Could place-based innovation strategies use design to accelerate local growth?

The Design Council’s latest report, Design Economy 2018, aims to demonstrate and measure the impact of design as a driver for growth and innovation to create significant value for the UK economy.

Findings from the report reveal a link between firms’ investment in design and their investment in R&D, which leads to innovation and the creation of value.

The report reveals a positive correlation between integration of design and a firm’s propensity for innovation.


Companies urged to submit aerospace projects

Companies have been urged to submit projects to potentially secure a share of funding to help keep the UK at the cutting edge of the global civil aerospace industry.

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK will invest up to £150m in innovative aerospace projects this year.

The funding is part of a £3.9bn joint investment between government and industry and run by the ATI. Investments will be made in projects that promote competition and innovation in the aerospace sector.

Projects are sought that will strengthen the UK’s capability in whole-aircraft design and system integration; develop advanced, connected aircraft systems technologies; make the UK a global leader in the development of large complex structures; and advance more efficient, next-generation propulsion technologies.

Bidders are also asked to demonstrate how their project would provide value for money, create benefits in jobs and training, and their potential within the industry.

Companies have been invited to submit ideas for projects, with successful applicants able to apply for funding in the next stage of the competition.

Via Insider Media.

Digital Lancashire Chair calls for more investment in UK’s “lost towns”

The UK will never punch its weight on the world’s tech stage without proper investment in the country’s “lost towns”.

That’s the view of Michael Gibson, chair of Digital Lancashire and founder and managing director of Lancaster-based AI specialist Miralis Data.

The tech veteran says that fast-growing start-ups in the regions often have no choice but to relocate to a major city because of a lack of suitable office space.

Gibson said the result was the UK was producing a long line of “lost towns” which were in danger of not meeting their full potential.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the Northern Powerhouse and the region is blessed with big cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

“If a property company opened a tech building in Manchester they would probably charge £26 sq ft but the same space would probably cost £10 sq ft in one of the smaller towns so there’s no incentive for developers  to build there.

“What this means is that while there’s no shortage of tech talent in these towns there is a dire shortage of space so scale-ups often have to leave. If we don’t reverse that investment we’re in danger of producing a legacy of lost towns.”

Gibson said  clustering made sense for like-minded tech businesses and highlighted the example of Auto Trader, TalkTalk and AO that all left smaller towns to move to Manchester.

“Smaller cities and towns are seeing high-skilled, high-wage companies leave and are doing very little to understand why and how to retain and grow a local tech cluster,” he said.

Last week Miralis Data was included in BusinessCloud’s list of 51 Artificial Intelligence Innovators.

Gibson said Miralis Data, which employs 10 people and is approaching £1 million turnover,  benefited from its close links to Lancaster University but admitted there was a long waiting list for suitable office space in the town.

“Companies are queuing to get into limited spaces but the existing companies in these spaces have nowhere else to go so you have a blockage,” he said.

Gibson said local councils, universities and local enterprise partnerships could borrow money “phenomenally cheaply” and if that was invested into improving buildings and infrastructure the result would be the creation of tech clusters.

Gibson sold digital marketing company Fat Media for an undisclosed seven figure sum in 2014 and admits its Lancashire location put some potential buyers off.

“We had an amazing portfolio of national clients but if we’d been based in Manchester the deal multiple would have been higher,” he said.

“However a lot of people don’t want to work in a big city and they lose sight of the fact that we’re only two-and-a-half hours away from London.”

His new company, Miralis Data, is now in the process of acquiring a software business in Wales and is working on six different projects.

“The thing with AI is if just one of those projects takes off it’s easier to scale quickly and if that happens we’re going to need some larger office space,” he said.

Via Business Cloud.

Lancaster University win for Wash

Wash has been appointed by Lancaster University to create its 2020 campaign.

The Preston-based agency will be responsible for designing and producing a range of marketing materials, including the prospectus, exhibition, open day and digital.

Wash have truly grasped the essence of Lancaster University and how we can portray this to prospective students – we are excited to see the new campaign come to life,” said Heather Ellis, head of marketing at Lancaster University.

The campaign will be based on the concept of it being the “place for you” and underlining its “University of the Year 2018” status in The Sunday Times.

Via Prolific North.

PHP/Web Developer

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a PHP/Web developer to join the digital team at one of the North West’s leading and fastest growing full service digital, marketing and PR agencies in Preston, Lancashire.
ICG is looking for a developer to work with the wider digital team, who will be responsible for the creation and implementation of a wide variety of web-based products using PHP, JavaScript, MySQL and AJAX. Based near Preston, this PHP developer role will involve undertaking a range of tasks to provide solutions to the digital requirements of a diverse range of clients.

Why ICG?

ICG was named as The Northern Marketing Business of the Year at The Drum Network Awards, as well as The Most Entrepreneurial PR/Marketing Firm of the Year at The North West Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. We also offer a range of benefits:

  • Competitive salary based on experience
  • Annual bonus scheme
  • Newly refurbished modern work space, with chillout and social areas
  • Annual trip abroad
  • Regular social events
  • Free snacks, drinks and a cake on your birthday!
  • PC to your spec
  • Exciting projects and an organised workflow
  • Company pension scheme
  • Child Care Vouchers
  • 25 days paid holiday + Christmas Eve off
Essential Skills:
  • Excellent PHP, HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery knowledge
  • Excellent front-end development skills for desktop, mobile and responsive websites
  • A team player who is able to develop complex web-based applications
  • Maintaining existing codebase, to include troubleshooting bugs and adding new features
  • A keen eye for detail, making sure things look amazing as well as functioning perfectly
  • Excellent back-end development skills in producing custom CMS
  • Good knowledge in web analytics and Google webmaster tools would be beneficial
  • Good communication skills and ability to work within an agency environment
  • It is preferable to have experience working in an agency or big brand environment
If you are passionate about working in an inspiring and creative environment, please send your CV to

VC investment in Northern start-ups passes £90M

Venture Capital investors have pumped more than $114 million (£90m) into Northern start-up businesses in the first six months of this year.

That is according to Venture Pulse 2018, a quarterly report on global VC trends published by KPMG Enterprise, with data from PitchBook.

A total of 47 businesses from the region saw investment from global VC investors between January and June, out of 449 deals completed across the UK.

While the first half of 2018 has been steadily busy for VC investment in the North, other parts of the UK have seen activity pick up in the second quarter after a slower start. The surge in activity has propelled the UK back to the top of the European VC market.

“It’s encouraging to see that continued uncertainty in the macropolitical and macroeconomic environment does not appear to be substantially hampering appetite for investment in UK startups, especially in the North, which has had two strong quarters in a row,” said Graham Pearce, KPMG’s head of technology in the North.

Read more at Business Cloud.

Morven Christie to lead cast of new ITV drama set in Morecambe

Written by award-winning, Lancaster-based writer Daragh Carville (Being Human, The Smoke, Cherrybomb), Christie (The A Word, The Replacement) will lead the cast of The Bay as Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong, a fierce and hard-working family liaison officer.

Joining Christie are Jonas Armstrong (Troy, Ripper Street), Tracie Bennett (Scott & Bailey, Coronation Street), Lindsey Coulson (Funny Cow, Bullet Proof), Chanel Cresswell (This is England ’90, Murdered For Being Different) and Louis Greatorex (Last Tango in Halifax, Safe).

The Bay will be executive produced by Catherine Oldfield (Trauma, Home Fires) for Tall Story Pictures. Produced by Philip Leach (Wire in the Blood, No Offence) with episodes 1-3 directed by Lee Haven Jones (Shetland, Vera) and episodes 4-6 directed by Robert Quinn (Home Fires, Endeavour, No Offence).

Filming begins this month in and around the Morecambe area…

Read on at Prolific North.

Lancaster-based Miralis Data nominated as top AI innovator

BusinessCloud has revealed its list of 51 of the UK’s top artificial intelligence innovators, including Lancaster-based Miralis Data:

In the fast-changing world of AI we’re shining a light on 51 of the companies that we feel are doing something especially innovative and disruptive with the technology.

People could nominate companies for possible inclusion in the list but we canvassed the opinion of industry experts before settling on the final line-up.

We’ve published them in alphabetical order but a public vote this week will decide the top company.

To vote just email the name of your winner to with the reason why you think they should win. It’s only one vote per person and/or  email address. The closing date in midday on Thursday 16th August.

Preston-based IT disputes firm acquired

A Preston consultancy which specialises in IT disputes and digital forensics has been snapped up by a global firm.

Blackrock Expert Services has purchased IT Group for an undisclosed sum in a bid to expand its capabilities in the IT sector.

IT Group specialises in technology while Blackrock has extensive experience in the construction industry.

Tony Sykes, the founder and joint managing director of IT Group, said: “IT Group has been involved in some of the world’s largest IT disputes, as well as disputes involving technology in construction projects.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to advise on Blackrock’s projects as well as continuing to offer technology dispute and forensic services to clients across the group.”

Giles Derry, chief executive of Blackrock Expert Services, added: “The shared ethos of quality, integrity and independence meant the two businesses were a natural fit together.

“The ever-increasing importance of technology in construction and the continued growth of technology, IP and data disputes means this will be an area where access to IT experts is essential.  There is a scarcity of experienced IT experts in the market place.”

More via Insider Media.