Thursday 5th March

Skills in short supply, say manufacturers

Manufacturers in the UK are predicting a “fourth industrial revolution” within the next decade, but the UK’s skills base will be a brake on innovation....

Manufacturers in the UK are predicting a “fourth industrial revolution” within the next decade, but the UK’s skills base will be a brake on innovation.

According to a survey published by the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) just under six in 10 manufacturing businesses are worried that a lack of skills will hamper the industry in the next 10 years.

Nearly two-thirds anticipate an increase in demand for highly skilled workers and are calling on government to invest in medium and high-skilled qualifications at the school and higher education levels.

EEF is calling for changes to the schools system to achieve this goal. It wants 90% of secondary school teachers in maths and sciences to have at least a post-A level qualification in the subject they teach.

It is also calling for a 25% increase in the number of young people completing engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships, as well as the same increase in engineering students graduating from university.

Terry Scuoler, chief execuitve of EEF, said: “This is a blueprint for the future of manufacturing and for policies that will support the demand not just for more skilled workers, but for more workers with higher-level skills.

“The face of manufacturing is changing as a result of rapid advances in technology. This change is global and will see us face fiercer competition from other manufacturing and trading nations. In turn, it will place immense pressure on both the talent pipeline and the existing skills pool.

“It is vital that the government steps up to this challenge and works hand-in-hand with manufacturers to ensure that the UK is not left behind.”

A copy of EEF’s manifesto ‘Securing a manufacturing renaissance: priorities for government’, click the link below.

More on this story
Close article

How close are you to the ‘average’ entrepreneur?

The average owner of a small or medium-sized business (SME) is male, 48 and has been in business for 12 years, according to stats released by Legal & General....

The average owner of a small or medium-sized business (SME) is male, 48 and has been in business for 12 years, according to stats released by Legal & General.

L&G’s “State of the Nation’s SMEs” report also revealed that the average UK SME, stripping out the effect of micro-businesses and sole traders, is worth £3.1 million and makes an annual profit of £620,000.

The figures appear to contradict official stats revealing a big increase in the number of women starting businesses.

According to the Office of National Statistics female-led start-ups rose by 77,000 in the last three months of 2014, a whopping 87.5% of total starts.

The report is part of a campaign to highlight risks to small businesses and the need to insure key aspects of their operation, such as key people or vital data.

It found that four in 10 small businesses would fail within 12 months of losing their owner, yet 60% admitted they did not have key person insurance in place.

More than 70% said they hadn’t taken out a policy because they didn’t feel they need it, or had not been made aware of the risks.

Richard Kateley, head of specialist protection at L&G Insurance said: “Twenty-five million people in the UK are currently working for a small company. Our research highlights how important they are to the UK’s overall economic health.

“Helping these dedicated professionals and entrepreneurs overcome any obstacles they face, whether it’s a business issue or the loss of a key member of staff, is crucial.

“Business owners are very good at planning what would happen if they faced an IT failure or security breach, yet often overlook financially protecting the business through a lack of awareness or education.”

More on this story
Close article

Big money contest to find best fintech start-ups

Start-ups in financial technology (fintech) are being invited to enter a £175,000 contest that aims to uncover the best innovations in the sector....

Start-ups in financial technology (fintech) are being invited to enter a £175,000 contest showcasing the best innovations in the sector.

IC tomorrow, part of the government’s Innovate UK, launched the competition and said it would let start-ups test innovations with some of the biggest names in fintech.

Five businesses will get £35,000 each to boost digital inventions across themes such as education, cyber security and personal finance.

Taking part in the programme are heavyweights American Express, Accenture, Lloyds Banking Group, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), RBS Group, Money Advice Service and Experian.

The UK has developed into a world-leading base for the fintech industry, with success stories at different stages of development including Monetise, TransferWise and Go Cardless.

Despite being in its infancy the industry is worth about £20 billion annually to the UK economy, according to figures from UK Trade and Industry.

Matt Sansam, programme manager at IC tomorrow, said: “The UK has become a hotbed for financial technology innovation, with many of the world’s fastest growing companies basing themselves here.

“This collaborative contest aims to support and accelerate their growth by providing commercial introductions to industry leaders. It also enables UK-based global players to harness the creativity of start-ups and help bring their ideas to market.”

Tuesday 21 April is the deadline for entries to the competition. For more information click the link below.

More on this story
Close article
Wednesday 4th March

Boost medium-sized business in the Budget - CBI

The government must take action to support Britain’s medium-sized businesses in its Budget on 18 March, according to the CBI....

The government must take action to support Britain’s medium-sized businesses in its Budget on 18 March, according to the CBI.

The UK’s “Mittlestand” – the name adopted from Germany’s thriving medium-sized business sector – needs more opportunities for investment as well as help moving into international markets, it said.

The CBI also called on the government to maintain its course with current plans to reduce the national budget deficit.

CBI director general John Cridland said the economic recovery is now “well rooted” and that the Budget should “lock in” this success.

“This is a good opportunity for the chancellor before the election to support growth and investment well beyond the election, providing stability, certainty and simplicity for the UK’s ‘Mittelstand’ to get themselves on the front foot.

“So the chancellor must reward growing, ambitious firms with the tools to get on with the job of rebalancing the economy and lift productivity. There has been good progress on this front from the government, and the chancellor can now take further action to boost investment and innovation.

“If recent tax receipts have provided a bit more breathing space in public finances, the chancellor may also want to make progress on bolder reforms, including steps to boost the provision of universal childcare.”

Specifically, the CBI is calling for:

- A boost in the availability of long-term capital growth

- Reverse supplementary charge on North Sea oil producers

- Make permanent the annual investment allowance to boost investment in plant and machinery

- Boost research and development tax credits to cover manufacture of innovations

- Reduce complexity in the tax system

- A fiscally neutral Budget – measures should be paid for by efficiency savings and public service reform

- Extension of free childcare to all children aged one and two

- Measures to address the skills shortage with business-relevant degrees

Cridland added: “Businesses must and do pay their fair share of tax, but for growing firms a complex, outdated system stifles their ability to invest.

“Some current rules jeopardise the cashflows of ambitious firms, so we want to see 37,000 more small and mid-sized businesses paying their Corporation Tax on an annual basis only, not wasting valuable time and money making payments every three months.”

More on this story
Close article
Monday 2nd March

7 steps to boost UK productivity

The UK could solve its productivity problem in seven easy steps, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)....

The UK could solve its productivity problem in seven easy steps, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Together with the All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group it has released a report illustrating ways to close the productivity gap between the UK and places like Germany, France and the US.

While the UK economy has recovered from the recession of 2009, productivity remains stuck in the doldrums, which is a break on business growth and wages.

UK productivity is currently 17% than the G7 average.

Mike Cherry FSB national policy chairman said: "Improving productivity is an issue for the private sector, but the next government has an important role to play in addressing this long-standing weakness, regardless of which party or parties form the next administration."

Steps laid out in the report are:

  • Incentivise business investment
  • Universal access to high-quality broadband
  • Investment in regional growth
  • Support for innovative businesses
  • Address skills and training shortages
  • Improve public procurement policy
  • Get more businesses exporting

Brian Binley MP, chair of the Small Businesses Productivity Inquiry, said: "This report marks the first time a concerted effort has been made to assess the drivers of productivity within small businesses specifically.

“Small businesses have been responsible for much of our recent economic growth and addressing the barriers that hold them back and giving them the right support is crucial to closing the UK's productivity gap."

More on this story
Close article

Bumper pay packets ‘erode trust’ at big firms

The UK has a trust issue with big company bosses over the inflated pay packets they take home, according to a new poll of small business leaders....

The UK has a trust issue with big company bosses over the inflated pay packets they take home, according to a new poll of small business leaders.

A survey of 1,000 members of the Institute of Directors (IoD) shows 52% think headlines about big pay and bonuses erode trust in UK PLC.

The research was conducted for the High Pay Centre (HPC), a pressure group set up 2011 to address growing pay disparity between people at opposite ends of the career ladder.

The pay gap between average workers and top executives has been widening for 30 years, according to the HPC.

Recent examples include the £25 million package earmarked for BG Group boss Helge Lund. The IoD criticised the oil and gas group’s decision as “excessive” and “inflammatory”.

Meanwhile, Lloyds Bank chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio, bailed out by the tax-payer in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, is set to receive an £11 million package.

HPC director Deborah Hargreaves said the figures showed the business community was generally against high pay and “rewards for failure”.

"Outside the boardrooms of big corporations, ordinary small and medium-sized business owners are as appalled by the culture of top pay as anybody else,” she said.

"When big business leaders rake in seven or eight-figure pay packages every year, including massive bonuses regardless of company performance, we are clearly seeing a corporate governance failure, rather than a fair and functional free market.

"Ordinary workers, customers and wider society, not to mention shareholders, are being ripped off."

More on this story
Close article
Friday 27th February

‘Fear’ is the biggest factor behind non-starts

Thousands of people in the UK think about starting a business “every day”, according to research, but a high proportion of them are put off by the fear of failure....

Thousands of people in the UK think about starting a business “every day”, according to research, but a high proportion of them are put off by the fear of failure.

Research commissioned by the government’s Business is Great campaign shows nearly four in 10 of us have business on the brain, yet of these 78% said they were afraid to fail.

The survey of 1,000 people found that 18 to 24 year-olds were most preoccupied with entrepreneurial ambitions, perhaps considering self-employment in the face of reportedly weak employment prospects and earnings potential for this age group.

It also showed what is holding us back. Apart from fear of failure, lack of a strong mentor or inspiration was one significant factor; another was finding appropriate finance and yet another was finding the right premises from which to launch a business.

Commenting on the findings, business secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK is Europe’s leading entrepreneurial nation and the government is backing small firms as part of our industrial strategy to create long term jobs and grow the economy.

“Large companies also have a vital role to play in offering support and sharing their expertise with smaller companies wanting to grow.

“Over 2 million new businesses have launched since 2010 and I want to encourage all would-be entrepreneurs to visit the GREAT Business website and benefit from the wealth of advice and support that’s out there.”

In other findings from the report, 41% of people said starting a business would be harder than starting a family and 63% said it was one of their greatest ambitions.

More on this story
Close article
Thursday 26th February

£1.7 million for UK parking app

An app that allows drivers to find and reserve convenient free parking spaces has raised £1.7 million on the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube....

An app that allows drivers to find and reserve convenient free parking spaces has raised £1.7 million on the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.

JustPark connects drivers to the owners of parking spaces to and has a deal with BMW which integrates the app into cars’ dashboard displays.

After listing on Crowdcube, the business reached its target £1 million in just four days and at time of writing had raised more than £1.7 million.

The company will keep the funding round open for a short time, it said.

New investors join alongside existing backers BMW iVentures, which ploughed £250,000 into the business in 2011 and global venture capital outfit Index Ventures.

JustPark founder Anthony Eskinazi said: “We are hugely excited to offer our existing users and members of the public the chance to claim a stake in JustPark’s future growth, particularly given that our business is all about collaboration.

“We are operating at the heart of the sharing economy, with our customers providing each other with the solution to the parking headache by opening up their underused parking spaces to drivers.

“This crowdfunding round will allow us to work together with our most passionate users to build the business to greater heights.”

JustPark is the 200th business to be funded on Crowdcube and is its biggest technology investment to date. Some 2350 investors ploughed an average £700 into the deal, it said.

The biggest deal on Crowdcube overall was Kevin McCloud’s Hab Housing, which raised nearly £2 million in two years ago.

Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang said: “It’s great to see our community of 140,000 registered investors getting an opportunity to invest alongside leading venture capital firms like Index Ventures and BMW iVentures.”

More on this story
Close article

Manufacturers call for help to increase pay

UK manufacturers say the next government should invest in measures to boost productivity and help businesses pay their workers better salaries....

UK manufacturers say the next government should invest in measures to boost productivity and help businesses pay their workers better salaries.

In its business manifesto ahead of the May general election, the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) says a more productive and flexible labour force should be top of the agenda.

The body says the last five years have been focused on restoring order to a turbulent UK economy and that the Tory government has laid “some important groundwork”.

But it adds that the next five-year parliament should look to deliver a balanced economy, with more prosperity and a seat for the UK at the heart of Europe.

“It will involve tough choices and will not happen over the lifetime of a single Parliament,” said EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler.

“It is vital therefore the next government recognises this and sets lofty ambitions to provide the long term certainty that is necessary for manufacturing businesses to invest recruit and grow in the UK.”

Other priorities set out in the EEF manifesto include improving infrastructure, by creating an independent Infrastructure Authority, investing in roads and broadband, and energy network reform.

It also wants to see a reduction in the cost of doing business, with compensation for firms using renewable energy sources, and better support of growing businesses.

Smaller businesses could be supported with funding for Innovate UK and Science, as well as the HVM Catapult investment centres and UK Trade and Investment.

In a statement, the group said: “There remains much to do to restore the public finances, improve productivity and secure real wage growth.

“In particular, the next government should set an ambition for measurable improvements in productivity relative to our international competitors.”

More on this story
Close article
Tuesday 24th February

Minimum wage ‘to increase 3% in October’

The adult rate of the minimum wage will increase 3%, from £6.50 to £6.70, in October if recommendations to the government by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) are accepted....

The adult rate of the minimum wage will increase 3%, from £6.50 to £6.70, in October if recommendations to the government by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) are accepted.

The LPC is an independent body which advises the government on the appropriate rate for the minimum wage for adults, young people and apprentices.

It meets every year to formulate figures which it passes to ministers who almost always accept the suggested rates.

The LPC recommends a 3.3% increase from £5.13 to £5.30 for 18 to 20 year-olds and a 2.2% increase for 16 and 17 year-olds.

Business groups said the suggested increases struck a balance between the need for wage growth and continued uncertainty over the future of the economy.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, said: “The LPC has struck a careful balance. As the economic recovery cements, the Commission has reconciled a desire to reflect this in pay packets while recognising that productivity growth remains weak.

“We welcome the commitment to review next year’s rise if the improved business environment doesn’t materialise.

“The National Minimum Wage has been one of the most successful policies of our time thanks to the independent recommendations of the Commission, helping many low-paid workers without damaging their job prospects.

She added: “Any artificial increase due to political expediency will help no-one and ultimately damage one of the most successful government policies in recent years.”

Separately, the government published data on 70 businesses that have been caught failing to pay minimum wage rates.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said there should be more prosecutions and bigger fines for employers that break the law.

“We need more prosecutions and higher fines. Cheating bosses who fleece their workers out of their hard earned pay must end up in court,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“And there are still lots of under-paying employers who are getting away with it. More inspectors are needed so we can make sure that every single minimum wage cheat is caught.”

More on this story
Close article
Load more