The Governments Campaign; ‘Building Britain’s Future’ Takes Shape with Investments in Technology and Advanced Manufacturing

17 08 2009

Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced a £3million investment in UK technology firms, as well as a £340million investment in the development of a new Airbus.

The investments form part of the Governments strategy ‘Building Britain’s Future,’ which includes the launch of several funds including the Capital for Enterprise Fund and the Strategic Investment fund, which is aimed at increasing Advanced Manufacturing, to keep the UK ahead of the competition.

The £75milion Capital for Enterprise fund was launched in January, to help growing companies’ access finance. The fund includes £50 million from the government, as well as £30 million from UK banks, which is managed by Octopus Investments.

The £3million investment includes £1million to IT systems business Vamosa, as well as £2million to KeTech, who provide communication software to rail companies, as well as the emergency services and construction businesses.

KeTech’s CEO, John Kearney, explains that he wrote to Lord Mandelson after having difficulty securing finance;

“Since the current economic crisis began, the lack of available credit, even to viable businesses such as KeTech, has significantly impaired our ability to keep growing. As a result, we turned to the Government for help.

“I am therefore delighted that the Octopus Capital for Enterprise Fund is injecting much-needed capital into KeTech. This will play a critical role in enabling us to secure profitable new contracts which regrettably, until now, we have been forced to turn away.”

The £340million investment for Airbus will aid the development of the new A350 XWB and ensure that Britain retains its position as a world leader in wing, landing gear and fuel integration systems technologies

The investment which is drawn partially from the Governments £750million strategic investment fund, will also secure more than 1,200 jobs within Airbus across Filton and Broughton sites as well over 5,000 within the supply chain across the UK.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said;

“This agreement is excellent news for the UK aerospace sector and for the thousands of British workers within Airbus and its UK-based supply chain”.

“The UK’s aerospace industry is world-class and capable of competing successfully with companies across the world. We recognise the vital role Airbus, and its supply chain, play in the UK.

“Aerospace is a sector that we are rightly proud of in the UK. It stimulates innovation across industry, demonstrates our capability to work with the most advanced technologies, and provides high-quality, highly skilled employment. It is a sector at the heart of our advanced manufacturing strategy.”

Click here to read more about the Government’s campaign ‘Building Britain’s Future.’

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Universities Mobilise To Support Business and Entrepreneurs

16 04 2009

HEFCE and DIUS have said what money will be allocated to which HEIs from the Economic Challenge Investment Fund.

Standing Together provides contacts and practical examples.

Standing Together provides contacts and practical examples.

A total of 77 universities and colleges will offer between them £59,240,920 of match funding to help businesses and communities. The total amount of funding being made available by HEFCE to successful bidders is £27,572,834, with the remainder provided in the form of matching contributions from institutions and local partners.

The Economic Challenge Investment Fund opened for bids in January for its £27 million in match funding. It is designed to help institutions delivering short-term support between April 2009 and September 2010. The funding has enabled many institutions already actively engaged in entrepreneurship education, knowledge transfer and business support to boost their activities.

It’s just one part of an increasingly coordinated response by higher education institutions to the economic crisis, and enterprise and entrepreneurship are key features of many initiatives awarded funding and support.

Every university is now being challenged to be a ‘business facing university’ as Government and business look to the higher education to demonstrate how they can support the economy and their local communities.

“Demand for higher education usually grows during an economic downturn” says a useful new guide Standing Together – Universities helping business through the downturn. The guide gives names and contact details at 157 institutions and links to examples of schemes already supporting business and enterprise across the country.

Standing Together has been published by Universities UK, GuildHE and HEFCE, with support from DIUS, to provide examples of how HEIs are contributing to the effort to get British business back on track.

The recipient of the most Economic Challenge Fund money is the University of Cumbria, which will receive £1 million for its activities. Cumbria is one Northwest university with vibrant enterprise activity.

The University has in post an NCGE-NWDA Northwest Enterprise Champion, Jo Chaffer, who led a successful intensive three-day entrepreneurship course that launched a FlyingStart General Business Programme at the end of March for over 30 graduate entrepreneurs.

Other universities awarded nearly £1 million include Aston University in Birmingham, identified yesterday by the Work Foundation as the UK city hardest hit by unemployment. Its Pro Vice Chancellor for Business Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer, Dr Phil Extance, said: “We’re delighted to win this latest bid, which will enable us to increase the scope of two of our successful activities and to allow universities to help businesses tackle the difficult issues they face.

“Creating a further 104 Innovation Vouchers is excellent news as the previous round of vouchers, awarded under the INDEX project, was nearly three times oversubscribed. It indicates that there is a real demand for support for innovation even in the current difficult economic climate”

Next in the Economic Challenge list is the University of Derby, collaborating with four further education colleges – West Nottinghamshire College, Derby College, North Notts College and Chesterfield College. One key strand of Derby’s proposal is the University’s own Enterprise Scheme, which will be extended to currently excluded groups such as redundant professionals and graduates, or those at risk of unemployment.

There will be 20 incubator access grants and 12 enterprise bursaries offered to encourage new businesses to start up.

Derby’s Commercial Director Andrew Hartley, who helped shape the bid, said: “This support programme incorporates the strengths of individual partners and fills gaps in provision that have been identified with support from external agencies such as Job Centre Plus and Business Link. “The objective of this collaboration is to ensure that support is available at the point of need. Independent research commissioned by the University of Derby found that a lot of people individuals would like to access services at their local institution.

“This programme will therefore aim to offer co-ordinated services through both the University of Derby and a linked network of the emda-funded Higher Education Centres within further education colleges and local authority managed business/innovation centres across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.”

Derby is just one example of a university which actively supports graduate entrepreneurship. In March it hosted an NCGE FlyingStart Rally and Creative Careers Fair where GQ Editor Dylan Jones revealed how he graduated from Saint Martins School of Art during the recession of the early 1980s. He revealed it was a time of opportunity for entrepreneurs.

Speaking to over 120 potential small business owners, he said: “The economic downturn in the 1980s was one of the most creative periods,” he said. “People were starting record labels, magazines and nightclubs. There was a huge vacuum for cultural enterprises to fill. Therefore a creative groundswell took place.”

DIUS, HEFCE, Universities UK and the CBI, RDAs, the Business Link network, and many other regional and national bodies are investing great effort in working together with universities to help businesses and individuals. It’s time to showcase the great work taking place at HEIs and support opportunities for entrepreneurship.





Entrepreneurship, HE and the Recession

20 02 2009

entrepreneur_recessionThe debate rumbles on. Does the present economic downturn hold opportunity for entrepreneurs, or is the situation too bleak to yield success? Can entrepreneurs lead economies out of recession on a wave of innovation and start-ups?

Governments and business have high expectations. The higher education sector must also contribute to bolstering entrepreneurship and economic recovery.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has already responded, launching its Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF) to enable higher education to respond rapidly to the needs of employers and individuals during the economic downturn.

Ten larger collaborative proposals will be supported by up to £1 million each in HEFCE contributions. A further 40 smaller proposals, normally up to £500,000 each from HEFCE, will be approved after the 27th February deadline as part of this £50 million scheme.

Announcing the ECIF on 27th January, Professor David Eastwood said: “The new initiative is designed to meet urgent and short-term economic challenges facing individuals (whether in work or unemployed), new graduates and businesses. We are looking particularly to help small and medium enterprises.

“Higher education has never been closer to business. The strong links developed over the past few years put universities and colleges in an excellent position to make a flexible response to current economic challenges at a time when it is vital that we continue to invest in enterprise and skills.”

A vice-chancellor’s perspective

Just before Christmas, several vice-chancellors were called to a meeting with Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham MP to discuss how higher education can contribute to bringing the UK out of recession.

One who contributed to that meeting was Professor Tim Wilson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, a university that places its relationships with industry at the heart of what it does. Professor Wilson advocated ‘Innovation Vouchers’, such as those already piloted in the West Midlands, where businesses can “spend” a sum – say £1,000 – at a university to get support and advice on specific issues.

“What a fantastic way not only to get universities to support small businesses, but also to get small business expertise into universities,” Professor Wilson said in an interview with Lucy Hodges in The Independent on 29th January.

He also supports ‘Training Vouchers’ for people who are made redundant to improve their skills through short university courses; and he promotes the idea of universities welcoming more ‘spin-in’ companies which need to be helped in the early stages of start-up and development. “This is one of the biggest opportunities the university sector has ever had to make a real impact on economic regeneration,” he said.

Towards a ‘new entrepreneurship’

In principle, ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ should determine what new opportunities are available and seek out the resources needed to exploit these. Easier said than done. A leading thinker on entrepreneurship, Professor David Rae, Director of the Centre for Management & Business Research in the Lincoln Business School, suggests that universities are well placed to contribute to the development of a ‘new entrepreneurship’, “led by education, in which social responsibility, environmental sustainability and the practice of ethical and moral frameworks become integral”.

In his inaugural lecture at the University of Lincoln on 28th January 2009, Professor Rae examined whether ‘entrepreneurship’ is ‘too risky to let loose in a stormy climate’. He revealed that he graduated at the cusp of a recession in 1981 and founded his first business a decade later during the recession in 1991, but acknowledged that the challenge seems greater now.

“The ability of graduates to find jobs and start their careers, and of entrepreneurs to run their businesses successfully during a recession, is of great concern,” he said. “I hope this lecture will start a debate which is urgently needed on what better ways we can create which enable us to do these important things and what the contribution of the University can be to achieve this in the next few challenging years.”

Professor Rae, who is ISBE‘s Vice-President for Education, offered three “suggestions to advance the development of entrepreneurship in the new era. One is the value of mutual and collective enterprise[…]. The second is the need to use latent resources to regenerate economic activity. The third is the role of learning in creating the new entrepreneurship.” In examining the role of learning, Professor Rae stated: “I believe that Higher Education has a responsibility to work with business people and wider communities to create and apply knowledge which leads to new solutions, and at this time that is more critical than ever.”

He added that: “Students need to be enterprising to create life and career opportunities by being resourceful and imaginative in applying their skills and talents to a range of opportunities.”

Rae concluded that: “The University can provide an intellectual and creative arena where different models of enterprise, economic activity and value creation can emerge and be taken forward into the community by our students. We cannot do this alone and we welcome people from business, communities and public sector agencies to work with us.”

With the ECIF fund and a prioritised and more proactive approach to business, many universities are seeking to respond to the challenges of the new global economic environment, an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace, and changes to research funding. The work of organisations such as the NCGE will prove a valuable catalyst for improving collaborative links between HEIs, business and government.





Government Finance Boost For Businesses

14 01 2009

The Government has today launched an £11 billion package of support to address the cash flow, credit and capital needs of UK businesses. At its centre is a mechanism that will enable banks to refinance around £20 billion of debt due for repayment this year by medium sized companies.

This package of measures to provide stimulus and support to business puts into operation and builds upon commitments made in the Pre-Budget Report on 24 November.

It provides:

  • £75m capital (£50m from HMG and £25m from banks) fund to invest in businesses who need equity or quasi equity;
  • £1bn of guarantees supporting £1.3bn of lending to smaller businesses;
  • Up to £10bn of guarantees supporting £20bn of working capital.

Capital for Enterprise Fund

The Chancellor announced in the Pre-Budget Report a £50 million debt for equity fund. Government is announcing today that this Capital for Enterprise Fund will provide £75 million of equity, made up £50 million of Government funds and an additional £25 million from Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and RBS.

The purpose of the fund will be to provide equity and quasi equity of £250,000 to £2 million for companies under the EU SME definition, i.e. of turnover of up to €50 million, who have viable business models and growth potential in need of long term capital.

Enterprise Finance Guarantee

In the Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor announced a £1 billion Small Business Finance Scheme. Today, this goes live as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee.

This 75% guarantee for loans will support bank lending, of three months to ten year maturity, to businesses with a turnover of up to £25 million who are currently not easily able to access the finance they need. This will enable them to secure loans of between £1,000 and £1 million through the government guarantee, available up to 31 March 2010.

The guarantee will be available through the following high street banks from today – Barclays, Clydesdale/Yorkshire Bank, HBOS, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, RBS/Natwest and Northern Bank. It will become available from other lenders if they wish to apply.

Working Capital Scheme

The Government also announced in its Pre-Budget Report a working capital scheme for smaller exporters. Based on the risk analysis done since that announcement it believes that the model can be expanded for working capital guarantees for all firms of turnover of up to £500 million. So the Government is today ready to make available to banks guarantees of up to £10 billion for up to 50% of the working capital on a £20 billion portfolio of loans.

Banks are invited to submit their portfolio of existing and projected new or refinance loans for approval under the guarantee. We have received declarations of interest by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and RBS. With the support of participating banks, we hope the first £1 billion guarantee tranche of the scheme should be operational by 1 March. Use of this facility will of course be subject to final terms guaranteeing value for money.

By guaranteeing portfolios of working capital facilities, this package will release capital held by the banks against these portfolios.  The banks have agreed they will make commitments to re-deploy this capital in order to increase all types of lending above their current plans, to businesses with a turnover of less than £500 m. The guarantee will ensure banks do not reduce or withdraw working capital lines on renewal which, being short term, can be easy to cut. It will also ensure that there is new capacity by banks to lend to UK businesses, who are suffering from the withdrawal of certain lenders from the market.

Information on all this support can be accessed via a dedicated web portal at www.businesslink.gov.uk/realhelp. This provides details including contact names and numbers for each bank and for the local Business Link. To register interest for the Capital For Enterprise Fund, businesses should call 0845 459 9780.

Additional options are being explored to provide further backing.

Time to Pay

As announced in the Pre-Budget Report, since last November, businesses experiencing cash flow difficulties can also get help from the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Business Support Service.  Businesses worried about being able to meet tax, National Insurance, VAT or other payments owed or coming due to HMRC can call the Business Payment Support Line, seven days a week, on 0845 302 1435.

HMRC staff will review temporary options tailored to the business needs, such as arranging for payments to be made over a longer period. HMRC will not charge additional late payment surcharges on payments included in the arrangement, although interest will continue to be payable on those taxes where it applies.  This is one more way in which Government is providing real help for businesses to manage their cashflow and free up working capital they need.

Credit Insurance

The Government is committed to targeted support for businesses to help them through the current economic climate. Reduction of credit insurance can exacerbate financial difficulties already being felt by firms, so BERR is discussing with trade credit insurance providers a government scheme to help companies affected by reductions in their credit insurance. There will be a further announcement on this as it progresses.

BERR Minister Lord Mandelson said: “The Government will continue to support and provide funding and capital to the bank system to ensure that banks are able to support businesses.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy – employing  60% of the private sector workforce and contributing over 50% of UK turnover.   We remain committed to doing everything we can to help them through the current economic difficulties.”





New Networks Launched To Boost University Entrepreneurship

21 11 2008

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Baroness Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, with (from left) Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire; David Frost, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the NCGE; and NCGE Chief Executive Ian Robertson.

Around 100,000 students and graduates will get the chance to develop world-class skills as entrepreneurs and business leaders with the launch of the first University Enterprise Networks (UENs).

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business launched the Networks at a reception at the Microsoft Offices in London yesterday, Thursday 20 November, as part of Global Entrepreneurship week.

These Networks are the first of their kind and will focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM), Innovation and the Nuclear sector. The networks will be managed by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE).

The UENs will aim to establish a culture of enterprise in universities by providing training, advice and encouragement to students and graduates who want to develop their business ideas or wish to become innovative employees. Each network will be further supported by sponsorship from privately owned companies and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). This will give students first hand experience of enterprising workplaces.

The UENs follow on from a commitment made by the Government in its Enterprise Strategy to further promote and support the development of enterprise.

Shriti Vadera, Minister for Economic Competitiveness and Small Business, said:

“Making graduates more business savvy and entrepreneurial is essential to Britain’s long term competitiveness.

“I would like to see more University Enterprise Networks between businesses and investors to encourage this”.

David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education said:

“We need stronger links between business and higher education so that we can make full use of the expertise and talents within our universities and colleges.

“University Enterprise Networks are a new kind of partnership that will nurture the enterprise skills and entrepreneurial spirit of tomorrow’s business leaders, while also helping universities engage more closely with the needs of employers today.”

Ian Robertson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, said:

“The NCGE welcomes the commitment from companies, RDAs and universities in working with us to build the first University Enterprise Networks announced today. These networks will act as a catalyst for closer engagement between business, universities and the public sector, to respond to industry needs and contribute to UK competitiveness.”

“The NCGE’s role is to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.”

Pam Alexander, Chief Executive of SEEDA, speaking on behalf of the Regional Development Agencies involved in the UENs said:

“Regional Development Agencies are delighted to be involved in developing these exciting new University Enterprise Networks, which complement our important work to link universities and businesses and create the skills needed to emerge from the economic downturn stronger and better able to compete globally.”

Stephen Uden, Microsoft UK’s Head of Skills and Economic Affairs, added:

“We are looking at a long period of economic uncertainty. That doesn’t mean that business doesn’t go on, or that there won’t be opportunities for those who can take advantage of them. What it does mean though is that those leaving university need to have the right skills to succeed”.

“Nearly half (48%) of the undergraduates we surveyed would consider starting their own business. That’s great, as small businesses are the engine room of the economy, and also where many of the many of the most innovative ideas come from. This announcement and the STEM network represent good progress in starting to change that view.”

The three University Enterprise Networks (UENs) announced yesterday were the STEM, Innovation, and Nuclear networks. The STEM UEN will be led by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) in collaboration with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and sponsored by Microsoft and other major companies.

The first universities to express their commitment in principle are the universities of Cambridge, Cranfield, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Reading, and Southampton. SEEDA and EEDA will concentrate on technology based, high growth enterprises.

The Innovation UEN will be led by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and supported by HP-backed Micro Enterprise Acceleration Institute, BT, and CISCO, with Coventry University. The UEN will focus on helping students understand how Web-based  Technologies can be exploited in the creation of new business ideas, and in helping small businesses collaborate with large co-operates in the development and launch of new products in the context of the “market”.

The Nuclear UEN will be led by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), and supported by Westinghouse UK. The first university to sign up to the network is the University of Central Lancashire. The Nuclear UEN will play a major role in helping graduates acquire the innovative skills that companies across the breadth of the nuclear sector seek.

A further fourth University Enterprise Network will be launched early in the New Year. The Manufacturing UEN. Led by the North West Development Agency (NWDA) will focus on “Advanced Manufacturing”.

The NCGE’s role will be to set up and manage the UENs in order that they create the right conditions for better, more responsive collaboration. The UENs will also ensure more students and graduates acquire the skills for enterprise and entrepreneurship they need to achieve business growth, whether as employees or in starting and running their own businesses.

For further information, see www.ncge.com/uen.