Monday 01st March 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 22/02/2021

Optimistic firms hoping for Budget growth measures as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ emerges

Most firms in the East are optimistic on their prospects over the coming six months but want to see measures to encourage business growth and ‘digital transformation’ in the Budget ahead of more Covid support, according to a Grant Thornton UK survey. It shows that half of firms in the region believe the Chancellor should prioritise growth, compared to around a quarter who are looking for more help on Covid.  Support for digital transformation was cited as a top priority for 48 per cent of respondents. Incentives to support low carbon business strategies (40 per cent) and help with skills investment were also on the wishlist.Overall, some 86 per cent of businesses in the East felt optimistic on their revenue growth prospects over the next six months, up eight points on December. James Brown, partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton UK in the region, said: “Increased levels of optimism suggest business leaders are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, no doubt driven by the ongoing success of the UK vaccine programme and the Bank of England’s predictions of a strong economic recovery. It is important that the government capitalises on this optimism as a driver for growth and backs business in the right way.”

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New body launched to boost growth across Oxford-Cambridge Arc

A government plan to boost economic growth across the so-called Oxford-Cambridge Arc has been unveiled by housing minister Christopher Pincher. The new ‘spatial framework’ plan aims to create thousands of jobs, drive investment, and protect the environment across the area which covers Oxfordshire, Bucks, Northants, Beds and Cambs. The government says the results , due in 2022, will give communities a chance to shape the long-term future of the area and will help to ensure the benefits of growth are felt across the region. It involves the creation of an Arc Growth Body to foster growth which analysis suggest could mean output in the area doubling to over £200 billion by 2050. Mr. Pincher said: “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is already home to world-leading economic, cultural and scientific assets. We know for instance Cambridge’s rate of patent applications – a key indicator of innovation – is the highest in the United Kingdom, while nearby Milton Keynes is the fastest growing city in the country.  We want to take this region to the next phase of its renaissance by unlocking its full potential and our plans will drive investment where it is needed and ensure, as growth happens, we create well-designed, inclusive and vibrant places and communities.”

Boost for Gt Yarmouth firms from offshore windfarm contract wins

Two Great Yarmouth-based firms have won significant contracts supplying offshore wind farms, reinforcing the region's ambitions to develop a major supply chain in the sector. Seajacks is one of two UK companies which have won export contracts on a Taiwanese wind farm which is going ahead thanks to a UK Export Finance £200 million buyer credit guarantee to help finance the project. Meanwhile East Anglia One windfarm developer ScottishPower Renewables has awarded a key contract to Gibb Safety & Survival, which is also based in the Norfolk port town, to provide personal protective equipment. Seajacks (right) will ship material to install the turbines for the 605 MW Greater Changhua 1 Offshore Wind Farm in Taiwan whilst West Midlands-based Trelleborg will provide protection systems for cables connecting the turbines to the mainland. Seajacks COO Sebastian Brooke said: “This contract is an important milestone for Seajacks. This is the second major UKEF-backed project we have supplied to in Taiwan, and we are proud that British vessels will be installing these offshore turbines that will help power Taiwan’s green energy revolution.”

International trade secretary Liz Truss added : “By supporting projects like these we can help the UK lead the world in green growth and drive an exports-led, jobs-led recovery from Covid here at home.”

A multi-year agreement will see Gibb Safety & Survival supply PPE to the East Anglia ONE windfarm project, including protective clothing, working at height apparatus and rescue, survival and marine equipment. The firm will also service and manage the PPE at its new service centre in Great Yarmouth, and offshore at the East Anglia ONE windfarm, which is now operational. ScottishPower Renewables has committed £70 million to local suppliers delivering works across the East of England. Charlie Jordan, East Anglia ONE project director at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “We have been fortunate to work with some exceptional local suppliers on the East Anglia ONE project and Gibb Safety & Survival is another example of just how strong the supply chain is in this area….”

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Survey company strengthens position with two acquisitions

Ipswich-based Survey Solutions has strengthened its position as the UK’s largest engineering surveyors by acquiring two further survey companies. The fast-growing firm is widening its geographic spread by adding Survey Systems in Manchester and Kempston Surveys in Bedfordshire. The acquisitions increase the firm's national reach to nine offices located from Scotland to Somerset and increase its headcount to around 160. Started in 1998 by current CEO James Cooper (right), Survey Solutions delivers complementary services such as land surveys, measured building surveys, underground utilities, site engineering and monitoring to a wide range of clients using the latest technology. James Cooper said: “I am delighted and proud to welcome both Survey Systems and Kempston Surveys to our company. ... Both these businesses are established and respected, with excellent teams of professionals and are a perfect fit in terms of expanding our operations. I am looking forward to working closely with them both in the future.”

Cambridge Science Park building for sale for £40 million

A prominent property on the gateway of Cambridge Science Park has been put up for sale for around £40 million. Savills has launched the sale of 101 Cambridge Science Park for client of La Salle Investment Management. Built in 2008, it sits on a 2.33 acre site and comprises nearly 80, 000 sq ft of Grade A office space arranged over ground and two upper floors. It is currently multi-let to four businesses, including Citrix, Huawei and Grant Thornton, who have all made recent lease regears. James Vivian at Savills said: “We are pleased to offer to market this attractive investment opportunity on Europe’s most established and successful science park.”

Housebuilder buys site for 130 homes in Peterborough

Housebuilder Bellway has acquired a 13.5 acre site on land which was formerly part of the East of England Showground in Peterborough where it hopes to build 130 new homes. Outline planning permission for the site has been granted. Phil Standen, managing director of Bellway Eastern Counties, said: “There’s a growing need for new homes in Peterborough and our development, just four miles from the city centre, will help to meet this demand. We will be providing a mix of high-quality homes to suit people in a range of circumstances, alongside public open space for residents to enjoy.”

San Francisco-based biotech firm takes lab space in Haverhill

Halo Labs, a San Francisco-based life science instrumentation company has taken laboratory space at The EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park in response to the pandemic. The company will be testing its equipment on drug particles at the innovation centre. Dr Paul Dyer (right), field application scientist at Halo Labs, said: “We needed a facility to carry out tests on customer samples and with the pandemic this need has accelerated. The EpiCentre meets our requirements in terms of laboratory standards for biotech testing and is more than sufficient to meet our needs.”

CodiKoat, a biotech start-up with technology that kills viruses and bacteria on surfaces, took up occupation at The Epicentre before Christmas. Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock recently took a tour of the EpiCentre via video-link, to see the new vaccination clinic set up by the Suffolk GP Federation and dropped in to see CodiKoat. Gareth Scargill, commercial director at Oxford Innovation which manages the innovation centre, said “The arrival of both Halo Labs and CodiKoat at The EpiCentre shows the ripple effect from Cambridge that makes Haverhill a viable location.”

High hopes for hydrogen jobs

The backers of the bid to create a freeport around Felixstowe and Harwich say the planned Freeport East Hydrogen Hub could begin to create significant numbers of new jobs within the next 12 months and will demonstrate the UK’s Net Zero capabilities in the build-up to COP26. At its peak, the project, to be delivered in partnership with Ryse-Hydrogen and Sizewell C developer, EDF, will produce 1GW of hydrogen - 20 per cent of the 5GW target in the prime minister’s ten point plan. George Kieffer, chairman of the Freeport East Project Board, said: “By creating a hotbed for green energy innovation Freeport East will create high-value jobs helping drive regeneration both locally and nationally.”

Cambridge showcased as international destination

Conference and events bureau Meet Cambridge was recently selected to take part in an international summit to connect with business meetings buyers from the UK, Europe, North America and China. The bureau was one of 30 English destinations chosen to take part in MeetEngland Virtual 2021, held over two half days earlier this month to accommodate attendees from different time zones. Organised by Visit England, the event enabled Meet Cambridge to make appointments with buyers in one-to-one meetings, as well as man a virtual stand where buyers could chat with the team, download brochures or watch a Cambridge destination video. Judith Sloane (right), head of Meet Cambridge, said: “Over the course of the two sessions we met with 13 buyers in one-to-one meetings and many more in the networking hubs and on the stand. The showcase resulted in 350 new contacts which we are now following up. We were delighted to received two firm enquiries during the event itself for 2022, which have already been passed over to our venues."

New airbase for ambulance trust handed over on time

Ipswich-based Barnes Construction has recently handed over on time, a new purpose-built airbase to Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT). Project managed by quantity surveyors Castons and designed by architects Hurley Porte and Duell and structural engineer specialists Superstructures, construction started on the new airbase at the North Weald Airfield near Epping Forest in February 2020. In a handover, carried out via a video link, EHAAT CEO Jane Gurney and Cliff Gale, operations director, took possession of the building from Mark Hart, joint MD of Barnes Construction. Mark Hart said: “We are proud to have played a key part in the construction of this new airbase, which is a true community-based project that will help everyone. The project has been a collaborative team effort and I’m very grateful to Castons, Superstructures and Hurley Porte and Duell in particular, for helping us to get the scheme delivered on time, and under the most extreme and challenging circumstances due to Covid-19”. In addition to housing one of EHAAT’s two helicopters and two of its rapid response vehicles, the new building has areas for training, mentoring, patient liaison and fundraising. Work has started on the internal fit out and it is scheduled to become operational by June of this year.

Photo: Mark Hart (Barnes Construction) hands over the new base virtually to EHAAT CEO Jane Gurney accompanied by (l-r) Cliff Gale (operations director), Gaynor Wareham (critical care paramedic), Lee Burling (pilot), Clive Sturdy (co pilot) and Ben Clarke (pre-hospital care doctor). The aircraft is the charity’s AgustaWestland AW169 helicopter, which is based at North Weald.

Solicitor qualifies to specialise in older client care

A solicitor at Fisher Jones Greenwood has passed the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) Older Client Care in Practice award. James Bird is now an associate member of SFE. Rather than legal training, the OCCP award is about  evidencing and building client service and the award shows he has experience, understanding, and awareness of the limitations of acting for older and vulnerable clients as well as a commitment to abide by the SFE code of practice. The award also discusses the importance of client relationships, undue influence, safeguarding, elderly abuse, and older client communication. Paula Cameron, managing partner at FJG, said: “James has worked hard to achieve this first step to full SFE member qualification. At FJG, we strive to serve the Essex community as a whole and we are very pleased to have two specialists in older client law.”

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Cambridge college helps with food initiative to help the vulnerable

Fitzwilliam College Cambridge is supporting an initiative led by Sam Dyer at Cambridge Sustainable Food  to ensure that children in the city and the surrounding villages didn’t go without meal during last week's half-term. Last October half-term, Fitzwilliam College joined the initiative and chefs created 230 school meals. In December, another 200 meals were donated and distributed to local elderly residents. This week, a further 200 meals were delivered to help families during the half term break. The Fitzwilliam catering and events team worked in partnership with Cheese+, one of the college’s suppliers who made their temperature-controlled vehicles available so that the meals could be delivered to the distribution hub. Robert Clarke, head of catering and events, said: "It has been wonderful to see everyone working together in this way; the college, our suppliers and of course my team who have pulled out all the stops to work on this project with Cambridge Sustainable Food."

Photo: The Fitzwilliam Catering and Events teams works with supplier Cheese+ to deliver the meals.