Wednesday 02nd December 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 19/10/2020

Corporate insolvencies start to climb as Covid takes its toll

Corporate insolvencies rose in September suggesting businesses which were were healthy and profitable before Covid-19 are now starting to struggle, according to the Eastern branch of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3. Government figures show that the number of companies entering insolvency in England and Wales rose to 926 in September, up from 784 in August. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon (right), of AMB Law in the region, said: “The latest statistics are something of a reversal of a downward trend in corporate insolvency numbers post-lockdown and have been driven by an increase in the number of creditors’ voluntary liquidations and, to a lesser extent, company voluntary arrangements. The figures are only now beginning to demonstrate the toll that Covid-19 is taking on once-healthy businesses, with many companies profitable at the start of the year starting to struggle for the first time due to the pandemic.” But corporate insolvences remain lower than pre-lockdown and do not fully reflect the state of local businesses and the economy. Government support meant that it’s likely that a trend of unrepresentative insolvency statistics will continue for some time.

Separately, the number of profit warnings by publicly-quoted businesses with an hq in the East of England rose to 13 in the first three quarters of 2020, compared to seven in the period last year. The rise mirrored an increase in profit warnings by listed companies across the country, according to an analysis by EY.

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Land to be sold for one of region’s largest housing developments

The government body Homes England has appointed Savills to sell a large area of land at a former aerodrome near Welwyn Garden City in Herts which will be one of the East of England’s largest housing developments. It will involve 650 new homes in the first phase and have an overall gross development value of £250 million. Savills teams in Cambridge and London have been appointed to dispose of Homes England’s holdings at Panshanger Aerodrome in Welwyn Garden City, where it owns 135 acres. The land will be sold in phases and the first phase has outline planning permission for 650 homes, of which 30 per cent are affordable. Conditional exchange on the first parcel of the consented land area is expected by early 2021. A second phase of adjacent green belt land has been allocated which space for up to 160 homes. Abigail Jones, from the development team at Savills Cambridge, said: “We are expecting Homes England to act as a master developer to service the site, with the land sold in parcels to various national and SME housebuilders, similar to a number of other Homes England disposals the team have been involved with across the East of England over the past 12 months.”

Cambridge companies join artificial intelligence programme

Four Cambridge companies - Conundrum, Robok, Satavia and Techspert - are amongst 32 companies joining Tech Nation’s artificial intelligence growth programme designed to support the UK's leading artificial intelligence scaleups through peer-to-peer learning. The UK led Europe and ranked third globally, behind only the US and China, for venture capital investment into artificial intelligence in 2020 and demand for AI skills has more than doubled in recent years. A quarter of all data scientist roles advertised in 2019 required AI as a skill. Harry Rhys Davies, AI programme lead at Tech Nation, said: “The UK must take every opportunity to nurture scalable, globally-competitive, homegrown AI companies that solve real problems and have far-reaching impacts on the productivity potential of the economy.”

Call for 'roadmap' to steer wind power programme

The government is being urged to publish a ‘roadmap’ to provide greater clarity on its recently unveiled plans to boost wind power and help the region become a flagbearer in low-cost clean power generation. Consultancy Ingleton Wood, which has played key roles in green energy projects such as the £1.5bn Galloper Wind Farm off Harwich coast in Essex, has backed the government’s revamped green energy ambition to power all UK homes from offshore wind by 2030. But it has raised questions over the National Grid’s ability to cope with future electricity demand, particularly in rural areas of East Anglia. Electric vehicle charging and electric heat pumps are set to add substantial strain on local distribution networks. Rob Diamond (right), a sustainability expert at Ingleton Wood, said the 2030 target was realistic: “…with the government’s full backing including incentives and rebates on renewable technologies, and a pull-back from fossil fuel energy generation”. A doubling in electricity demand is expected with the upcoming mass uptake of electric vehicle charging and use of air source heat pumps to replace boiler heating. This could put local grids under huge strain, so more infrastructure investment could be needed. “We’re wasting a lot of surplus wind energy, so we also need to revisit storage. It’s currently very expensive and a complex problem,” he added. “The technology needs to be smarter and more aligned. For example, we could use so-called ‘vehicle to grid’ technology to temporarily store surplus electricity in electric vehicle batteries until it’s needed by the grid.”...Read more

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New team appointed to drive diversification at digital printing business

Cambridge-based Domino Printing, a global leader in coding and marking technologies, has made three new appointments to spearhead its diversification into the digital corrugated box printing sector. The company is creating new roles in its digital printing solutions business to support the sales drive of its recently-launched X630i digital ink jet corrugated press and AQ aqueous ink. The team, led by Matt Condon(right), will cover Europe, North America and Canada, expanding Domino’s existing reputation in the digital ink jet press market. He will be joined by Ben Ginesi as European sales manager for digital corrugated packaging and Lloyd Kent as senior sales manager for corrugated, digital printing North America. Matt Condon said: “Domino has had a lot of success with its digital label printing technology over the years. Taking that experience and knowledge and supplementing it with these two individuals who have a wealth of experience in the corrugated sector will very much help us move forward into this new market segment both in Europe and North America.”

Norwich-based start up wins grant to study diabetic screening

A Norwich-based start up company, Glyconics, has won an £85,000 government grant for a feasibility study on low-cost diabetic screening in developing countries. Working with Diabetes Africa and Université Catholique de Bukavu, the six-month project will start with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has the fifth highest incidence of diabetes in Africa. Glyconics’ technology uses infra-red spectroscopy to analyse samples which produce a distinctive molecular fingerprint of diseases such as diabetes at the point-of-care. Glyconics CEO Dr Kam Pooni said: “Until now, infra-red spectrometry technology was too large to be used outside of a hospital and could only be undertaken by highly trained staff in a laboratory....our portable handheld device and algorithm is highly innovative and impactful. It’s also simple to use, requires no blood and there is no expensive single-use plastic cartridges to be disposed of afterwards.” Glyconics, based on Meridian Business Park, secured the phase 1 grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund. Meanwhile, an FT-backed innovation website, Sifted.eu recently listed Glyconics as one of the “80 standout European start-up pioneers driving seismic change in the post-pandemic world.”

Photo: Bukavu, where the six month screening programme is focused.