Saturday 31st October 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 05/10/2020

‘Encouraging’ jump in business confidence in the region

Business confidence in the East of England rose sharply in September and by more than in any other UK region as firms' confidence in their own prospects improved although many companies still expect to make job cuts when the furlough scheme ends. Overall confidence improved by 17 points in September but still stood at -5 per cent, according to a business barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Covid is still taking its toll on firms with 60 per cent seeing a fall in demand for their products and services although this was an eight point improvement on the previous month. Some 11 per cent of firms saw an increase in demand, significantly more than in August. But when asked about job retention among firms with furloughed staff, little more than a third expect to bring back more than 90 per cent of their employees. David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Firms in the East of England have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis but it’s encouraging that business confidence saw such a jump in September. The data indicates that more firms have started to see an uplift in demand, and most businesses are confident they can successfully operate while remaining Covid-secure.”

Surge in R & D tax relief claims underlines region's record for innovation

The region’s strong reputation for innovation has been underlined by a significant rise in R&D tax credit claims by companies in East Anglia, according to HMRC figures. Firms in the region made a total of 5,700 claims in 2018/19, up from 4,175 in the previous year and secured 12 per cent of the £5.3 billion of tax relief claimed by firms nationally.  IN all, there were 5,120 successful R&D tax relief claims made by SMEs in the region as well as additional claims secured through the RDEC scheme worth a total of £655m in tax relief. Firms in the region also secured £17m in rebates for Patent Box claims, a tax relief to help businesses develop intellectual property assets. Scott Henderson, CEO of consultancy ABGI UK, said: “Once again East Anglia has seen a surge in R&D tax relief claims. We’ve seen a major rise in successful claims being made compared to the same period in 2017-18, highlighting a high level of innovation across the region’s business community. This investment could prove crucial as the UK faces significant economic challenges going forward.”

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Lotus-led partnership wins government funding for electric vehicle battery venture

An engineering partnership led by Lotus, based at Hethel near Norwich, has won government support and funding to develop so-called 'next-generation' battery electric vehicle architecture. The partnership, Project LEVA, will use UK-based engineering and digital manufacturing expertise and create a showcase for pioneering new battery electric vehicle chassis and powertrain concepts. Matt Windle, executive director of engineering at Lotus, said: “This is great news for our industry and its transition to electrification. As a collaboration between Lotus, Sarginsons Industries and Brunel University London there is a wealth of talent involved, and we are excited to have already begun the project work. Following the launch of the Lotus Evija, our all-electric 2,000 PS hypercar, this project is a key building block in our vision to deliver a full range of electrified Lotus performance cars...Funding of this nature is critical to stimulate the automotive industry and supply chain as both continue to adjust to a rapidly changing landscape.”

New senior partner at chartered accountants

Chartered accountants Lovewell Blake has appointed Mark Proctor (right) as senior partner, replacing Paul Briddon who is stepping down after five years in the role. Mark Proctor is the lead partner for the firm’s charities and schools specialism and has been at the firm for 20 years, having joined as a 22 year-old trainee accountant. He said: “This is a challenging time for every business, and we are having to find innovative ways of supporting our clients in these extraordinary circumstances.  I see a key part of my role over the coming months and years as being to connect people, both within the firm and in the wider business community. We have ambitions for further growth as we strengthen our position as one of the most dynamic accountancy firms in the region.  The coming years will see further growth into Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, as we build on our position as one of the leading independent firms in Norfolk."

Legal survey highlights strengths of region's law firms

Many of the region's law firms and key individuals working for them come in for praise in the 2021 rankings of the Legal 500 survey of the sector published last week. Irwin Mitchell, Taylor Vinters and Ellisons Solicitors emerge as the top scoring firms for client service in East Anglia. Law firms ranked in various tiers in the corporate and commercial sectors across the region were; in Norwich: Birketts, Mills & Reeve, Ashtons Legal, Fosters, Howes Percival, Steeles Law, Clapham & Collinge Solicitors, Spire Solicitors and Rogers and Norton; in Cambridge: Birketts, Goodwin, Mills & Reeve, Taylor Vinters, BDB Pitmans, Hewitsons, Penningtons Manches Cooper, Ashtons Legal, Dixon Phillips, Greenwoods and Howes Percival and elsewhere in East Anglia (including Ipswich and Peterborough): Birketts, Greenwoods, Ashtons Legal, Buckles Solicitors, Ellisons Solicitors, Gotelee Solicitors, Greene & Greene, Barker Gotelee, Clapham & Collinge Solicitors, Hunt & Coombs and Kerseys Solicitors. Meanwhile, in Essex law firms ranked in the corporate and commercial sector included: Birketts, Birkett Long, Ellisons Solicitors, Tees Law, Thompson Smith and Puxon, Fisher Jones Greenwood and Pinney Talfourd.

Birketts was among the firms in the first tier and as a ‘top-tier firm’ in 36 practice areas and the firm has been recommended in a further 14 practice areas. Forty seven of its lawyers are listed as elite 'leading individuals', 14 as 'next generation lawyers' and 40 lawyers as 'rising stars'. A full report on the 2021 rankings of the Legal 500 will appear in the coming issue of the magazine Business in East Anglia and the rankings are available at www.Legal500.com

Construction group opens new Essex office

A strong pipeline of key projects and expansion in the East has prompted Morgan Sindall Construction to launch a new Essex office in Chelmsford. It will sit in the firm’s East region alongside offices in Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge and cover projects in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. Chris Travers said: “We’ve got an outstanding team in place here and this is a key region for our business and one where we have significant experience working closely with our supply chain and our public and private sector clients…” The firm is working on a framework for Essex County Council and has positions on both the Suffolk and Norfolk construction frameworks and on UEA’s contractor framework.

Cambridge company launches new printer to help manufacturers deal with Covid challenges

Cambridge-based Domino Printing has launched its latest printer to help manufacturers deal with rapid changes in production schedules and fluctuations in consumer demand, particularly during the pandemic. The company, a world leader in coding and marking technology and consumables, has released the Gx-Series, a thermal ink jet printer which produces accurate coding and with the ability to create high-quality, machine-readable codes for marketing information, traceability data and serialisation. Alexandros Mountis (right), TIJ product manager at Domino said: “Currently, key industries including food, beverage and pharmaceuticals are struggling with unprecedented levels of demand owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, which can be especially difficult to address, while adhering to government advice on social distancing and coping with a reduction in staff numbers. The Gx-Series has been developed and rigorously tested in consultation with Domino’s team and customers across the globe, to deliver a solution that meets manufacturers’ needs now and in the future.”

Food ingredients producer acquired by European group

Solina, a European producer of savoury ingredients for food headquartered in France, has completed the acquisition of Bowman Ingredients, based in Hitchin in Herts, from the firm’s family shareholders. Bowman Ingredients is a leading supplier of coating systems to food service and retail food processors, with products including breadcrumbs, batters and marinades. The firm has four UK sites and revenues of £60m with 220 employees across the UK and Poland together with joint ventures in South Africa and Thailand. Grant Thornton’s Cambridge corporate finance team led the deal process and Birketts advised on the legal aspects.

See Profile Grant Thornton

Chamber support Kickstart Scheme to create jobs for the young

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is supporting local organisations wanting to apply for the government’s £2 billion Kickstart Scheme to create new subsidised jobs for young people at risk of long term unemployment by becoming a gateway for the initiative. Dozens of businesses in the county have expressed interest in giving young people a chance, including Suffolk Libraries who have offered over 30 potential placements. On a visit to the chamber’s Ipswich office last week, Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP, said: “I encourage all employers to consider creating Kickstart placements for a young person in their own workplace. The Kickstart Scheme was designed with employers of all sizes in mind as part of our plan to build back better, and it is great to see Suffolk Chamber of Commerce leading the way in supporting employers in our community.”

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore said: “The Kickstart Scheme is a serious initiative aimed at giving hundreds of thousands of 16-24 year olds the right start to their careers – at no cost to participating businesses.”

Photo: John Dugmore and Therese Coffey MP at the launch