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May 2014


Creative industries booming in the West

Bristol had the strongest creative industries sector of any large urban area outside London in 2013, at 12.7%, according to a survey by the Bristol Research Network. The next closest was Manchester at 9.6%. 62% of the creative businesses interviewed in the West of England reported an increase in turnover over the past 12 months and 63% reported an increase in profits. Read the survey here.


Job figures demonstrate strengthening recovery

In the first quarter of 2014, unemployment in the South West was 4.9%, down 1.6% on the previous quarter, compared to a national rate of 6.8%. In March, the claimant count for the West of England was 2.2%, well below the national average of 2.8%. Read Business West's comment on the ONS report here and the WE LEP's Quarterly Economic Intelligence Report here 


Business West hosts big energy debate with the Guardian

Security of the UK's energy supply has become a defining issue for politicians, the business community and voters. With Bristol and the south-west 'leading the charge in the UK shift to renewable energy', Business West played host to a roundtable discussion with the Guardian as part of the #bigenergydebate. Get the full story in the Guardian here.


Have your say in rural funding priorities

The WE LEP area has been awarded a grant by DEFRA to develop a bid for LEADER funding that will be focused on addressing the local needs of the rural economy. Three public workshops have been planned across the area and we want people who might benefit from this funding to join us to explore the opportunity further and contribute ideas to shape our bid, so that it reflects what the local rural economy really needs. Get the full story here.


WE LEP's First Collaboratorium 

170 people joined our first Collaboratorium on May 7th, where the LEP's sector groups opened their sessions to each other, enabling new connections and the development of a shared vision. Thanks to everyone who got involved. You can view our chief executive, Paul Wilson's presentation from the event here.


Broadband voucher scheme for Bristol businesses 

Broadband Connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 are available for SME businesses in Bristol, thanks to a new funding scheme being run by Bristol City Council. The council is running a free event on May 27th for businesses to come along and find out more. Read more and reserve your place at the event here.



Bath launches new Business Expo

Local businesses are being invited to get involved in the first Bath Business Expo, taking place at the Guildhall on July 4th. Over 50 businesses are expected to exhibit and hundreds of visitors expected to attend. There will be a hub of business support and advice, as well as jobs corner - a dedicated space for employers, employees, apprentices and graduates. Entry is free and stands cost from £49. Find out more here.


Operators invited to bid for Bristol arena

The bid to operate Bristol's arena has begun after a bidders day was held on May 15th. Potential operators have until June 6th to submit a pre-qualification questionnaire to Bristol City Council before those who meet the requirements are invited to bid for the 25-year contract. The successful operator will get to input into the design of the arena, operate and programme it, and manage the facility for the duration of the lease. Read more here.


Leading the way to economic growth in North Somerset

North Somerset Council has approved a Local Development Order (LDO) to make it easier for businesses in its J21 Enterprise Area to expand without planning permission. The Enterprise Area at Weston-super-Mare aims to bring 10,000 jobs to the area by 2026. The LDO will come into force on June 1st. Find out more here.


The Hive opens its doors for business

The Hive in J21 Enterprise Area is officially open for business. North Somerset Enterprise Agency, who will own and manage it, are celebrating their move into the new building and say they are already taking bookings for the conference, meeting and hot desk facilities. Chief executive Angela Hicks says, "The Hive really will be a building where local businesses of all sizes can work alongside each other." Read more here.


South Glos annual business forum

Businesses in South Gloucestershire are invited to attend this annual business breakfast on June 4th with an expert panel for lively debate and engaged learning. Topics include 'South Gloucestershire as a prime business location', 'Addressing economic dynamics as a collective group', and 'The changing role of your local retail destination'. Find out more and book your place here.


Last chance to have your say on Bath Quays Waterside plans

Bath & North East Somerset Council and the Environment Agency are working together to deliver flood defences for parts of Bath city centre - and they want to hear your views on the plan.?The £5 million Bath Quays Waterside Project will put in essential flood mitigation to enable the redevelopment of the Bath Quays and Manvers Street sites, in order to realise the Council’s Bath City Riverside Enterprise Area Masterplan and deliver new jobs and homes. Consultation closes on May 25th - take part in it here.



Help airport's bid for transatlantic link

Bristol Airport is calling on West of England businesses for support to help secure a direct flight to the USA once again. Although good connecting options can be accessed via frequent services to European hub airports, a direct flight would bring further benefits in terms of international profile, inbound tourism and time and cost savings to business.?The Airport is gathering information on companies with US connections. If your organisation would benefit from easy access to North America, please email James Gore with the details.


Building robots to battle threats beneath the sea

The port of Lisbon will host the latest in underwater security later this month, when a pair of surveillance robots demonstrate their capabilities. ?A partnership between Bristol Robotics Laboratory, SonarSim and BMT Group developed the devices - officially known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) - under a part-European Commission-funded four year research and development project. The vehicles have been designed to address underwater threats in ports with a focus on cost effective use of technology to make the most of low-cost sensors. Read more here.


Rolls-Royce signs agreement to sell to Siemens

Rolls-Royce has announced it has signed an agreement to sell its Energy Gas Turbine and Compressor business to Siemens, which has bases on the Bristol & Bath Science Park and near Chippenham, for a £785 million cash consideration.?On completion of the transaction Rolls-Royce will receive a further £200 million for a 25-year licensing agreement. Read more here.



World-leading mobile app firm chooses Bristol to locate

Somo, the largest independent mobile solutions company in the world, has chosen Bristol to set up a specialist engineering centre focusing on the development of licensed mobile products and platforms, one of the first of its kind. ?Invest Bristol & Bath worked closely with Somo to help secure their move to the city. Read more here.

OPINION PIECE: Dave Evans, CTO at Somo, explains why the company sidestepped other global locations in favour of Bristol. Read his piece here.


New hub to promote Bristol & Bath tech sector

Techspark is a brand new information hub for all things tech in Bristol, Bath and the West of England region. Supported by Invest Bristol & Bath, the site hosts news, interviews and forthcoming events, including TechSpark events, which bring together the people building innovative businesses in the tech sector in the region. The site only launched last month and is currently still a beta site – take a look here


GVA Core Cities report - Focus on Bristol event 18th June

According to GVA's Core Cities Report, the knowledge economy has been an important driver of growth in the last decade and is set to outperform trend growth in the coming five years. With Bristol identified as the only core city which outperforms the national average GDP and the only core city in the UK top ten for number of patents, GVA will be hosting an event to discuss how the city should consider space provision requirements of businesses in Bristol. Contact Kate Inskip to find out more.



Two funding schemes for West businesses

Two sources of innovation and R&D funding for businesses are available from the University of the West of England: Innovation 4 Growth (Round 2) is a £4 million research & development fund for SMEs and large businesses with grants of between £25k-£150k; whilst the £250k Innovation Vouchers fund provides 40% cash back on projects of up to £10k to help develop ideas and improve performance. Find out more about them both here.


Round 2 of grant scheme for games companies

GamesLab South West is back! Games developers in the region can once again apply for grants of up to £10,000 from Creative England's GamesLab to give their most innovative ideas a financial boost. ?To date, GamesLab has already committed £250,000 to developers in the South West. Developers interested in applying must already have a game at concept stage or currently in development and at least at Beta stage by Dec 2014. Read more.


£500k to international training centre from West of England Growth Fund

The specialist healthcare training centre, Eastwood Park, near Thornbury, has been awarded £475,00 from the WE LEP's West of England Growth Fund. As well as creating new jobs and safeguarding existing ones, the money is also to help with a major redevelopment project, which will see a brand new state of the art training centre built on the current site.?On-site groundwork preparation has already begun and the centre is expected to be completed in the next 18-24 months. Find out more about the centre and their plans for growth here.



Local firms sought to help design new 'MBA' style business course

SME businesses are being asked by WE LEP to help develop a local business management 'MBA' type qualification.

Discussions are already underway with UWE Bristol and others to create an academic course that delivers a range of business skills alongside vocational experience. To ensure the qualification meets the needs of local SME firms, the LEP Skills team is asking for companies to get involved and say what skills they need their current and future workforce to have. Read more and find out how to get involved here.


£1.25m for lighter aircraft research

The University of Bath has secured £1.25m to develop advanced materials for new aircraft designs, supporting the European aerospace industry in meeting demanding emissions targets. ?The initiative will be carried out with a number of national and international research partners including Airbus, NASA Langley, Stirling Dynamics and Stanford University. The funding has been awarded from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council. Read the full story.


Case study on Blanca, a Co-LAB creative intern

24-year old Blanca Munoz has just completed a creative employment internship with Co-LAB in Bristol, arranged through the WE LEP & Creative Skillset creative employment programme.?A journalism graduate, Blanca was frustrated to find herself registered unemployed for six months. In October 2013, she began a six month internship with Co-LAB as marketing assistant. Following the internship, she is stilll working for the company as project manager for PAPER Artistic Development CIC, which aims to help young people get a foothold in their creative careers. ?Blanca says about the creative employment programme: "It's been a great experience, not just for building up your portfolio, getting experience and getting to know the industry, but learning how a business works and everything else. It's been really good for confidence and self esteem because it's a really supportive team and also you get to know about so many more opportunities." ?Find out more about how the WE LEP Skills team can help you here.



'Digimakers' Workshop, At-Bristol, Sat 14th June 

This free, hands-on workshop offers under-18s the chance to have fun and get inspired, trying out cutting edge technologies including Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Lego Mindstorm, alongside programming workshops. Book your free place here.  


Bath Social Innovation Programme launch, Wed 18th June 

Join social entrepreneurs, innovators and service providers for the launch of the Social Innovation Programme, with informal networking, drinks and a lively debate on myth-busting social innovation. At the University of Bath Innovation Centre. Find out more and register your free place here.


Made in North Somerset Festival, 13th Sept - 5th Oct  

If you're a North Somerset food and drink producer, artist, crafter, pub, restaurant, cafe, community group or orchard, then book now for the Made in North Somerset festival this autumn. This three-week celebration is now in its fourth year, helping to raise the profile of local businesses. Find out more and book your place here

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