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.


BCW Manufacturing Group

£5 million investment for Burnley manufacturer

BCW Manufacturing Group based in Burnley have received a £5 million investment. The company develop automated lines, tooling, work holdings, and mistake prevention systems and have a client base that includes Aston Martin, Bentley, and Jaguar Land Rover.

The money will be used to fund the expansion of the existing site with an 80,000 sq-ft development. The bolstered headquarters will see the creation of a dedicated automotive machining facility and additional warehouse space. The investment is set to create up to 50 jobs. 👍

“We are delighted to have won these new contracts against stiff global competition and this expansion will be a major boost for BCW, for Burnley and the wider Lancashire economy, creating several new hi-tech jobs in the process.” Claire Whelan, Joint MD.

Click here to read the full story on Insider Media.

It’s great to hear that the expansion will create even more hi-tech jobs in the county. Do you have digital and tech roles you need to fill? Let us know and we can add them to the JOBS section of our website.


Blackpool Tech Hub

Tech Hub to launch in Blackpool

A group of entrepreneurs all with their own links to Blackpool have shared their plans to launch a tech hub in the town.

Created by Peter Hargreaves, the group will be chaired by Carrie Longton, who is best known for launching Mumsnet, the online parenting network used by 100 million people each month.

Carrie said: “Mumsnet was a pioneer of peer to peer networks and support and that is still at the heart of why it works so well. I look forward to using my Mumsnet experience to help other local innovators take their projects forward and put Blackpool back on the map as a technology hub.”

Click here to read the full story on Lancashire Business View. 

The hub will be open to any company, entrepreneur or professional in the tech sector and will be supported by Blackpool Pride of Place, a cross sector partnership working under the umbrella of Business in the Community with a vision to regenerate Blackpool.

VR at Myerscough College

Using Virtual Reality in the land-based sector

An innovative project led by Myerscough College and aimed at using Virtual Reality to enhance skills and learning in the land-based sector has been hailed as an overwhelming success.

Following a successful bid to the Association of Colleges funded by the Education & Training Foundation, Myerscough’s E-Learning team has spent the last year designing VR packages to be used in enhancing teaching and learning. It was decided that the technology would be initially trialed in the sectors of Agriculture, Equine and Sportsturf.

Click here to read the full story.

“It was clear that the students really enjoyed the session – I haven’t seen them voluntarily give a round of applause before!! Very well done and thank you for coming along to run the VR and helping make sure the lesson worked well. With such a great response I think there is a strong case for more VR to be used!!”  Craig Thompson, Head of Agriculture.

“I like this kind of approach to lessons, I hate just copying off a board. It’s boring.” Equine Student.

Connect Childcare in Lancashire

Connect Childcare are ready to expand.

An investment package totalling £2.5million is set to create 30 new jobs for an East Lancashire childcare technology specialist. Connect Childcare, which provides software solutions for private nurseries and childcare providers, employs 60 but there are hopes to swell their ranks by 50 percent over the next three years.

Commenting on the investment, Chris Reid, founder and CEO said, “Investment enables us to continue the development of platforms and to retain and attract staff who are fundamental to our growth.” 

Based near Nelson, their £260,000 new office move, to 9,000 square feet open-plan offices in Lindred Road, on the Lomeshaye industrial estate, is behind ambitious growth plans.

“Our former home was just over 3,000 sq ft and we really were working on top of each other, which wasn’t good for staff morale and we couldn’t wait to move. For us, the important thing was to bring the team together as one and encourage collaborative working, yet in a fun, modern, fit-for-purpose environment. There was also a secondary need to attract new talent through our doors and to bring them to Nelson, we knew we need that little something more.

Read the full story from Lancashire Telegraph by clicking here. 

British Business Bank

Extra £200 million for British businesses

High-flying firms across the UK will benefit from a further £200 million of government support to ensure that innovative British firms can access the finance they need to grow.

The Exchequer Secretary, Robert Jenrick, marked the launch of the new funding that will be made available to innovative businesses through funds supported by the British Business Bank. He said Ministers were determined to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business. This type of funding has traditionally been sought by fast-growing firms in the science and technology sectors.

“The UK is creating more start-ups and attracting more venture capital funding than any other European country, but we want to do more to ensure our small businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive. That’s why we are injecting a further £200 million into the British Business Bank, specifically to back businesses that are scaling up”.

Read the full story on the British Business Bank by clicking here.