AffecTech Lancaster Claudia

AffecTech showcases innovative mental health technology

Members of the public and healthcare professionals have tried out prototypes of innovative wearables technologies for mental health being developed at Lancaster University.

They were able to test the cutting-edge technologies at a special event at Lancaster’s The Storey on Tuesday, May 14, which was held to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

The event was organised by the Lancaster University team of the AffecTech project – a four-year research initiative that’s developing new digital tools to help people with depression, anxiety and bipolar.

Attendees included professionals from the region’s health and technology sectors, as well as leading mental health charities such as Mind and Anxiety UK.

“This was an enjoyable opportunity for public and professionals to learn more about, and have hands-on experience of, new wearable technologies for mental health that we are developing here in Lancaster,” said Corina Sas, Professor of Digital Health at Lancaster University, who also created the AffecTech project.

Click here to read the full story and find out more about AffecTech.


One iota and Hugo Boss

Retailers embracing tech in-store

We know most high streets are struggling and buyers certainly expect more from their shopping experience whether that’s online or on their high street. This week we’ve heard that Hugo Boss has chosen to work alongside One iota to create digital in-store experiences.

Read the full story on Prolific North.

“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to enhancing our customer experience in-store. When we first encountered One iota, we immediately saw that their extensive experience could help us expand our digital reach,” explained Joe Ellis, Director Global Retail Operations.

Christian Brooks, Divisional Managing Director at Sanderson, added:

“I’m delighted to welcome yet another global brand to Sanderson and the One iota portfolio of clients, especially such a respected and recognisable name in the world of fashion as Hugo Boss. This new partnership will see the teams continue to collaborate and build digital solutions that are sympathetically designed to enhance the overall experience in-store for Boss and Hugo  customers.”

Whilst we appreciate that Hugo Boss is a well-known brand, there are certainly opportunities for smaller, independent retailers to enhance customer experience through digital and tech. Do you know one in Lancashire that is already doing this well? Let us know! 

Roll sleeves and get stuff done

Roll your sleeves up and get stuff done

When it comes to writing content for this blog, there are so many stories we could be sharing. Lancashire is a place where people roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. 

Many of you will have heard of B4RN – they build Gigabit capable “full fibre” (FTTH) broadband networks in some of the most challenging rural areas. Based in Melling, Lancashire they are driven and built by local volunteers with invaluable support from landowners and farmers. With over 23000 shareholders, local communities have invested over £5m into B4RN since its creation in 2011 with any profits made going back into the community.

Watch Chris Conder’s TEDx talk.

Over the years we’ve increasingly seen the farming industry take advantage of the technologies available to them but we recognise there is still some way to go. One member, Milliamp Technologies based in Lancaster, have a particular interest in IoT [Internet of Things] used in rural areas, such as flood monitoring, animal tagging and remote security, and have some exciting plans in the pipeline.

IoT Animal Tagging

Dot McCarthy, a hill farmer in Helmshore, Lancashire and self-confessed tech lover not only has an education centre that focusses on teaching the importance of the countryside for food and wildlife but she also has a small team of developers working on her latest project, Farmer2Foodie – a tech startup that will make finding and buying from local food suppliers easier.  Follow their progress on Twitter.

You can find out more about Cronkshaw Fold Farm by clicking here. 

These are just 3 we’ve chosen to focus on but we know there are plenty of people and businesses using and creating technology to ‘get stuff done’ and we’d really like to hear your story. Get in touch by emailing


Strawberry Fields in Chorley, Lancashire

Strawberry Fields in Chorley almost ripe for the picking.

The Strawberry Fields project in Chorley sparked our interest early on and we were keen to ensure the digital community had a voice as the project developed. We’ve had many conversations with Chorley Council and last week took a trip to the development which aims to be completed in just a few short months. Jeremy, Tom, and Liz were given a tour by Phil Owen, Chorley Council’s Senior Business Engagement Officer (Digital). With smiling faces all around, it certainly seems to be on track for a summer launch.

Digital Lancashire visit Strawberry Fields

The Strawberry Fields Digital Hub will be a brand new, state of the art, hi-tech business centre for digital and creative businesses, providing collaborative space and bespoke office suites, from new start-ups to growing SMEs. A range of office environments is being created to include hot-desking and micro pods, offices for companies seeking flexibility and growth to larger office suites available on conventional lease terms. There will be access to training and meeting rooms, presentation facilities, hi-speed broadband, cloud storage, and secure wi-fi plus on-site business support with links to academia.

If you’d like to know more about the Strawberry Fields development please visit their website by clicking here. 

It’s fantastic to see how much it’s progressed compared to this video which was taken in August last year!

R&D in Lancashire

Blackburn with Darwen companies lead the way in North West R&D tax relief claims

An Innovation League Table produced by R&D tax relief specialist Jumpstart puts Blackburn with Darwen at the top. Blackburn with Darwen is leading the way as the county with the highest percentage of innovative businesses across the North West of England’s 10 unitary authority areas.

A total of 120 successful claims were made by Blackburn with Darwen companies (2.48% of all enterprises within the area), including SMEs and large businesses, for R&D tax relief in the latest 2016-17 figures released today by HMRC. 

Initial HMRC statistics from last September showed a 640% increase in the amount of R&D tax relief savings being claimed by companies in the North West over the last seven years. The figures show Manufacturing, Information & Communication and Professional, Scientific & Technical sectors in the region accounting for the majority of claims.

The North West League Table shows Cheshire East as the second most active area with 1.79% of businesses securing successful R&D tax relief claims and Lancashire ranked third with 1.71% of businesses claiming. Greater Manchester sits mid-table with 1.58% claiming while Cumbria is at the foot of the table with only 0.75% of businesses securing a successful claim.

Commenting on the figures, Russel McGrath, Business Development Manager for Jumpstart in the North West region said:

“Today’s HMRC figures form the basis of our Innovation League Table. It shows Blackburn with Darwen leading the way in making successful R&D tax relief claims in the North West. Although it is a small unitary authority area there is a relatively high percentage of local companies in key sectors such as manufacturing and professional science driving its strong regional placement. Significant numbers of local businesses have been successful in securing R&D tax relief for their investment in innovation to improve operational processes and enhance competitiveness. The generous reliefs offered by the UK Government continue to support businesses in achieving these aims.”

Introduced in 2000, R&D tax credits are designed to drive competitiveness in British business by incentivising companies to invest in innovation.  Since its inception, Jumpstart has helped its clients recover over £140m in R&D tax relief and has identified over £665m in eligible R&D expenditure.


R&D Tax relief claims by North West county area *

Blackburn with Darwen               2.48%

Cheshire East                            1.79%

Lancashire                                1.71%

Halton                                       1.60%

Greater Manchester                   1.58%

Cheshire West and Chester        1.42%

Merseyside                               1.16%

Warrington                                0.98%

Cumbria                                    0.93%

Blackpool                                 0.84%

*The above figures are based on the most recent (2016-17) R&D tax relief claim statistics produced by HMRC in relation to the number of enterprises in each unitary authority area, based on UK Government statistics:

Numbers of claims made are rounded to the nearest 5, in line with HMRC statistics.