Thursday 01st October 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 14/09/2020

Recovery gathers pace as firms ‘move in the right direction’

New work won by private companies in the region grew at the fastest pace in three and half years in August as firms recovered from lockdown and businesses stayed confident that they can grow output over the coming year. But job cutting increased in the region ahead of the end of the government’s furlough scheme in October. Although the NatWest East of England business activity index fell fractionally to 56.2 in August from 56.3 in July, it pointed to a continued increase in business activity in the region as client businesses re-opened. But growth was weaker in the East than the UK average and cost restructuring and uncertainty were partly behind a steep fall in workforce numbers. The level of outstanding work in the region continued to fall whilst work-in-hand fell faster among services firms than  manufacturers. Meanwhile, cost pressures remained strong in August partly due to higher transport and personal protection equipment costs. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board said:“Overall, latest data indicates a move in the right direction for firms in the East of England, however the severe impact of the pandemic indicates a lengthy road to recovery.”

New 'global centre of excellence' for AI planned for Cambridge

A new global centre of excellence in artificial intelligence is be created at Arm’s Cambridge campus after the computer chip designer was acquired by a US sector specialist Nvidia for $40bn. The deal comes four years after Arm, which provides the tech for most smartphones, was bought by Japanese conglomerate Softbank for $32bn. Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said: “This combination has tremendous benefits for both companies, our customers, and the industry. For Arm’s ecosystem, the combination will turbocharge Arm’s R&D capacity and expand its IP portfolio with NVIDIA’s world-leading GPU and AI technology."
He added: “Arm will remain headquartered in Cambridge. We will expand on this great site and build a world-class AI research facility, supporting developments in healthcare, life sciences, robotics, self-driving cars and other fields. And, to attract researchers and scientists from the UK and around the world to conduct groundbreaking work, Nvidia will build a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer, powered by Arm CPUs. Arm Cambridge will be a world-class technology center.” The US group also plans to invest in training facilities for developers and a startup incubator in Cambridge.

Work starts on £60 million retail park in Colchester

Construction has started on Chuchmanor Estates Company’s £60m Stane Retail Park in Tollgate, Colchester which is due for completion in September next year. As part of the project, Churchmanor is spending £2.6 million on improving the Eight Ash Green A12 roundabout and widening local roads. The 173,000 sq ft scheme involves new stores for B&Q, Marks & Spencer Food Hall and Aldi – which are all opening their latest format stores - and space for other retailers. Emma Proctor King, head of communications for Churchmanor, said: “We are thrilled to have started work on our retail park. As a company we have supported the growth of Colchester since 1989 when we built Colchester Business Park and we now hope that our new retail park together with the long overdue highway improvements that we are committed to will mean a new and improved retail offer for the Stanway and Colchester communities”

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Cambridge business centre doubles in size as flexible workspace demand 'soars'

Growing demand for flexible workspace has prompted a developer to re-locate its central Cambridge business centre to a new site providing double the space. Herts-based Mantle Estates has seen enquiries across its seven business centres increase by 27 per cent in July and August on the period last year. It has taken a 10-year lease from University of Cambridge on a 30,000 sq ft building Nine Hills Road which will open on 1 November and which is double the size of its existing CB1 Centre at Station Road. It will provide new co-working spaces and offices in a range of sizes, as well as phone booths, breakfast bars, large meeting rooms, 80 parking spaces, cycle parking, showering and drying facilities. Guy Baker, chief executive officer of Mantle, said: “CB1 has been a huge success with 100 per cent occupancy, so we look forward to having twice the space to meet the high demand in Cambridge from our current customers and those businesses looking for flexible workspace, including meeting the demand for our new ‘Home-flexi’ option."

First outlet of electric vehicle charging network to open in Braintree

The first in a £1bn nationwide network of over 100 electric vehicle charging forecourts is in the final stages of construction in Braintree in Essex and is due to open in November. Brands such as WH Smith, Costa Coffee, Post Office, Booths, Tesla, the AA, Gourmade, and ABB have teamed up with Gridserve to provide an improved customer service with electric vehicle charging. The new forecourt will charge up to 30 electric vehicles simultaneously at speeds of up to 350kW and add around 200 miles of charge in 20 minutes and faster in the future.

Law firm appoints 15 new trainees

Law firm Birketts has appointed 15 new trainee solicitors. After another multi-award winning year, the firm’s new lawyers will take their seats across the Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich offices. The retention rate for last year’s trainees at at the firm was 12 out of 14. Chief executive officer Jonathan Agar (right) said: “At Birketts, we are proud to invest in our trainees and believe that our retention rate is reflective of our forward-looking ethos and market-leading training programme. Now more than ever, we appreciate that the strength of the firm lies in the quality of its employees and I have no doubt that this year’s trainee intake will play a vital part in the growth of Birketts’ innovative culture.”

Separately, Birketts has transferred some of its outstanding Apprenticeship Levy funds to support Norfolk-based Feltwell Lodge Care Home in a move where the firm was assisted by New Anglia LEP.

See Profile Birketts

Building on Cambridge Science Park acquired by council

South Cambs DC has acquired 296 Cambridge Science Park from CBRE Global Investors for £7.2 million. The 16,545 sq ft, two-floor building was constructed in 2003 and is let on a new 10-year lease to Cantab Research (trading as Speechmatics) and produces a rent equal to £32.50 per sq ft and giving a net initial yield of 5.95 per cent. The council, which was represented by Carter Jonas, also owns 140 Cambridge Science Park, 270 Cambridge Science Park and Colmworth Trade Park. The council’s lead cabinet member for finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “This was a rare opportunity to buy an office building, with tenants in place, in one of the world’s most prestigious science parks that sits right at the heart of one of the UK’s fastest growing economies. It is a positive for us that the premises sit close to home within south Cambridgeshire, and the funds generated by the purchase will contribute towards our savings targets during the next few years.”