Thursday 09th April 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 18/03/2020

Surge in venture capital investment drives tech growth in Cambridge

Cambridge has emerged as one of the fastest-growing tech cities in Europe after a new report highlighted a 33 per cent increase in venture capital investment into digital companies in the area and strong levels of activity in robotics. Meanwhile, new tech investment across the wider East of England is growing as new sectors such as agrictech, cleantech and healthtech gather momentum. The annual Tech Nation Report showed VC investment in digital companies around Cambridge rose to £500 million in 2019, up from £380 million in the previous year. The city is also emerging as a European leader in robotics investment and development with total funding of £411 million last year. Thea Goodluck, entrepreneur engagement manager, East of England, Tech Nation said: “The Tech Nation report 2020 findings show the East of England tech scene is thriving. Close to £1bn has been invested in emerging technologies in the region between 2015 and 2019, and it is exciting to see the three emerging sectors identified in the report as Agritech, Cleantech and Healthtech."

She added: “Emerging technologies and sectors are visible and growing across the region as a whole, with Cambridge producing incredible AI and healthtech scaleups, Norfolk and Suffolk leading the way on agritech and cleantech, and Essex having a vibrant digital creative and AR/VR presence. Local unicorns such as Darktrace and Cambridge Medical Robotics are providing high value, highly skilled jobs in the area, and I’m delighted to see Healx and BenevolentAI join our Future Fifty 8.0 programme for late-stage tech companies.”...Read more

Call for significant help for businesses from government

Business groups have responded to the Chancellor's emergency measures by stressing the urgency of the need for government help for hard-pressed companies in the region. In a statement Suffolk Chamber said: “Rishi Sunak’s announcements certainly involve big numbers in order to boost business confidence and support over the medium-term through loan guarantees. However, Suffolk Chamber’s members and the wider business community, especially in the most vulnerable sectors such as hospitality and logistics, need significant help with their cashflow now to pay their staff and keep trading. This means the Government must implement a moratorium, of at least three months, on those taxes which will eat away at companies’ margins: business rates, commercial rents, NI employer contributions and VAT.  This would deliver an enormous boost to thousands of businesses. And unlike the administration of loan guarantees, this approach would benefit the business community positively much sooner.”

Stuart Wilkinson, head of tax at EY in Cambridge, said: “A key area that was only hinted at was “employment support” – this will be essential if jobs are to be maintained over the next few months. The Chancellor recognised that this was a critical part of his package and was next on his list. This recognition will be good news for businesses, but they will be looking for answers on this rapidly, as they will quickly be facing tough decisions.

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Enforced annual leave planned at Stansted to help tackle downturn in air travel

London Stansted Airport is planning to introduce enforced annual leave for staff whilst cutting working hours and executive pay in a bid to deal with the downturn in air travel. Charlie Cornish, chief executive officer of London Stansted’s owner MAG, said: “The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a rapid and unprecedented reduction in demand for air travel in and out of the UK, and MAG airports are seeing much lower passenger numbers as a result.” He added: “Over the next few days we will be consulting with our colleagues and unions and introducing measures to reduce our costs and preserve the group’s resources at this critical time. These will include enforced annual leave, reduced working hours, temporary pay cuts and temporary lay-offs. Our executive team is taking a pay cut with immediate effect and we have frozen recruitment and paused capital expenditure." He added: “It is too early to predict with any accuracy the long-term effects of this crisis. We are seeing many of our airlines and supply chain partners make similar announcements and we are doing what we need to do in the face of an unpredictable and fast-moving situation. He added: “I am in no doubt that this outbreak is the greatest threat the UK’s travel sector has ever faced.”

Energy conference postponed until September

The East of England Energy Group has rescheduled its flagship conference and exhibition, SNS2020, which was due to run at the Norfolk Showground over April 23-24th until the 16-17th September 2020. EEEGR CEO Simon Gray said: “Whilst we are, of course, disappointed at the delay, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues and contacts across the industry is of paramount importance, and we therefore believe that this is a pragmatic solution based upon the best information we can accumulate in a very fast-moving scenario.”

School sold for £3.35 million set to be police training centre

A former independent school near Norwich is set to become a training facility for Norfolk Constabulary after it was sold for £3.35m. The police force bought Hethersett Old Hall School (right), which closed in August last year in a deal agreed by Savills Norwich after it was instructed by insolvency firm McTear Williams and Wood. The new training facility is expected to open in August following development and refurbishment. There is also potential for collaboration with partners including Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. George Craig of Savills Norwich said: “There was plenty of interest from a variety of parties and it’s great that we’ve been able to find a buyer who will continue to use the site for the benefit of the community – allowing Norfolk Constabulary to enhance the service it provides to the local area.” The new learning centre will provide 5,579 sq m of space with 29 classrooms, offices for police trainers as well as a gym.

Engineering trainees given construction experience on new research park

Five engineering traineees at civil, structural and geotechnical engineers Richard Jackson have been given first-hand experience of construction with a visit to developer Jaynic’s EpiCentre scheme at Haverhill Research Park. As the engineer on the EpiCentre project, Richard Jackson was able to show the trainees (that included four apprentices) the building’s frame being assembled by contractor Parkway. The EpiCentre project has been financed through a £3.5m loan by West Suffolk Council and £2.7m of local growth fund investment from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. As part of the scheme funding, Jaynic contracted to take part in an apprenticeship programme to support training in the region. Nic Rumsey, managing director of Jaynic, said: “We are well aware of the challenges construction is currently facing with a lack of young people coming into the industry and are very happy to facilitate apprenticeship training at Haverhill Research Park.”