Wednesday 08th July 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 22/06/2020

Economic forecasts downgraded as firms urged to prepare for ‘new normal'

A key forecasting group has downgraded its prediction for how fast the economy will shrink this year and warned that businesses in the region will need to respond to long term-shifts in the economy which have been accelerated by the pandemic. The latest EY ITEM Club forecast is that UK gdp will fall by 8 per cent in 2020, down from the 6.8 per cent which it was predicting in April. However it does expect the economy to grow by 5.6 per cent in 2021, up from an earlier forecast of 4.5 per cent. Stuart Wilkinson, office managing partner at EY in the East of England, said: “The East of England has a varied economy, known as much for its strength in pharma-industries as it is for its agricultural landscape. Businesses in the region operating in food manufacture, processing and production have faced different types of challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, including managing their supply chains and for some increasing  their required workforce, alongside restrictions. Technology has played an important role in supporting these businesses during this time, and it is likely to play an ever-increasing part as they evolve in the next 6-12 months.” He added: “Businesses will not only need to respond to the short-term impact of Covid-19, but also the long-term shifts in the economy, accelerated by the pandemic. The ‘new normal’ will be different to what’s gone before, and with so much government support in the economy, it will also be important for the private sector to align itself with government initiatives.”

Fall in insolvencies could be ‘calm before the storm’

A surprise fall in corporate insolvencies in May could be the ‘calm before the storm’, according to the Eastern branch of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3. Government figures show that there were 944 company insolvencies in England and Wales in May, lower than in April and 30 per cent below the number for May last year. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon (right), of AMB Law in the region, said: “The corporate insolvency figures show the Government’s Covid-19 support measures appear to be helping many businesses which may otherwise have struggled during this period of economic disruption. This, in part, explains the drop in the number of businesses entering an insolvency process. There are also operational and logistical factors – such as the partial closing of the courts at the end of March – which continue to play a role.” He said many companies are likely to be in the period of ‘calm before the storm’ and need to be prepared to combat economic turbulence. Government-guaranteed lenders have approved almost £35bn of support to more than 830,000 firms nationwide during the Covid-19 crisis.

Separately, cash generation of businesses in East Anglia has stayed worryingly low heading into the cash crunch that’s starting to be triggered by the pandemic, according to a study by BDO. It shows firms in the region converted just 2.1 per cent of the value of their sales into free cash flow on average last year. The average for businesses in East Anglia has stayed stubbornly low after falling from an average of 3.7 per cent four years ago.

Climbing centre set to re-open with a bang thanks to £27k grant

A climbing centre in Ipswich is investing in new walls and equipment to help maintain social distancing and accommodate more climbers thanks to a £27,000 grant from New Anglia LEP through the business resilience and recovery scheme. Open for nine months before the lockdown, Clip ‘n’ Climb in Ipswich will offer 46 climbing lines when it reopens after the lockdown. Mark Patterson, who runs the business with his friend Josh Davey, said: “This grant is massive for us. In the short term, it means we can open with a bang rather than a whimper and we can safely welcome a lot more climbers. In the longer term, it’s a game-changer. By taking Clip ‘n’ Climb to 46 lines, we will be recognised as the largest climbing centre of its kind in the world, which puts us in a hugely advantageous position.” He added: “We will appeal to a larger market, with options for everyone from the beginner to the advanced climber and give our repeat climbers exciting new experiences.”

Cambs-based group helps keep supply chains moving

Cambs-based Domino Printing is supporting its global customers by responding to rapidly emerging needs as companies ramp up production to meet spikes in demand during the pandemic. Bar Hill-based Domino is enabling foodservice and hospitality sector customers to change their offering to continue trading and also helping food and beverage manufacturers and e-commerce firms to handle a major upturn in business. The company has seen a significant rise in customer demand for its printing equipment, inks, consumables, spares and service support from manufacturers in key sectors to comply with government and industry regulations. One customer, Crown Labels Mfg Co in Rotherham saw a large increase in urgent requests for self-adhesive labels for takeaway food packaging from local restaurants that previously only catered for on-site diners.  Meanwhile, Gary Peterson, account manager for variable data solutions for Domino Digital Printing, said: “The number of people buying products online has increased dramatically, and our customers are now having to respond by producing more variable data labels.”

Rachel Hurst (right), chief operating officer at Domino, added: “Our biggest contribution has been keeping supply chains moving, and ensuring that we can continue to service customers working in key industries and supply them with the service and support that they need to produce essential items during the current time.”

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Benefits of life sciences campus highlighted by research

Research led by a University of Cambridge team has highlighted the positive returns from the significant taxpayer investment made in the Babraham Research Campus for life science companies. It shows that fundraising for firms at Babraham is accelerated by an average of 5.1 months and that the market value of the top 14 companies on the campus is over £4 billion: an average 7.2 x return for investors. It also shows that 47 per cent of funds raised in the Cambridge region were to those ventures at the campus. Employment on the campus had grown to 1,700 employees in 2017/18 and total gross value added on the campus was worth £285 million. Derek Jones, CEO, BBT said: “We have tried to ensure that the support we offer to life science companies, whether it be the provision of flexible lease structures; access to science capabilities; or the nurturing and engaging community, is impactful in terms of jobs, scientific progress and increased economic activity, both locally and for the UK as a whole."

Apprentices sought by offshore wind farm

ScottishPower Renewables is launching a new apprentice recruitment drive for its East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm. The group is seeking individuals with a passion for science, maths, engineering, problem solving to serve as mechatronics maintenance apprentice technicians on the windfarm being developed 30 miles off the Suffolk coast. Based at East Coast College Lowestoft campus, the two long-term apprenticeships are open to those with four GCSEs A-C/4-9 grades in English, Maths and Science. Charlie Jordan, project director at ScottishPower Renewables for East Anglia ONE, said: “These apprenticeships are fantastic opportunities for those looking to start their careers, learning whilst earning as part of one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world.” The apprentices will be based at East Anglia ONE’s new operations and maintenance building at Hamilton Dock, Lowestoft; part of a £25 million investment made by ScottishPower Renewables at the port.

Photo: Jack Hurren, trainee balance of plant technician.

New VP at Suffolk Chamber

Catherine Johnson, partner and leader of Birketts' Ipswich employment law team, will take up the role of vice-president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, supporting Paul Briddon as its new president. John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber, said: “Over many years, Catherine has been a very dedicated supporter of the campaigning and policy work undertaken by Suffolk Chamber, as well as a great advocate of the wider Suffolk business community. I’m delighted that she has become our vice-president and very much look forward to working with her over the years ahead.”

Separately, Birketts was named “commercial property team of the year” and rewarded for “excellence in client service” for the second year running at this year’s Cambridgeshire and District Law Society (CDLS) awards.

See Profile Birketts

Promotion at Norwich-based digital agency

Norwich-based digital marketing agency Fountain Partnership has promoted its longest-standing member, Alice Rose (right), as its new managing director. She takes over from Rebecca Lewis Smith, who has been managing director since the company was founded in 2009. Alice Rose joined Fountain as a junior SEO executive in 2012. Rebecca Lewis Smith said: “Having run Fountain since founding it 11 years ago, this moment is an extremely important milestone for not only Alice but for us as an agency. There is no massive change from last week to this, but it feels amazing to have reached this stage of the process and to be formally handing over the reins to a very trusted and ambitious member of our team.”

Green tourism award for venue

Wyboston Lakes Resort has won three gold awards for its commitment to sustainability. The 380-acre conference, training and leisure complex near the Cambs-Beds border has secured gold status in the green tourism awards, granted by the Green Tourism Business Scheme, a national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK & Ireland. Managing director Steve Jones said: “Being more sustainable is very important to us and we have been working extremely hard to drive forward our ambitious sustainability policy. To achieve these high standards and to be recognised for our commitment and success with not one, but three gold awards from three highly regarded industry bodies is a superb testament to the great efforts of the team.”

Recognition for hyperfast broadband firm

County Broadband, an Essex-based provider rolling out hyperfast full-fibre networks across rural East Anglia, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the best rural internet service provider category at the ISPA Awards 2020, run by the Internet Services Providers’ Association. Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, based in Aldham, said: “The shortlisting is testament to our rapid growth, investment in local people and skills, and our community engagement. Thousands of residents and businesses fed up with poor rural digital connectivity have given the green light to have our network built in their village."