City and County officials meet Digital businesses in Lancaster

Digital Lancashire, the trade body for digital business in Lancashire, has brought council leaders and officials to the city for a tour of digital businesses at Lancaster University and in the city centre. The aim of the tour was to showcase digital businesses and homegrown digital talent and to discuss ways in which the councils could help digital businesses in the City meet several key challenges.

Michael Green, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Lancashire County Council, and officers from Lancaster, Preston and Burnley, heard from companies they visited, including Fat Media, NuBlue, Relative Insight, Yordas Group and Factored, that city-based digital businesses faced two key challenges: finding and retaining talent with the right digital skills and finding suitable buildings and office space in which to grow and develop their businesses.

Michael Gibson, Director of Miralis Data and Chair of Digital Lancashire says, “Officials were told about a Lancaster-based business that has recently created 20 new roles in another city because suitable office space could not be found locally; another digital business that cannot find suitable office space with a flexible lease in Lancaster, so it has moved out and is car-sharing its staff to Kendal and back every day; and two others are looking at moving from the city altogether with the potential loss of 100 jobs if the right space doesn’t become available. Thanks to Lancaster University and a foundation of successful digital companies, over 800 well-paid jobs have been created in the digital economy in Lancaster which boosts other city businesses. However, we have to do more to create modern, collaborative workspaces and to develop, train and retain talent or we will lose this fast-growing part of our local economy.”

Similar stories were told by several of the businesses based at the University’s InfoLab21. Very many of the highly successful, cutting-edge businesses based at the University need new premises in order to continue to grow and thrive but, again, cannot find the space in the City suitable to move into.  

The digital economy in Lancaster is thriving. For example, Relative Insight, which recently received substantial investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, has won clients such as Disney, Sky and Unilever; Vibe Tickets, who’ve raised nearly £1 million to fund growth, is creating substantial jobs at The StoreyFat Media employs 75 people at its White Cross base through clients across the UK and around the world; and others such as SQ Digital, who employ over 40 people at its Church Street base, have brought an old, city centre building back to useful, economic life.  

Mark Thwaite, Head of Communications for Digital Lancashire says, “Digital businesses grow much faster than non-digital businesses, so office requirements change more quickly. Furthermore, digital customers have certain expectation of what their suppliers will look like – modern, fresh, bright, well-located. Digital businesses want to meet those expectations and the expectations of staff who themselves want to work in well-appointed, digitally-appropriate workspaces. If we can open up great spaces to the amazing businesses that we have in Lancaster their employees will spend in the city, build lives and raise families in the local area, and help to create the vibrant economy of the future that we all need. If don’t look after these businesses, we imperil that future.”

Unlimited holidays for staff at Cloud Technology Solutions

Unlimited holidays for staff and annual holidays to Majorca are part of the secret to the success of one of the North’s fastest-growing tech companies.

Cloud Technology Solutions placed 20th in the Northern Tech 100 list of fast-growing companies compiled by Tech North in association with GP Bullhound for the Northern Tech Awards.

After adding 52 staff in the last two years it now employs 82 people with a head office in Manchester as well as bases in Edinburgh and Belfast and a development team spread around the world.

Sales director Steve Dobson, who set up the business with CEO James Doggart in 2008, told BusinessCloud that the unlimited holiday policy began out of an admin headache in trying to manage the rota for 60 people.

Read more at Business Cloud

Tony Lacey

Tony Lacey interview: more money, more time, less stress

On the 30th November, Digital Roundtable, the leading event for digital agency owners and senior management, is coming to Lancaster. The event will take place between 5.30 to 8pm at The Borough.

Together with partners MyAccountancyPlace, Digital Roundtable helps digital agencies optimise their work, improve profitability and thrive through learning from experts and engaging with peers.

This month’s meeting will kick off with a keynote entitled More money, more time, less stress from the excellent and inspiring Tony Lacey.

There’s a great interview with Tony Lacey, over on the MyAccountancyPlace website:

“My name is Tony Lacey. I am the Founder and Managing Partner of Clarity Business People. At Clarity, we work with private enterprise businesses, motivating and energising clients around maximising the return on their business investments. We work with our clients and their teams to provide clear commercial and cultural initiatives designed to accelerate specific outcomes for owners and their businesses. The key is to address these initiatives in the right balance as they build the business towards the vision they set out to achieve.”

Read the rest of the Tony Lacey interview.

Register now for the Digital Roundtable in Lancaster on November 30.

Relative Insight are Tech North Northern Stars winners

Four months of intense competition came to a head at the Tech North Northern Stars grand final last Friday. 20 finalists pitched at the well-attended event which was hosted by Tech North’s Martin Bryant. Then four experienced judges (Suzanne Ashman of LocalGlobe, James Foster of ADV, Sarah Turner of Angel Academe and prolific investor Keith Wallington) selected the 10 deserving winners of this year’s competition…

And Lancaster’s Relative Insight was one of the winners! Congratulations to everyone at Relative Insight for all their hard work and innovation.

Relative Insight help brands choose the best language to use with their target audience: “using comparative language analysis to help marketers discover real insights and turn them into communication.”

Read more over on the Tech North blog.

Becoming Tech Nation

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have pledged to commit an additional £21 million in funding over the next four years, to support the expansion of Tech City UK and Tech North into Tech Nation.

Tech Nation will also benefit from a greater allocation of exceptional talent visas. These will be available to all endorsing bodies including for highly skilled tech workers who want to come and work in the UK, in recognition of the sector’s global nature.

With this wider remit, we will work tirelessly to accelerate the growth of the UK digital tech sector – bringing jobs, skills and higher productivity to the regions.

More at Tech City

Acorn secures £20m finance

A specialist recruitment and training business with almost 40 offices across the UK, including in Manchester, Preston, Crewe and Widnes, has secured a £20m invoice finance package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The funding will provide Newport-headquartered Acorn Group with working capital to support its growth.

The business was founded in 1992 and now employs a 270-strong team across 38 offices. It specialises in recruitment for the IT and digital, construction, rail, engineering, legal, industrial and executive search sectors.

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Best quarter for Northern tech deals since records began

A total of £202.5m was invested during Q3 2017 across the North of England. In addition, the largest number of individual deals also took place, with a total of 40 individual transactions. These are the highest levels of tech investment in the region since records by Pitchbook and Beauhurst began in 2007, and results continue to dampen fears of investment shortfall in the wake of Brexit.

This was an extremely busy period for Northern tech, and suggests the mood is positive despite the various market challenges in this youthful sector. August in particular saw a hive of activity. The period was also the first to see a significant amount of public money invested from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), which has further bolstered the capital available for growing digital tech businesses across the region. James Bedford summarises:

“The rapid growth of the tech sector is reflected by the continued growth in investment. Encouragingly there is an increase in both the amount invested and the number of investments. I believe the impact of the Northern Powerhouse Funds is beginning to show…”

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Pledge for greater investment in Morecambe Bay

Lancaster, Barrow and South Lakeland councils have pledged to work together more closely to attract greater investment and employment into the Morecambe Bay area.

Bosses say the new partnership will enable more effective economic development activity and bring fresh opportunities.

The first step towards collaboration has already been taken with the leaders of each council signing a Joint Statement of Intent to work together on economic development opportunities.

Cllr Eileen Blamire, Leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Stronger collaboration around Morecambe Bay provides potential strategic advantages for all three councils and the communities we serve.

“District and county administrative boundaries serve a purpose in terms of public administration but do not necessarily define the economy, which develops around key sectors, supply chains and markets, as well as people and skills.”

Barrow Borough Council’s Leader, Cllr Dave Pidduck, said: “This council has recognised the need to build strong alliances and partnerships to lobby for the area at a regional and national level.

“Our partnership around Morecambe Bay is a key step towards that. All three local authority areas have unique strengths and will benefit from a collaborative approach to new employment, infrastructure and skills.

“With key strengths in industry, environment and learning Morecambe Bay will become a significant regional economic voice.”

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Rolls-Royce coming to Lancaster

The Global Director of Manufacturing for Rolls-Royce is coming to Lancaster to answer questions from North West business leaders about productivity within the manufacturing and engineering industry.

On 9 November at 9am, Dr Hamid Mughal, Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce will be sharing expertise from his 30-year career in the automotive and aerospace industries when he takes part in a question and answer session about productivity with local businesses at Lancaster House Hotel.

It follows the release of new ONS data this month which showed productivity in the UK fell by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of this year. Figures show the UK remains around 15 percent below average in comparison to productivity levels in other G7 countries.

The event has been arranged as part of ‘Productivity through People’ (PtP) – a support programme designed for North West businesses to address the low levels of productivity seen across the UK since the 2008 economic crash. Leading academics from Lancaster University Management School have teamed up with experts from industrial partners Rolls-Royce, Siemens and BAE Systems to support leaders of small and medium-sized businesses by providing access to some of the latest technology and research.

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Lancaster’s Canal Corridor North gets go ahead

Lancaster City Council’s going to progress with the latest plan to transform the Canal Corridor North site.

The development involves the authority; land owners British Land; and Lancaster University, who want to include a student village.

The latest proposals for the dilapidated quarter surrounding the old Mitchell’s Brewery include a mix of retail and food outlets; an 82-room hotel; accomodation for a thousand students; an underground car park; and an arts hub.

Last night, the City Council agreed in principle to support such a project and offer financial support – however, further negotiation and due diligence will be needed.

Plans to revamp the near 13 acre site between the city centre and the Lancaster Canal were first put forward well over a decade ago.

In 2010, a redevelopment was rejected by the government for not paying enough attention to protecting and restoring the site’s heritage…

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