,200 apprenticeship starts recorded in 2018-19 – the year before Covid-19 struck.
The previous year 347,900 students began an apprenticeship, 11 per cent down on the year before Covid-19.
The most popular was a business apprenticeship, followed by data, ﬁnance and cyber security apprenticeships.
It was those aged 16 to 18 which saw the biggest proportional rise in apprenticeship starts – growing by 20 per cent in 2020-21 to 77,200 last year. Those aged 19 to 24 saw a 13 per cent increase – from 94,000 to 105,900 – while starts for those aged 25 and older only grew by two per cent –from 160,900 to 164,800.
But while numbers starting apprenticeships are rising, the numbers not completing their apprenticeships are also high as too many apprentices quit before ﬁnishing their training.
The public sector oﬀered the most apprenticeships in 2022. The British Army claimed ﬁrst place, with 6,205 new start apprentices – representing just under 20 per cent of employee numbers, followed by the Royal Navy, BT and Royal Air Force.
However, Cheltenham-based electrical contractor Clarkson Evans was in ﬁfth place. The award-winning company welcomed 141 apprentices last year, more than 43 per cent of total employee numbers.
Clarkson Evans is the UK’s largest
electrical contractor serving the newbuild housing sector, with an annual turnover of around £65 million, and typically wires around 24,000 new homes each year.
The electrical contractor oﬀers four-year apprenticeships to recruits, with the intention to give them long-term career opportunities. Around 75 per cent of its managers in technical roles are former apprentices.
Clarkson Evans, which has 21 branches across the UK, is currently working on around 350 diﬀerent building sites.
Apprentices are reporting more positive experiences with small and medium sized employers (SMEs), a national survey of apprenticeship experiences has revealed.
The ﬁndings are part of a report by the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) setting out the learning and assessment experiences of more than 2,000 apprentices.
Three quarters of apprentices working in an SME who responded to the survey said they had a manageable workload compared with 68 per cent overall, and 64 per cent of apprentices working in an SME were positive about how successfully their employers and training providers worked together, compared with 53 per cent overall.
Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of IfATE, said: “It’s really interesting that
apprentices with SMEs seemed to be having a lot of the best experiences. That will boost IfATE’s drive to get many more smaller businesses signed up with apprenticeships.”
Less than 40 per cent of apprenticeships are currently with smaller employers and IfATE is asking more SMEs to help with design and updating apprenticeships to make sure they work well for them and boost engagement.
Chief Executive, Lindsay Young thinks that one of the reasons the company scored highly is its commitment to apprenticeships throughout the company’s 23-year history.
Lindsay said: “We are now exploring apprenticeships to train engineers in installing air source heat pumps and heating. That would be a whole new string to our bow.”
Other companies from across the region which appear in the government-compiled list include HFT, the Bristol-headquartered national charity providing services for people with learning disabilities, and Warwickshire-based Jaguar Land Rover. It is bolstering its global apprenticeship programme by adding a further 1,200 apprentices to its Jaguar Land Rover and retailers schemes around the world.
Apprentices who completed their training by the end of last year will add almost £700 million a year to the economy by the end of the decade and are projected to add £7 billion to the total by then. For a cost of £2 billion, this represents a 300 per cent return on investment.
This statistic is according to the Chartered Management Institute which works with business and education.
But training them is an expensive and complicated process, according to many employers, which hasn’t been helped by the government’s wellintentioned but ﬂawed (say many employers) apprenticeship levy.
Since 2017, businesses with a payroll of £3 million or more pay into a levy pot each month and have a rolling 24-month deadline to spend the funds, but almost from the outset, employers complained that the system was too inﬂexible.
The CBI has called for the levy to be overhauled, and suggested turning it into a skills challenge fund. This would allow businesses to buy training
modules with their levy funds, not just full apprenticeship qualiﬁcations and allow greater ﬂexibility on the types of training.
However, the Chartered Management Institute disagrees. In a report published late last year it said that the positive economic impacts of apprenticeships have not been fully appreciated. The report said: “If the economic beneﬁts of apprenticeships are underplayed, there are risks that any reform which dilutes their impact, or even worse, removes the levy and the £2.5 billion (and rising) per year it is contributing to future skills, will carry a very signiﬁcant economic and ﬁscal cost.”
The CMI claimed that more money is being raised from the levy than is being spent by payers. “This is by design and intended to fund provision for non-levy payers, typically SMEs,” it said.
The report also admits there is no transparency over how much this money is. Better data is needed on who pays the levy, who beneﬁts and its organisational and wider economic impact.
Megan Lewis, 26, was named an Outstanding Apprentice for Engineering after she completed her degree apprenticeship in Electrical/Electronic Engineering with Jaguar Land Rover.
Megan joined the automotive manufacturer’s apprenticeship scheme in 2015 after gaining A Levels in mathematics, chemistry and physics.
As part of the apprenticeship, she has achieved distinction in an Engineering Foundation Degree and completed a NVQ – Level 4, both awarded by The Warwickshire College Group (WCG), and achieved a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Engineering with an automotive basis, awarded by the University of Warwick. She was also awarded the Outstanding Apprentice Award for the Engineering Sector by the Warwickshire College Group.
Her experience within JLR has been predominantly based within the Structural Test Laboratories, across a
variety of testing functions, including hydraulic, vibration and environmental applications, on automotive components and subsystems. Her work with the automotive giant led to her being recognised and featured by Autocar's Great Women: Rising Stars 2021, Apprentice category.
Warwickshire College Group is a major provider of apprenticeships across Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. It has worked with more than 1,000 employers nationwide in almost every sector of the economy. As well as working with Jaguar Land Rover, the college has worked with Aston Martin, the British Horse Society and bus, train and coach company National Express. It has also worked with smaller businesses such as Warwickshire-based independent sweet company Lisa’s Sweet Treats.
The college group is work with intrested employers to develop new apprenticeship provision for dog
Rossi Salvatore, 22, from Banbury won Outstanding Apprentice for Service Industries at a special celebration organised by Warwickshire College Group after completing a Chartered Institute of Marketing Level 3 Marketing Assistant apprenticeship with cleaning equipment manufacturer Karcher.
Rossi, who studied at Royal Leamington Spa College, said: “I came out of school at 18 and was an estate agent for just over a year. I decided that wasn’t for me, so I took the plunge into the apprenticeship and never looked back.
“Being able to gain a qualiﬁcation while working was a huge plus. Personally and professionally my conﬁdence has grown no end over the last few years and now I’m
conﬁdent to speak up and not be afraid to say that my idea is a good idea.
“I wasn’t expecting to win the award and
grooming at intermediate level, and building a new plumbing apprenticeship facility at Royal Leamington Spa College, which is a conversion of the old ceramics building into a new gas centre. This will enhance the apprenticeship training provision in this important sector within Warwickshire.
The college group is made up of six colleges, including Pershore, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick Trident, Rugby and Evesham.
it came as a bit of a shock. I’ve really enjoyed the evening, it’s good to celebrate and see how far we have all come over the course of our apprenticeships.”Megan Lewis
Businesses across the UK will be celebrating National Apprenticeship Week From February 7-11.
The University of Gloucestershire’s Business School will be hosting a special exhibition with apprenticeship providers and employers from across the South West.
This event gives visitors the opportunity to ﬁnd out more about higher and degree apprenticeships, as well as network with providers and employers. A full programme of presentations and discussions is also planned.
Former university student Alexander Cameron successfully achieved a Cyber Security Degree Apprenticeship with the University of Gloucestershire.
“The Cyber Security Degree apprenticeship acted as a fantastic springboard into the next level of my career.
“By balancing study with industry experience through an apprenticeship, you achieve the best of both worlds; a fantastic education in cyber, whilst also gaining a business mindset and key work experience, critical in the world we live in today.
“This mindset extends outside of cyber, with the University of Gloucestershire actively encouraging curiosity and selfdevelopment to ensure that you grow professionally, academically and personally.”
SGS College is responding to the huge demand for apprenticeships by opening a new facility for its construction apprentices.
SGS Horizon is a direct response to the needs of the construction sector in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, including the growing demand for workers to ﬁll skills shortages, a buoyant housing market and the interest in renewable energies and sustainable development.
The 17,000 sq ft building will feature purpose-built workshops, classrooms and IT suites and will be located within a mile of the College’s current Filton Campus.
The College, based in South Gloucestershire, will welcome construction apprentices into the new academy this spring.
It will oﬀer apprenticeships in a range of subjects from bricklaying through to gas engineering and ﬁre and security apprenticeships.
The SGS apprenticeship provision also caters for business support functions such as ﬁnance, procurement, digital marketing, human resources, digital support, IT and cyber and customer service.
Digital marketing apprentice Lottie Myers,
20, is completing her apprenticeship within the SGS marketing department.
She said: “I started my apprenticeship in 2021 and have really enjoyed it. My teachers are supportive, and my team were so welcoming. I have learnt so much and am excited to see where my career goes when I ﬁnish.”
More than 1,300 learners are currently enrolled on apprenticeships from level 2 to level 5 across SGS’s four main campuses at Stroud, Filton near Bristol, Berkeley Green and Its WISE (West of England Institute of Specialist Education), campus at Stoke Giﬀord, which opened in 2005 as a vocational centre for sport and the arts.
Sarah Stephens-Lewis, Assistant Principal, said: “Our dedicated apprenticeship team provide advice and guidance to help apprentices develop essential transferable skills as well as the requirements of the standard to deliver well-rounded apprentices that excel within the workplace.
“We are all excited to have the new dedicated construction apprenticeship training centre whereby students will have ﬁrst-class facilities to facilitate their learning and to train the next generation of industry professionals.”
Ontic, the licensor and manufacturer of established, certiﬁed aircraft parts for the global aerospace and defence industries, increased its apprentice numbers by more than 300 per cent last year, with another increase anticipated this year. It is also getting ready to launch its apprenticeship programme in the US next year.
He has been with Ontic since September 2021.
Josh said: “I’ve always been interested in aerospace. Ontic’s apprenticeship is so varied – I’ve got involved in commercial and military aviation, making equipment from ﬂap indicators to helicopter cabin temperature and pressure monitors, andh more. No two days are the same and the team is so encouraging to everyone on its early careers programmes.”
An apprentice from Worcester-based housing and care provider Sanctuary has won a prestigious regional award.
Emily Tidmarsh, a customer service apprentice at Sanctuary, was named Intermediate Apprentice of the Year at the West Midlands regional ﬁnals of the National Apprenticeship Awards.
Emily was recognised for the outstanding quality of her work within Sanctuary’s care billing team.
Emily has also acted as an ambassador for apprenticeships, championing their beneﬁts and supporting others considering the ﬁrst steps in their career.
Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) is extending its facility at Culham Science Centre near Abingdon to launch new apprenticeship programmes in space, robotics, data science, energy storage, power engineering and cyber security.
The training centre’s £13 million extension at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Science Centre is funded by the Fusion Foundations Programme.
This is a government initiative to enable the delivery of fusion, which has great potential to provide sustainable energy for generations to come, through
the development of infrastructure, facilities and skills.
David Martin, UKAEA’s Director of Oxfordshire Advanced Skills, said: “It is an exciting time for OAS as we build on our success of equipping the local community and employers with the skills needed to drive fusion energy and adjacent sectors forward. OAS aims to create the next generation of engineering talent and upskill the existing workforce. The new courses will empower UK manufacturers to adopt transformative technology in space and robotics, helping businesses to better compete in the global marketplace.”
Emily said: “My apprenticeship has been a fantastic experience right from the start. I have progressed and developed more than I ever thought possible. Before my apprenticeship, I didn’t know what career I wanted to follow – but now I feel I have really found my calling.”
Sanctuary’s national apprenticeship programme was established in 2008 and has since supported more than 2,000 people into work, both directly and indirectly through development partners.
Michelle Wood, Sanctuary’s Group Head of Learning and Development, said: “We’re huge supporters of apprenticeships at Sanctuary and recognise the value they bring, both for our organisation and in supporting people to develop and realise their goals and ambitions.”
New programmes in space and robotics to be rolled out at CulhamJosh Gulley is a Level 3 apprentice and one of the Cheltenham manufacturer’s shining stars. Ontic’s apprenticeship class of 2022 Emily Tidmarsh, a customer service apprentice at Sanctuary
As Gloucestershire’s Training Provider of the Year 2022, Gloucestershire College works with over 1,200 employers to upskill and develop their workforce through a wide range of apprenticeships across many industry areas including engineering, IT and cyber, construction, business and professional services, catering and more.
Meet the Employer Training & Apprenticeships team who is at the heart of GC’s employer engagement and ﬁnd out about the most common misconceptions about apprenticeships that they have heard.
#Apprenticeships are for only for school leavers
“Many companies are not realising that apprenticeships are open to anybody aged 16-plus who have an employer and to existing members of sta wishing to upskill. We o er pathways from Level 2 to degree helping local companies ﬁll in their skills needs – either by bringing in a new apprentice, for which we o er free recruitment support, or by training existing sta , which is becoming increasingly important.”Dawn Morgan, Business Development Manager
#Apprenticeships aren’t relevant for my business
“Whilst traditionally apprenticeships started in industries such as engineering and trade, they now span a whole host of
sectors including cyber and IT, marketing, management, ﬁnance. Even if your business isn’t thinking in this way – more and more people are!”
Alan Mulrooney, Sr. Business and Apprenticeships Executive
#Apprenticeships aren’t for current employees
“Employers often forget that they can upskill their existing sta through apprenticeships rather than having to recruit new sta . This can be to ﬁll key skill gaps in their business or boost employee motivation by investing in their development and improve retention rates.”
Jade Wilce, Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales Executive
#Apprenticeships are expensive
“Many employers are still unaware of
Business Development Manager - IT& Cyber Security, Telecommunications, Transport & Logistics email@example.com
Senior Business and Apprenticeship Sales Executive - Hospitality and Catering, Accounting and Financial Services, Plumbing firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales ExecutiveEngineering, Motor Vehicle, Hairdressing, Childcare email@example.com
the government funding available for apprenticeships which often means training costs are minimal; many employers can utilise the government’s apprenticeship levy scheme to train existing members of sta , to help them progress within their organisation.”
Sarah Thorne, Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales Executive
#Apprentices don’t stay with their employer once they are qualiﬁed “In our experience, approximately 9 out of 10 GC apprentices stay with their employer upon completion. I always tell employers who are considering an apprenticeship that it is one of the best investments in the future success of their business.”
Sian Pirone, Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales Executive
Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales ExecutiveEducation, Local Authorities, Housing, Electrical firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Business & Apprenticeship Sales
Executive - Construction, Environment, Charities email@example.com
For more information about GC’s apprenticeships, short and part-time courses, visit www.gloscol.ac.uk/employers or call 0345 155 2020
From engineering, construction, cyber, IT, hospitality, hair, business, professional services, dental nursing, education and early years, Gloucestershire College partners with more than 1,000 local companies.
And the college is keen to point out that apprenticeships aren’t just for new recruits, but can work for existing employees too.
Jade Wilce, Senior Business and Apprenticeship Sales Executive at the college, said: “Employers often forget
that they can upskill their existing staﬀ through apprenticeships rather than having to recruit new staﬀ. This can be to ﬁll key skill gaps in their business or boost employee motivation by investing in their development and improve employee retention rates.
“Experienced employees may be looking to gain formal qualiﬁcations in their specialist area, or they may want to completely change their career direction and re-train – anyone of any age can retrain to pursue their dream career.”
Borg Warner, which designs automotive systems from its Stonehouse factory in Gloucestershire, has celebrated the 10th anniversary of its apprenticeship awards, now an important annual ﬁxture in the company’s calendar. The event celebrates the success of its young apprentices at each stage of their four-year development programmes. Borg Warner works with training provider Gloucestershire Engineering and Training.
Swindon and Wiltshire ﬁnally received the huge boost to degree-level education and skills training it has been waiting for, with the official opening event for the new Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology at New College Swindon.
Carole Kitching, Principal and CEO of New College Swindon said: “This marks the biggest investment in skills training in the region. We know that Swindon is a higher education cold-spot, with no university and a lower percentage of young people progressing into higher education than nationally, and we also
know that our employers need a pipeline of highly-skilled young people and adults to drive economic prosperity. The Institute of Technology is the solution to meeting workforce skills needs now and into the future and to help forge the development of a high-skill high-paid future knowledge economy.”
The institite specialises in degree-level courses and apprenticeships across engineering, manufacturing, science, health, creative and media, digital and computer science, and business management.
Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director, was the keynote speaker at the event. He said: “The evening was a brilliant mirror on how a local company with a worldwide reputation continues to grow its own talent.
“In fact, seven out of the original nine winners 10 years ago, when it was known as Delphi Technologies, are still in the business. I was particularly impressed by the story of one of those original apprentices – Kenny Collins. He was the ﬁrst winner of the David Friday award when he was 19. This young man got Ds and Es in his GCSE exams. He is now Indirect Plant Purchasing Manager with a string of engineering awards to his name.
“This is the age of the apprentice.”
Engineers come from all walks of life, bringing the benefit of different backgrounds, perspectives and interests to the table. The term engineering covers such a broad scope of disciplines and specialist skills, it’s interesting to understand how people discover the initial spark that led them to the role they have today.
The defence industry is dynamic, fast-paced and always evolving. This is largely due to the rapid pace of change across the modern battlespace; as threats continue to become more sophisticated, defence and cyber technology needs to remain one step ahead. At L3Harris specialists work alongside customers and partners to design, develop and deploy exciting next-generation capabilities that help make the world safer.
A global aerospace, security and defence technology innovator, L3Harris delivers integrated end-to-end solutions that unlock mission agility for both military and commercial customers.
From offices in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire and Fleet, Hampshire in the UK, a 300-strong team collaborates to protect nations and save lives.
As a teen much of my time was spent tinkering with computers that were due for disposal from my parents’ office. Before university, I took part in a Year in Industry Scheme that gave me the chance to experience engineering in the real world. When the time came to start my career, I saw the exciting opportunities L3Harris offered and knew I’d found the right place. Unfortunately my position didn’t last long as due to family circumstances I had to say goodbye after just four years. Six months after leaving, the pandemic hit and remote working became possible. I was approached by L3Harris for a remote position and gladly took it. Now I’m a Principal Engineer in charge of a large team and have the freedom and support to pursue new, innovative ideas that make customers’ lives easier.
Having acted as tech support for my family since I was 10, it was only natural I would later develop an interest in computing. I love making something out of nothing and the thrill of bending computers to my will. While at university I decided to do a Year in Industry, which just so happened to be at L3Harris. My course involved lots of work using MatLab, a programming language, during which time I learned a lot and was offered the chance to work on a wide range of projects. I’ve since stayed with L3Harris for 16 years and am currently a Consultant with the business. I think the reason I’ve stuck around for so long is because there’s so much variety, the work always feels fresh. While our business is also part of a larger whole, we’re small enough that customers recognise us as the experts they can go to for advice.
I started out life as a linguist. Fluent in four languages, I specialised in international customer services. My last position was with a medical company where I had to eventually project manage the shutdown of the factory as well as my own redundancy! Thankfully this gave me the bug for project management and I took my career in a new direction. While working for an aviation company I decided to take a huge leap and complete a Master of Science degree. As the only person on the course without any foundation in engineering I was incredibly proud to earn a distinction. I’ve worked at L3Harris for over two years and you can tell people are passionate about what they do here. The technology we create is so interesting and complex that it’s fascinating to work with. We’re not only making people’s lives better, we’re saving them too.
they love what they do…
I developed an interest in programming, computer science and engineering at a young age. When it came to leaving university, I had a bit of an identity crisis of ‘what do I do with my life?’ At the time, my dad was leaving the military and interviewed for a job at L3Harris. He asked if they did industrial placements and, well, the rest is history. I’ve now been working at L3Harris for nearly three years and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The work we do here is so interesting and important, I don’t know where I’d rather be. You often get given a problem people say can’t be solved and you somehow manage to do it. That moment of success is the best feeling in the world! That’s why I’m so passionate about getting young kids into engineering. If we can talk to kids early to inspire them into this field, we could make a huge difference.
I’ve always been good at science and interested in how things work but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon ‘Mechatronic Engineering’ in a university prospectus that my love of engineering got its spark. Electronic Engineering degree in hand, I made my way into the working world. Throughout my early career I seemed to be the object of an unfortunate trend; being hired for roles that didn’t use my skills or projects that never came to fruition. Eventually I found myself working on an armoured vehicle prototype project, finally something I could get my teeth into. In 2016 I was contacted by an old colleague working at TRL Technology, now L3Harris. Seven years on I’m an Engineering Manager responsible for our technical development strategy and plans to aid transformational growth. One of the best parts of my role is seeing customers’ eyes light up with possibility. It’s great to be able to spend some time understanding their problems and seeing them benefit from our kit.
L3Harris is dedicated to recruiting and developing diverse, highperforming and talented people who are passionate about what they do. Driven by core values of integrity, respect and excellence, our people share a steadfast commitment to the customer mission and a quest for professional growth. With vacancies ranging from FPGA and Radio Frequency Engineers to Machine Learning Specialists, we welcome expertise and emerging talent from all backgrounds into our expanding workforce.
If you would like to learn more about L3Harris and how you can help make a diﬀerence, ask about the recruitment Open Day being hosted at their Tewkesbury oﬃce on Tuesday 7 March via recruitment.uk@L3Harris.com
The music was pumping as more than 1,000 girls did an impromptu Mexican wave around the hall before they began a day experiencing what a career in cyber security could mean – and that it's a lot more interesting and exciting than they might have thought.
The Year 8 girls from 25 schools across the South West met specialists from GCHQ and other private and public companies operating in the cyber sector and experienced virtual reality, practical problem solving, programming drones and code-breaking in an eﬀort to "hack" away at male domination in the cybersecurity industry.
The careers event was worlds away from the usual such event in a local school or town hall – where representatives from businesses turn up dutifully in front of pop-up stands and hand out brochures showing smiley apprentices in random office and factory settings.
Here there was loud, thumping music (even a little dancing), face glitter and a Mexican wave to inspire and excite the pupils from across the region.
The event, called EmPowerCyber, had been organised by CyNam (Cyber Cheltenham), which has grown from a small networking group for people working in cyber security in 2015 to become a powerful voice and support organisation made up of hundreds of members from what has become the largest concentration of cyber technology businesses in the country,
CyNam is chaired by the inspirational and indefatigable Madeline Howard, who led the organisation of the entire event with her small but dedicated team.
She said: "We wanted the girls to leave the day with great memories. Everyone remembers a great school trip.
"We had a real mixture of activities. From cryptography to coding, ﬂying drones and programming robots. The police chatted to the girls about how to make the right cyber choices. It's not just about getting the girls to think about a career in cyber security, but oﬀering advice on personal protection.
"We ran a similar event in 2019 and as a result the number of girls wanting to study computer science at GCSE rose. More girls also joined cyber clubs at their schools.
"After this event we will work with the schools and businesses that have supported it to continue the engagement and excitement that we saw on the day."
Women currently account for just 11 per cent of the global cyber workforce, and just eight per cent in the UK.
This isn’t surprising when it’s often portrayed as being for boys who love computer coding. Flip the idea on its head and what a career in cyber security really means is keeping people safe – which often resonates much more with girls as they look to build their careers.
EmPowerCyber aims to shift the hearts and minds of a generation of potential female recruits and change current perceptions of cyber.
Emma Williams, Assistant Principal Academic at Wyedean School in Gloucestershire, said: “We were delighted to be able to oﬀer our students the chance to be part of the EmPowerCyber event as it challenged cyber career stereotypes and inspired the next generation of young women to consider careers in STEM or cybersecurity.
“Our students experienced interactive, enriching and empowering workshops led by key industries and academia, learning ﬁrst-hand the critical skills that are needed for the future.
“Industry role models inspire our young women to think bigger as, after all, seeing is believing.”
The South West is home to one of the largest concentrations of cyber companies in the UK. The £1 billion Golden Valley Development in Cheltenham, which is due to be completed by 2025, will include a new National Cyber Innovation Centre aimng to attract start-ups, scale-ups and cyber tech giants.
If you want to get girls interested in cyber, this is how to do itYear 8 girls from across the South West get a taste of what a career in cyber really could mean
In 2019, months before the pandemic hit, Dowty Propellers moved into a new manufacturing site at Gloucester Business Park. As the world opens up again, the company welcomed more than 50 fellow manufacturers who toured the facility and listened to a keynote speaker
Dowty Propellers was the latest regional manufacturer to welcome more than 50 representatives from fellow manufacturing companies across the region when it hosted Business & Innovation Magazine’s highly-respected Manufacturing Live event.
Held in association with leading accountancy, audit, tax and advisory ﬁrm Crowe, the event gave attendees a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes of a global player in aerospace manufacturing.
Dowty Propellers has been a world leader in propeller systems since 1937 and is leading the way in the development of
composite propellers. Based in Brockworth, Gloucester since 2019, the company excels in advanced manufacturing techniques and undertakes research and development into aeroacoustics and aerodynamics.
The new Gloucester facility, which employs around 300 people, makes 1,200 blades a year for commercial aircraft and military air and seacraft.
Dowty has recently completed a major research and development project in collaboration with the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres. The Digital Propulsion (Digiprop) project was an
ambitious £20 million project, part-funded by government.
It sought to innovate every aspect of the design, manufacture and testing of its propeller systems, as the company seeks to play a leadership role in global aviation’s push towards a zero-carbon future.
The UK’s Catapult Network (and there are nine of them, covering every industrial sector from gene therapy and digital to energy and satellites to high-value manufacturing) supports businesses in transforming their ideas into valuable products and services.
At Manufacturing Live, introductory presentations were made by Dowty Propeller’s Site Leader Gaizka Bilbao, and Jonathan Chestney, Dowty’s Engineering Leader.
Gaizka has worked for GE Aerospace, the parent company of Dowty Propellers, ever since he left university. Jonathan has recently celebrated his 35th anniversary with the company.
Gaizka is focused on driving the company’s net zero initiatives and ambitions.
He said: “Sustainability is a generational challenge for us and for the world. My nine-year-old daughter is going to be living through the decisions we make now.”
Jonathan manages all technical aspects of Dowty’s products through their lifecycle. “It’s really exciting to touch all aspects of the product life cycle and the business,” he said.
“My role includes everything from looking at cutting-edge technology for future sustainable aircraft to providing support for long-standing aircraft like the Spitﬁre at the other end of the spectrum. No two days are the same.”
He also paid tribute to his engineering team. “I never cease to be amazed by the
capability of the Dowty engineering team.
“They understand the product and the needs of the customer so deeply but all the while being grounded in the need to have safety running through everything we do. It’s paramount to keep our customers ﬂying and I’m so proud of my team for living this ethos every day.”
“Sustainability is a generational challenge for us and for the world. My nine-yearold daughter is going to be living through the decisions we make now”Networking discussion at Manufacturing Live Chris Mould, Partner at Crowe Keynote speaker Andrew Hopcraft, NCC
Keynote speaker was Andrew Hopcraft, Chief Operating Officer at The National Composites Centre, based near Bristol, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
Companies working with the catapult network are supported by experts and facilities where they can apply and accelerate their research, helping them further develop and scale-up new technologies.
Before he joined The National Composites Centre, Andrew worked for some of the UK’s most successful engineering companies, including Smiths Aerospace and GE Aerospace as well as being managing director for two successful manufacturing SMEs. This has given him broad experience of the challenges faced by large and small companies operating in the manufacturing sector.
Since it was established in 2011, The High
Value Manufacturing Catapult has worked with more than 22,000 companies, more than half of them SMEs. The National Composite Centre is now Europe’s leading composite innovation centre, employing more than 450 people working across all manufacturing sectors.
Composites are two or more materials combined to create a new material with improved properties. “It is almost impossible to reach net zero without them”, said Andrew.
“Net zero requires transformational technology to deliver a step change in product and system level performance,” he explained. “Composites can enable this transformation and position the UK as a world-leading, technology-driven economy.”
Andrew explained the National Composites Centre’s role in the Digiprop research project. “Our challenge was to work with Dowty to develop a high-rate propellor blade for the turboprop market. The National Composites Centre and Dowty achieved a world ﬁrst: developing a recyclable thermoplastic, using a fully automated solution reducing waste and
limiting scrap, supporting Dowty’s drive towards a carbon neutral future. The solution also meant that there was less chance of the thermoplastic needing rework.”
The joint expertise shared by the National Composites Centre and Dowty in composites and manufacturing enabled the transfer of complex technology in triaxial braiding into industrial reality, leveraging the directional properties of advanced thermoplastic composites to deliver performance and strength. At the same time it maximised the beneﬁts of lightweight properties to enable an overall blade weight reduction.
Other aspects of the Digiprop project included the introduction of a “digital twin” during the development of Dowty Propellers’ new factory at Brockworth. This not only optimised the factory’s footprint but also identiﬁed process bottlenecks. The outputs deliver reduced manufacturing time and energy consumption, improved ﬁrst-time yield performance and accelerated time to market for customers.
Dowty Propellors is now beginning to
“Composites can enable this transformation and position the UK as a world leading, technology driven economy”
use the next generation technologies realised in DigiProp for evolving aircraft applications and to target next generation platforms. Potential customers are beneﬁting from its ability to support customer attribute trade studies with short turnaround time on performance analysis.
Andrew went on to illustrate other successful research and development projects made possible through the National Composite Centre.
“We worked with Airbus on a project called Wing of Tomorrow. This involved exploring radical new wing design and manufacturing solutions for high rate, lower cost, fully industrialised solution, working with a full UK supply chain, integration and tooling development.”
Composites are one of the key technologies that could enable wing components to be produced with signiﬁcantly reduced equipment and tooling costs, also enabling a faster production cycle. It’s a once-in-ageneration opportunity that could have signiﬁcant impact – what the aerospace industry does today, other sectors tend to follow.
Following the presentations, Manufacturing Live attendees were taken on a tour of the factory. Dowty designs and manufactures propellers at Gloucester which are designed to last the full lifetime of an aircraft. It also oﬀers customers a repair and overhaul service at the factory, including inspection, part replacement, repair and erosion protection application.
Manufacturing Live wrapped up with lunch and networking, giving attendees the opportunity to discuss the morning
with fellow engineers and manufacturers and make useful future connections.
Chris Mould, partner at Crowe, said: “Manufacturing Live gives companies from all sectors a useful and informal forum not only to learn from fellow manufacturing companies but also to meet new companies. We had attendees from across Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Bristol and Worcestershire. Many of them have attended before and understand the value of this unique event.”
Guests joined Business & Innovation Magazine for the hugely popular autumn Manufacturing LIVE event. Hosted at Dowty Propellers and supported by Crowe UK, guests heard from keynote speaker, Andrew Hopcraft, Chief Operating Officer at the National Composites Centre before taking a tour of Dowty Propellers’ state-of-the-art facility, allowing guests to witness the signiﬁcant investments made in recent years in new technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Paddy Lowe is one of the most successful engineers that Formula One has ever seen. His career has included leading the Mercedes technical team to its most successful season: 19 wins from 21 races. Now he’s turning his talents to delivering a carbon neutral futureBy Nicky Godding, Editor
Can you ﬂy an aeroplane fuelled only by air and water? Yes, it’s already been done.
In November 2021, Group Captain Peter Hackett of the Royal Air Force ﬂew an Ikarus C42 aircraft from Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire. It was powered entirely by a unique synthetic gasoline made by Zero Petroleum. The 20-minute ﬂight secured a Guinness World Record for the world’s ﬁrst successful ﬂight powered entirely by synthetic fuel.
Zero Petroleum’s unique fuel has been developed by Paddy Lowe and Professor
Nilay Shah OBE. Paddy is one of Formula 1’s most successful engineers, Professor Shah is one of the world’s most talented and respected chemical engineers.
And considering the men only co-founded Zero Petroleum in 2020, their progress has been phenomenal.
Synthetic fuel shouldn’t be confused with biofuels which are made from organic matter, or fuels made from waste such as cooking oil. The raw materials of Zero Petroleum’s synthetic fuel are simply air and water – carbon dioxide is captured
from air and hydrogen extracted from water. When the fuel is burned, it emits simply the CO2 that was extracted to make them in the ﬁrst place and if green electricity is used to power production, the fuel is totally carbon neutral.
This isn’t the ﬁrst time in his career that Paddy has pioneered new technologies – some of which were so innovative in their time that they were banned (which he considers a bit of a compliment), such as traction control, active suspension, powered brakes and an F-duct in the rear wing. “Other innovations we developed
in Formula 1 are still being used such as electronic shift on the steering wheel and seamless shift – a gear change with no interruption.”
He spent more than three decades in Formula 1, serving as Chief Technical Officer at Williams Racing, Executive Technical Director at Mercedes and in the same role at McLaren.
What made a topﬂight Formula 1 engineer leave a successful automotive career for one in the emerging sector of sustainable aviation fuels?
“Formula 1 is energy on display. That’s what creates the drama: the speed, the noise, the glowing brakes – that’s what I ﬁnd exciting. If you take me to an air show all I want to see is the reheat on a fast jet, take me to a ﬁrework display and the really big rockets are the draw.
“But the world has a big problem, we can’t consume fossil fuels like we have been doing, we need to live in a circular economy.”
He could have moved into Formula E, but for a man who loves speed and sparks, it didn’t cut the mustard.
“I left Formula 1 without a deﬁnite idea or plan, but when I started to look around, it was obvious that while electric vehicles are great for domestic use, pretty much every other form of transport exists to move heavy goods or large numbers of people. To do that we need liquid fuels, because the energy density of liquid fuel is 50 times better, when compared to battery.
“Planes, ships, trains – even combine harvesters need to be powered by liquid fuels because of their energy density.
“The minute you hand over a large proportion of that payload to store energy for motion, in the form of a heavy battery, a plane won’t take oﬀ and a combine harvester will sink in the ﬁeld.
“Zero Petroleum’s fuel is the answer.”
Paddy really does know what he’s doing. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Co-incidentally, so was his elder brother Professor Michael Lowe (also an eminent engineer). In fact, they became the ﬁrst brothers to both be elected as Fellows.
Having spotted that synthetic fuels could be the long-term answer to replacing fossil petroleum, Paddy got together with his Zero Petroleum co-founder Professor Nilay Shah.
“We did a lot of laboratory work and by 2021 we had a recipe for synthetic fuel that was good enough for the RAF to set us the challenge of using it to ﬂy a plane.”
“ ...we can’t consume fossil fuels like we have been doing, we need to live in a circular economy”Paddy ﬁlls up the Ikarus C42 with Zero Petroleum The Ikarus C42 in ﬂight
The men established a small plant on Orkney where green hydrogen, a key ingredient, is made. “We were able to make 15 litres of fuel in six weeks, enough fuel to achieve the 20-minute or so ﬂight at Cotswold Airport.”
The RAF was impressed, so much so that it’s now given the company a signiﬁcant contract for the next stage of development.
“Last year was about demonstration, now we are reﬁning the process and recipe for commercial readiness,” said Paddy. “We want to develop a plant producing at commercial scale.”
“Our process has unique features which produce very special results, better than we see from our competition and we do have some protections around that.”
In the meantime, the company has set up its Laboratory Zero technical centre at Bicester Heritage in Oxfordshire undertaking technical development to make the fuel production ready and
making enough to run regular tests and evaluations.”
So conﬁdent is Paddy about the fuel’s capabilities, that he is already looking at building the UK’s ﬁrst commercial synthetic fuel plant.
“We already have a lot of investors interested,” he said.
They hope the next test ﬂight will be on a jet, but to showcase the fuel’s versatility they’ve recently used it in a few publicity stunts, including powering a chainsaw to carve an ice sculpture, fuelling a Porsche and Lamborghini driven by presenters
Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness on
Series 32 of Top Gear, and powering a motorbike at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Alongside the RAF contract, which has contributed to its research and development costs, Zero Petroleum has secured two investment rounds from private investors.
Will Zero Petroleum’s fuel be cheaper than petroleum? Not immediately Paddy admits.
“To start with it will be much more expensive than fossil fuel, which is to be expected. For a start, fossil fuel is ridiculously cheap considering its content. It’s cheaper than bottled water or milk if you consider the amount of energy in there.
“But oil will get more expensive in time. Every new oil ﬁeld gets more expensive to develop. Taxation on fossil fuels will also rise. But for synthetic fuel the trend will be the opposite as production is scaled and becomes more efficient.
“We have seen that trend dramatically in wind power. What this solution also brings to the UK is energy security. In the future, countries will make their own oil. Think what diﬀerence that will make to geopolitics and international tensions.”
Doesn’t Paddy miss the pizzaz and excitement of Formula 1? Not at all, he says. “I watch F1 races as a spectator, from lights to ﬂag. It’s a very self-obsessed industry, it has to be. But I am completely invested in Zero Petroluem and what I am enjoying is having a wider perspective on the world.”
A synthetic fuel is a sub-category of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and is the only SAF which is capable of being scaled to cover all aviation. By 2050 all fuel is likely to be SAF and at least 85 per cent of it will be synthetic, because there just isn’t enough waste organic material to make the volume of biofuels needed.
“Biofuels are great, but it’s a problem of scale,” said Paddy. “Our feedstocks are air and water. And when you burn the fuel you recreate the same materials we use in emissions, so we make fuel from our own emissions. It’s circular. It’s not a miracle, it exactly what biology has been doing for millennia.”
Life science companies helped diagnose and counter Covid-19, which signiﬁcantly raised their public proﬁle. Can this new awareness continue?
We invited life science companies to talk through the issues
Life Sciences will be one of the great drivers of growth in the 21st century.
“Through innovation and technological advances, we will diagnose, treat, cure and prevent a much wider range of disease than is currently possible.”
This was the view of Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford and Sir Jonathan Symonds, Chair of British pharmaceutical and biotech GSK plc (formerly known as GlaxoSmithKline), writing in the foreword of the government’s Life Sciences Vision report published last year.
And in the heart of our region is one of Europe’s most successful life sciences clusters where hundreds of companies, from start-ups to multi-nationals, undertake research and development, and manufacture a wide range of innovative, often life-saving, products and therapies.
We invited some of them to a special round table event at Milton Park, itself home to more than 40 life sciences companies, and asked them to share their greatest successes and discuss the challenges ahead.
“Through innovation and technological advances, we will diagnose, treat, cure and prevent a much wider range of disease than is currently possible”Life sciences companies discuss the issues at Milton Park
Claus Andersen, partner in the Life Sciences group at Freeths law ﬁrm in Oxford. Claus specialises in corporate and commercial work with a focus on mergers and acquisitions of companies and businesses in the life sciences and technology sector.
Philip Campbell is Commercial Director at Milton Park near Abingdon, the largest single ownership science community in the UK.
Keith Errey is founder and CEO of Isansys which has developed an advanced patient monitoring system: the Patient Status Engine. The software produces high resolution and dynamic digital images of patients to support clinical decision making.
Graham Griffiths is Chief Business Oﬃcer at Vaccitech plc, a spin-out from the University of Oxford. The company’s proprietary platform includes Chimpanzee Adenovirus Oxford (ChAdOx), which formed the basis of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid 19 vaccine.
Simon Jones is Vice-President of Finance and Operations at SpyBiotech, a University of Oxford spin-out biotechnology company with a novel vaccine platform technology that can target infectious diseases, cancer, and chronic diseases.
Michalis Papadakis, is co-founder and CEO of Brainomix Ltd. Another spin-out from the University of Oxford, Brainomix’s AI imaging platform includes e-Stroke, a comprehensive stroke imaging solution which has been adopted across multiple healthcare systems worldwide.
Miguel Silva is Strategy Director at OMass Therapeutics, a biotechnology company spun out of the University of Oxford discovering medicines against highly-validated target ecosystems. The company uses novel biochemistry techniques, next generation native mass spectrometry and custom chemistry to interrogate how a target interacts with its native ecosystem.
Adam Stoten is Site Head for Evotec’s Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Campus in Abingdon. Evotec is a life science company with a unique business model that delivers on its mission to discover and develop highly eﬀective therapeutics and make them available to patients. Evotec employs more than 4,500 people worldwide, including around 800 at Milton Park.
Deborah Spencer is the Oxford University Lead for the UK Industrial Strategy based within the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division. She works at the interface of industry and academia in innovation and strategic business partnerships. She leads on a quantum computing and drug discovery programme for the University and recently founded the Oxford Water Quality Centre.
Ben Thomas is Senior Director External Innovation and Operations at Oxford BioTherapeutics, a clinical stage oncology company focused only on ﬁrst-in-class immune therapies. Its lead asset is an Antibody Drug Conjugate in Phase 1b clinical development.
“The Patient Status Engine oﬀers remote monitoring and real time data analysis as we have added intelligence and decision support to the system. This frees up time –particularly useful when the NHS has a deﬁcit of around 50,000 nurses (and the lack of nurses is a worldwide trend).”
The PSE has been approved for use in the UK, United States and Europe. Last October, Isansys announced a major contract with the second largest hospital group in India.
Ingelheim in European hospitals, collecting evidence of the value of our system. Since then we have been very successful in creating adoption in the NHS and were fortunate to win an NHSX AI award.
“We are in 50 per cent of the country’s stroke units. More importantly we continue to collect evidence of the impact we are delivering. In the Royal Berkshire Hospital, following the introduction of our technology, physicians can save an hour from the time a patient arrives at the hospital to the decision to transfer them to the Oxford hospital for a life-saving thrombectomy.”
“We began looking at patient safety on hospital wards more than a decade ago. It generally wasn’t recognised that one in 10 patients come out harmed in some way by their treatment and around 12,000 patients a year died unnecessarily in NHS hospitals. There are still around 10,000 avoidable deaths each year in UK hospitals as well as more than one million adverse events. We needed better surveillance for patients. Our solution is new wearable tech alongside equipment which is functionally equivalent to current bedside monitors which use cables and wires to connect to the patient. In our system, patients are connected wirelessly to equipment which automates patient observations and delivers it to a centralised point.
“Millions of patients miss out on life-saving treatments because a hospital’s front-line physicians don’t always have the expertise to interpret the brain scan, which is a key driver on how to diagnose a stroke and select patients for treatment.
Brainomix has developed an AI imaging platform to increase the uptake of existing treatment and improve the success of new treatments in stroke, cancer and ﬁbrosis. We oﬀer the most comprehensive stroke AI imaging solution globally and have operations in 30 countries and more than 300 hospitals. Our solution has so far helped with treatment decisions for more than one million patients.”
The company launched its stroke AI system in 2016. “We initially focused on the NHS and then realised it’s not the easiest healthcare system to crack and get adoption,” said Michalis. “We decided to partner with the global pharmaceutical company Boehringer
We asked round table participants to share their successes and how they are deploying them for the beneﬁt of mankindKeith Errey, Isansys
The world still lacks eﬀective vaccines for many viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases, as well as therapeutic vaccines to advance the treatment of cancer.
SpyBiotech has developed a pioneering technology, the proprietary protein superglue SpyTag/SpyCatcher, which enables the development of safe and eﬀective vaccines with greater ease and speed.
The pre-clinical company is initially focusing on a disease called Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) disease, carried by between 50-90 per cent of the population. The HCMV virus is related to the herpes virus and for the vast majority it’s harmless, but can cause signiﬁcant problems if newborns have been infected from their mother, or in the elderly or immunocompromised, causing birth defects and organ failure. There is no vaccine for it and a signiﬁcant medical need. Overall, it aﬀects more live births in the US than Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Down’s and is estimated to generate more than $2 billion in healthcare costs annually.
SpyBiotech has reached the pre-clinical process development stage in under two years. A ﬁnal vaccine candidate has been selected and both the virus-like particle and the HCMV antigen are currently being manufactured to Good Manufacturing Practice standards ahead of initiating clinical trials in 2023. (Good Manufacturing Practice represents the minimum standard a medicines manufacturer must meet in their production processes),
“We work with a huge number of diﬀerent partners, from nascent biotechs to big pharma companies to improve the efficiency, speed and ultimately probability of success in the development of new medicines.”
“Our activities in Milton Park have grown enormously from our UK origins as a University of Oxford spin-out (Oxford Asymmetry), which Evotec acquired in 2000. A major recent development has
been the opening of Building 95, which provides a central hub for our campus and adds signiﬁcant in vitro biology capability to our existing structural biology, discovery chemistry and development chemistry operations.”
“Vaccitech is most widely known as the biopharmaceutical company that coinvented the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Vaxzevria. We licensed our rights to the product and ChAdOx Platform to Oxford University Innovation and AstraZeneca, who then took on further development and commercialisation. However, pre-dating the Covid-19 pandemic was the emergence of the MERS coronavirus, for which we still have a vaccine in development. MERS is a much nastier virus which thankfully doesn’t transfer as easily but does unfortunately kill about a third of the people it infects.
“We are also focused on infectious diseases for which there is currently no cure. For instance, chronic Hepatitis B (HBV), aﬀects 250 million people worldwide. Most of the aﬀected are in Asia and only about 10 per cent are getting treatment. We are in clinical stages of trying to ﬁnd a cure for those people. It’s a hugely competitive ﬁeld. We have introduced a new mechanism, using the ChAdOx platform which potently primes T cells against cells that are infected with HBV. A second immunisation with Modiﬁed Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) boosts and expands the T cell response against the same target HBV antigens.”
“We are a well-established cancer drug development company using large molecule antibody-based therapeutics to treat cancers. Our focus is on high unmet clinical need. The company is not interested in incremental improvements on what everyone else is doing. We are focusing on novel, ﬁrst-in-class therapies.
“We have an asset in clinical trials in Europe and the USA where we are using our core technology platform, Antibody Drug
Conjugates, aimed at delivering a toxin to just cancer cells. Recently we signed another collaboration partnership with a wellestablished US company to develop another range of ADCs. We are also beginning to work in immune oncology and looking to treat a range of solid tumour cancers in the next few years.”
“Our mission is to utilise our drug discovery platform to develop small molecule therapeutics against targets that can meaningfully improve the lives of patients with immunological or rare diseases. Many proteins that have been linked to disease are still not able to be targeted with current drug discovery approaches and we believe that our drug discovery platform, OdyssIONTM, can improve our probability of success against these hard to drug targets. Beyond that, although small molecules have fallen slightly out of favour in recent years versus some newer approaches, for example cell and gene therapy, we believe this class of drugs is hugely important for patients. Small molecules tend to be orally dosed; they do not have strenuous storage requirements and have lower costs of production, all of which can improve access for patients.
“One of the key criteria we use when selecting projects to work on is unmet need and the potential beneﬁt our drugs could bring to these patients. As an example, in Rett syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, two of the therapies areas we are currently working on, there has been a dearth of new therapies since these diseases were identiﬁed.”
Are they engaged in what they are doing? Is this a great place to work? We’re making sure that our team can say yes to these questions.”
A growing problem for Oxfordshire is the cost of living, added Ben. “Junior people are not so hard to ﬁnd but the cost of living in Oxfordshire makes it difficult for them to relocate here. Remote working has been transformative for us all, but companies want people back in the labs and we’re going to need to ﬁnd creative, sustainable solutions to this challenge in the near future.”
Making the work environment attractive to entice staﬀ back to the office will also help attract new people.
Having a large cluster of life sciences companies can help, said Deborah. “If you live and work in Scotland and lose your job, you’re likely to have to relocate your whole family. In London, Oxford and Cambridge if you move company, it’s less likely you will need to move your family.”
The life sciences sector is facing a skills shortage, particularly in digital, data and engineering. Brexit hasn’t helped as European scientists are staying at home until the employment landscape in the UK is clearer for them.
It is estimated that 133,000 extra life sciences jobs will need to be ﬁlled by 2030 in the UK alone.
Deborah Spencer at the University of Oxford said: “The university has been losing experienced people who are moving into industry where the pay is often better. But we need skilled people for our quantum drug discovery programme. I need a computational chemist who can work on small molecules or antibodies to look at where quantum can help.”
But is the university a victim of its own success? asked Philip Campbell of Milton Park. “The university has successfully spun out companies which itself will generate
an increased need for skills.”
Vaccitech had a challenging few months to ﬁll two senior manufacturing roles. “Before Brexit around 70 per cent of applications for those roles would have come from Europe,” said Graham Gri ths. “Now that’s maybe 10 per cent. It’s as though you have a whole army of skilled people reluctant to relocate to the UK, perhaps because they don’t know what that means for them in the long term. We should do what we can to attract these people.”
But this isn’t just a UK problem according to Ben Thomas at Oxford BioTherapeutics.
“There is a big shortage of senior skilled people everywhere, including in San Jose, USA, where we also have a base. Biotech is incredibly competitive.”
Company culture plays a big part in recruitment and retention, Ben added. “Is the work interesting to our employees?
Adam Stoten at Evotec, which employs more than 800 people at Milton Park, agrees. “The key is to have a more holistic view of all the infrastructure needed to support the life sciences ecosystem. We are taking on large numbers of new employees each year to support our growth and are recruiting globally for the people we need. Yes, some of the political changes over the last few years have made that more challenging, but we want
to bring people, particularly those early in their careers, into an ecosystem where they can ﬁnd somewhere to live which isn’t miles away. There does have to be the investment in infrastructure to support that and if that isn’t forthcoming, companies will go elsewhere.”
So what makes a company sticky to its employees?
Having interesting and challenging projects will attract staﬀ, making people feel they have ownership and feel a sense of achievement. Apprenticeship schemes can help plug gaps, investment in infrastructure helps with growth and aﬀordable housing attracts graduates.
Michalis Papadakis at Brainomix added: “We are all fortunate to have a clear purpose and value that everyone can subscribe to. It’s about giving ownership, having clear empowerment. Being part of an innovative company and having trust in your team.”
It’s also about ensuring that at whatever stage your company is at, your skilled people continue to be challenged intellectually, according to Keith Errey at Isansys. “When employing really smart people, give them the best problems to solve and they’ll stay.”
Adam said: “It’s a shared sense of purpose that makes them get out of bed in the morning. We are all fortunate in this industry that the mission is very clear for all of us. We have tried to ensure at Evotec that as we have grown there is a collective sense of ownership and understanding of what goes on across the company.”
Last year Oxford University spinout Mirobio was acquired by USA pharmaceutical giant Gilead for $405 million. The investment landscape has changed since then, so will future life sciences funding be less successful?
Simon Jones at SpyBiotech said: “A problem for unlisted companies is the relationship between them and the public markets. As we meet together in late 2022, the NASDAQ Index is down, so investing in listed companies potentially starts to look cheaper. I have seen that ﬂip ﬂop before in my career. Why invest in an unlisted, unproven company when I can invest in a company which has a similar valuation but more proﬁle? There is invariably money for good companies, but it can impact on smaller companies’ valuations.”
Interest rates are also a factor, according to Adam Stoten. “Low interest rates tend to drive investors towards venture capital because returns are comparatively attractive. With high interest rates there could be less money for venture capital. We are listed on NASDAQ and Frankfurt Stock Exchange so we don’t have to go out to venture capital for funding, but many companies are reliant on them for funding and that has to be a concern.”
Michalis Papadakis at Brainomix, added: “We closed our Series B round last December and have since seen a complete change in the market with investors being more conservative.”
But Adam added that many venture capital companies still have money yet to be invested. “They are committed to deploy funds to get returns within a deﬁned period. They can invest in their existing portfolio for so long, but eventually they must start putting it into new investments.”
Claus Andersen pointed out that the sector is entering a period where investors are being more cautious. “But
there is still demand, and they are now looking beyond London, thanks to the success of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and other science innovations. Investors recognise the eﬀectiveness of eco-systems in many parts of the UK, particularly in Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and other places.”
There has recently been a trend of companies with very early-stage technologies spinning out and even going for public listing much earlier than they would traditionally have done so.
“Some of those companies are going to ﬁnd the current environment more challenging, but there’s a lot of highquality R&D under way in the UK life sciences sector” said Graham Gri ths.
Pre-Covid, vaccine development was often underpinned by grant-funding. Deborah Spencer wondered whether it would be easier to secure external funding for this sector post-pandemic.
Graham felt that Covid has demonstrated once again that smaller companies are capable of discovering and developing valuable and impactful products.
Miguel Silva at OMass Therapeutics, added: “We saw this with monkeypox recently where companies working on a monkeypox vaccine did very well as governments started to stockpile very early. The whole area of pandemic preparedness is likely to continue to grow.”
OMass raised $100 million last year, but the company is not complacent. Miguel added: “We continue to think ahead. We don’t know what the markets are going to look like when we need to raise money next, so one of the exercises we are currently going through is trying to understand how the current macro climate impacts our cash runaway, what our key value inﬂection points are, and what we need to do to get there.”
The government has pledged to invest £650 billion in infrastructure over the next decade, supporting 425,000 jobs a year, but where will the workers come from? One company has the answerBy Nicky Godding, Editor
More than a quarter of a million more construction workers will be needed by 2026 to meet the UK’s commitments to building new infrastructure.
But where will they come from? “I want to work in construction” isn’t a statement often heard by 16-year-olds. School leavers often end up in the sector because they can’t think of anything else to do.
One company is changing that approach.
Hercules Site Services, based at South Cerney, near Cirencester, currently employs around 800 people, from bricklayers to civil engineers, supplying their labour to construction companies running major
projects across the UK. It is projecting a turnover of around £45 million this year and planning to invest more than £6 million in a new construction skills training centre in Warwickshire.
The founder and CEO of Hercules is Brusk Korkmaz, 43. He said: “Young people often go into the construction sector because a relative works perhaps as a plasterer or a bricklayer, and they know they can earn good money straight away. But they can be in the same job, earning the same money 10 years later because they haven’t upskilled.
“We are showing these young people there’s a career path, such as from bricklayer to machine operator to works
manager. If they can see there’s a real opportunity to develop, they will buy into it.”
Brusk, who hails from Turkey and arrived in Gloucestershire via a degree in civil engineering at University College London, set up Hercules Site Services in 2008 after spending almost a decade working for construction and civil engineering companies such as MJ Gleeson, Hochtief and Black and Veatch.
He saw that they often drew from the same pool of skilled workers which was getting smaller as long-standing craftsmen retired or left for other reasons.
“I saw a gap in the market for the supply of
a quality, qualiﬁed workforce,” he said.
So he launched his business. It wasn’t perfect timing from a family point of view because his ﬁrst son was about to be born, but that was one of the reasons Brusk made the leap when he did.
“I wanted to stay close to my young family, and in the construction business a good team can be required to travel miles to work on a project. This can mean staying away from home all week. That didn’t appeal to me then, and it doesn’t appeal to the younger generation now.”
Brusk started the business from home –for the ﬁrst two years living oﬀ his wife’s musician’s income from the Welsh National Opera.
“The UK was in recession and I didn’t want to take money out of the business because I wanted to build it up. When my wife was away performing, I looked after my son and then my daughter, sometimes sending emails so early that my clients thought I was working around the clock.”
His ﬁrst job was building a new tank base
at Swindon’s sewage treatment works. “We supplied the workers and did the job. I worked alongside the team, doing everything from pouring concrete to helping the bricklayers.”
Hard graft paid oﬀ. By 2010 the business was well-established. “We were doing a lot of work in the water treatment sector where asset management plans run in ﬁve-year cycles. We were in the right place at the right time to be commissioned on these projects.”
By 2016 the company had moved into purpose-built offices at South Cerney and the demand for its supply of skilled labour continued to grow.
Brusk discovered that recruiting close to a construction project, wherever it was in the country, and making it as simple as possible for new recruits to sign up with Hercules, was the best way to build up a loyal workforce.
The company designed and launched an
app called Hercules Construction Jobs, a simple solution to help people ﬁnd a job close to where they lived.
“Construction workers typically have a half an hour break in the morning and another at lunch,” explains Brusk. “This doesn’t leave them much time to register or visit agencies to look for the next job.
“They can register on our app at any time, upload their CV and other documentation and apply for jobs wherever they want to work.”
Once they’ve done that, a second Hercules app enables recruits to be on-boarded efficiently. “From checking qualiﬁcations and personal data to providing them with a contract to sign, we have made the system efficient and paperless.”
Hercules now has thousands of workers registered on the app and a huge interactive screen at its head office shows where they are all located. Currently several hundred are working on the HS2 railway project, others are laying ﬁbre cables in Kent and more are helping upgrade the M42 in Birmingham and several other National Highways schemes.
To ﬁnd these workers, the company does a lot of local engagement. This includes going into schools to do mock interviews with pupils, encouraging them to undertake work placements and consider apprenticeships in construction which could lead to a full-time career. The company says this helps creates social value in local communities.
Hercules also goes out of its way to employ people from all backgrounds and professions, from working with Job Centre Plus, encouraging the longer-term unemployed back into work to engaging with those leaving the military and looking for a new career.
This ethos extends to its 80-strong staﬀ at South Cerney. “Our head oﬃce team is made up of people from all backgrounds and sectors because that encourages creativity and innovation,” said Brusk.
“We dig deeper to ﬁnd the people we need, which is something that other recruitment companies haven’t done in the past,” he added.
Hercules takes care of its long-standing site workforce too. In 2016 the company invested in a mobile health screening
vehicle. “The truck has two consulting rooms and our occupational nurses oﬀer basic health screening,” said Brusk.
The usefulness of its investment came into sharp focus recently when Hercules deployed its health trailer on the M42 motorway project being managed by Skanska. “We were oﬀering health checks to our workforce and three individuals presented with increased blood pressure. One man’s blood pressure was so high that our medics called an ambulance. He was in hospital for three days, and their action probably saved his life. He’s now back at work, with proper medication.”
That the worker wasn’t even employed by Hercules, but by one of its on-site competitors didn’t matter. “We oﬀer our services to everyone. Our staﬀ like it because they can see someone’s looking out for them.”
Hercules is now about to embark on its biggest project to date – investing around £6 million in the construction and ﬁtting out of a training centre near Nuneaton in Warwickshire.
The investment rationale is that by 2050, 60 per cent of the traditional jobs in construction will no longer exist.
“We must oﬀer training for the new jobs in construction and help employees learn to use technology which is currently in development. To do that we need dedicated training centres,” said Brusk.
What technologies does he think will be relevant to his future workforce? One already in development is the exoskeleton suit. This is a metal framework ﬁtted with motorised muscles to multiply the wearer’s strength. The suit makes lifted objects feel much lighter, reducing injuries.
“Using a suit like this could widen our pool of workers by oﬀering jobs to those who may not be so physically able,” said Brusk.
If all goes to plan Hercules – which listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM last February, plans to invest in building a further eight training centres across the UK over the next few years.
Brusk said: “The government is investing £650 billion over the next ten years in infrastructure, and that doesn’t include its investment in nuclear. Providing we are in the right place providing the right training, we will be able to supply the qualiﬁed construction workers Britain needs to build.”
An £11 million advanced manufacturing unit is set to be developed at a business and technology park in Coventry by commercial property developer Barberry Industrial Ltd.
The company has revealed plans for a 50,750 sq ft industrial unit at Ansty Park, which is already home to major occupiers Rolls-Royce, Cadent, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, Meggitt and The London Taxi Company.
Grainger plc has agreed to forward fund and acquire a 150-home build to rent scheme at West Way Square in Botley, Oxford – the ﬁrst build to rent scheme in the city.
The 150-apartment development in West Way Square will be developed by BDC Phase 2 Ltd, a Joint Venture between Mace Group and Doric Properties.
Colliers’ Residential Capital Markets team facilitated the £62.8 million deal, which includes seven ground ﬂoor commercial units totalling over 10,000 sq ft, internal residents’ amenity space, a podium garden, roof terrace and 120 parking permits.
The scheme is a mixed-use development close to the city centre and railway station. Gilbert Ash has been appointed as the main contractor on this second phase of the development, and completion is targeted for late 2024.
Mike Butler in the Residential Capital Markets team at Colliers, said: “Breaking into Oxford for investors has long been a
target for many in the sector, with barriers to entry high given the dearth of available land. We’re thrilled to have facilitated this ground-breaking deal, particularly in a city in need of high quality rental homes for its growing population and economy, which oﬀer outstanding long-term prospects.”
Helen Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of Grainger, said: "We are delighted to secure our ﬁrst scheme in Oxford, a key target city with robust underlying fundamentals and a great need for high quality rental homes. The convenient location and connectivity of West Way Square makes it attractive for those working in the city centre or at the many local business and science parks.”
Jon Robinson, development director at West Midlands-based Barberry, said: “Ansty Park is one of the most signiﬁcant business and technology parks in the Midlands.
“New buildings such as this help to create the quality accommodation that local, regional and national businesses need in order to expand their operations within the Midlands, creating new jobs and attracting investment. We continue to see signiﬁcant occupier demand for new industrial and warehouse units.”
Barberry has a 3.6 million sq ft industrial/logistics development portfolio with a gross development value of in excess of £500 million. It is currently developing a £40 million manufacturing and design facility for a global leader in engine and ﬂight controls systems in Gloucestershire. The 207,000 sq ft centre of excellence for Moog’s Aircraft Controls Segment is being built on a 10-acre site at Ashchurch, Tewkesbury.
“We’re thrilled to have facilitated this ground-breaking deal, particularly in a city in need of high quality rental homes ...”Artist’s impression of the scheme at Botley CGI of proposed Ansty Park development
The former HQ of Zurich Insurance in Bishop’s Cleeve near Cheltenham, one of Gloucestershire’s largest office buildings, is to be transformed in a multi-million-pound project.
Renamed as Grange Park business campus, it will be a ‘people ﬁrst’ location where staﬀ and visitors can work, relax and exercise amid more than 100 mature trees in 14 acres of parkland, say its developers.
Des Curran, director at architects Marchini Curran Associates, said: “Our design focus is on embracing and enhancing the building’s qualities, like the fantastic full height reception space and the internal ‘street’, while adding fresh elements that promote wellbeing for all users.
“As well as adding a bright new interior design feel to the common areas and office ﬂoor plates, we are creating new break-out spaces. Our designs seek to bring the lovely parkland setting inside, using natural materials and lighting to create a fresh, airy feel.”
The 175,000 sq ft of office areas are being conﬁgured to create various spaces and
specs, providing an environment in which a mix of business and other organisations can thrive.
Joint marketing agents are JLL’s Bristol office and Cheltenham’s THP Chartered Surveyors.
Ian Wills, at JLL, said: “Most people in Cheltenham seem to have worked, or know someone who worked, for Zurich at The Grange. It’s an important location with
a great heritage and this project carries that forward, thoroughly modernising the space for the next generation of businesses.
Richard Crabb, at THP, said: “Grange Park will provide space that is equal of the very best in Cheltenham town centre but provide much better value, and in a fantastic parkland setting. We are already in discussion with new occupiers drawn to this opportunity.”
Two vacant outdated oﬃce buildings at Aztec West business park, near Bristol, have been sold to Barwood Capital for industrial redevelopment, in a deal brokered by Alder King.
Cascade 1 and 2, which together occupy a two-acre site at 1190 Aztec West, will be demolished and the site redeveloped, subject to planning, to create a 38,000 sq ft prime edge-of-town industrial warehouse.
Barwood, which was behind the
development of the 12-acre Central Park logistics and Travelodge scheme beside the M49 motorway in Bristol and Portside Park in Avonmouth, raised more than £41 million in the third quarter of 2022 for its latest growth fund.
Tom Gold, investment director at Barwood said: “We continue to invest in underperforming, undermanaged or obsolete real estate through speculative development, asset management or repositioning, concentrating on locations with strong
rental growth prospects and occupier demand.
“This site is an excellent ﬁrst asset for the Fund and we look forward to progressing through planning.”
Tom Dugay from Alder King’s oﬃce agency team said: “We’re familiar with redundant oﬃce buildings being converted to residential use, but this oﬃce-to-industrial proposal reﬂects the strength of demand for industrial space in Bristol’s heavily land and stockconstrained market.”
Late last year, the Royal Air Force, Airbus and other industry partners carried out the world’s ﬁrst 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) ﬂight using an in-service military aircraft.
An RAF Voyager – the military variant of the Airbus A330 commercial jetliner – ﬂew above RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire powered completely by 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel on both engines, paving the way for a range of possibilities for the future of ﬂying military aircraft.
The ﬂight was a joint endeavour between the RAF, Bristol-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support agency, British aircraft leasing company AirTanker and engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, with the fuel supplied by Air bp, the specialised aviation division of British BP.
Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: “This helps pave the
way for a sustainable reduction of carbon emissions of our military aircraft ﬂeets.
“Airbus engineers have made a signiﬁcant contribution to this RAF mission by providing on-the-ground expertise and securing the necessary MoD military ﬂight permits.”
Sustainable Aviation Fuel – which is made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks, in this case used cooking oil – reduces life cycle carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent compared to the conventional fuel it replaces, lessens the RAF’s reliance on global supply chains and improves operational resilience by reducing the necessity for fuel resupplying.
This success follows the small aircraft ﬂight powered by 15 litres of synthetic gasoline – another world-ﬁrst led by the RAF (see our interview with Paddy Lowe of Zero Petroleum in this issue). Synthetic fuel is made from water and carbon dioxide, which is then put under pressure and an electric current run through it.
Gloucester-based Wild Hydrogen is one of four South West companies that have secured investment through Syndicate Room. The total investment for all four companies was £1 million.
Wild Hydrogen’s carbon negative process converts organic waste into clear hydrogen, while capturing and storing carbon dioxide.
Mark Wickham, James and John Milner founded Wild Hydrogen in 2021 based on an idea that Mark had been musing on for many years.
Just six months later the technology was proven and protected and the team recognised that this technology is a real game changer. Collaborating with Cranﬁeld University and Helical Energy (Mark’s business) it soon became apparent that the team were extremely well placed to exploit the technology as a force for good.
The company is now operating from a site in Gloucester and well on the way to building a commercial plant, proving that there is a viable and sustainable method for creating negative emission fuel.
The most powerful solar farm in the UK, with the ability to power more than 330,000 households, could be built on the famous Oxfordshire estate of Blenheim.
If permitted, the planned Botley West Solar Farm would be able to supply the National Grid with 840 MW of cheap, clean power. That would, theoretically, provide enough energy to run every home in Oxfordshire.
The solar farm, which would cover more than 1,000 hectares, would be built by Photovolt Development Partners (PVDP), which
has completed sizeable solar projects in Europe and Japan.
Blenheim Chief Executive Dominic Hare said: “We all recognise we are in an energy crisis and currently rely heavily on countries beyond our shores for our energy, which is at a premium and shows little sign of getting any better.
“As we contribute our land to this project, we do so knowing it could deliver enough clean energy to power 330,000 homes, enough to power every home in Oxfordshire, whilst supporting our collective declarations in the battle against the climate emergency.
For 27 years, the Oxfordshire Business Awards (OXBA) has been recognising, rewarding and promoting the excellence of Oxfordshire-based companies. Organised and supported by 13 of the county’s leading organisations, the Awards are ﬁrmly established as a benchmark for excellence in today’s competitive business environment.
The Hartwell Charity & Community Award
The Hays Employer of the Year Award
The JACKfm Marketing Excellence Award
The James Cowper Kreston Business Person of the Year Award
The Mathews Comfort Young Business Person of the Year Award
The NatWest Large Business Award
The Nicholsons Lockhart Garratt Green Award
The Oxford Science Park Innovation Award
The Oxfordshire LEP New Business Award
The RWK Goodman Small Business Award
The STL Technology Excellence Award
The Thomas Franks Business of the Year Award
The region’s most inﬂuential B2B magazine, in-print and online for news, features, interviews and business sector analysis. Published by Black Ox Ltd.
2023 Print issues will be published in January, March, May, July, September, November
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