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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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.”





Support for SMEs

8 02 2008

The past two weeks have seen a number of significant announcements concerning support and funding for SMEs.  The Enterprise Europe Network was officially launched yesterday, combining the strengths of the previous Euro Info Centres with those of the Innovation Relay Centres. Under the slogan ‘Business Support on Your Doorstep’, the Enterprise Europe Network will offer a range of services: assisting companies in going international; help with innovation, new products and opportunities in the single market; accessing EU projects and funding; and providing feedback to the Commission.  It comprises more than 500 contact points and over 4,000 experienced staff, making it the largest business support network in the continent.

The EUROSTARS programme, for R&D-driven SMEs, is to be co-financed to the tune of €100 million by the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) , and the 22 participating EU Member States and five Associated Countries will jointly provide another €300 million.  Meanwhile a new €60 million fund has been set up to support Ireland’s small and medium sized enterprises, operated by Enterprise Ireland, and plans for a £150m investment fund for small businesses in Wales have been announced by the Assembly Government

Finally, the Welsh Enterprise Institute has been awarded the contract to undertake one of the UK’s largest studies of small businesses. Commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses, this biennial survey produces the definitive guide to the state of small business across the country and is one of the largest non-government business surveys in the UK.