North West briefs: Edge Hill University; Bulky Bob’s; Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa; Chester Race Company; BURN

Edge Hill University
X The Business Desk

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Edge Hill University, near Ormskirk, has teamed up with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to help dozens of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region to scale-up. The university’s Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) has expanded its popular Innovation Sprint Programme to enable 39 SMEs in the region to access its service. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is set to run from October 2021-March 2023.

The programme is designed to help businesses to critically evaluate their performance and achieve significant productivity improvements. Prof Simon Bolton, director of the PIC, said: “We are delighted to be able to deliver our growth programme to SMEs within the Liverpool City Region. The programme is highly regarded across Lancashire and the benefits and impact of the programme and the feedback from participants over the last three years has been fantastic. We are looking forward to working with Growth Platform and partners to deliver a holistic range of support to help maximise SME high growth opportunities.”

The PIC programme is part of a range of support that has been brought together by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and made available through Growth Platform – the Liverpool City Region Growth Company. The team of business experts from the PIC has successfully delivered the programme to 135 SMEs across Lancashire over the past three years. On average, the growth achieved was 29%, with more than 50 new products launched.

At the programme’s core is a data-driven innovation methodology, which helps SMEs manage the uncertainty and risk involved in developing a scale-up or growth strategy. Business experts and academics from the PIC work with the decision makers from the business to help them increase their competitiveness in domestic and international markets and the level of resilience in their business model. Decision makers from the business will work on a 1-2-1 basis with academics and the team of business experts and attend a series of online intensive workshops that are delivered through an interactive digital facilitated platform.

One business that has completed the programme is Lancashire-based VIVA PR. The company achieved an increase in revenue of 38% and 11 new clients. Tony Garner, managing director of VIVA PR, said: “The programme was a complete revelation. It gave us the time and tools to completely re-focus our business, so we can offer a transparent service to our clients that is results focused. Of course, it hasn’t been without its challenges – change can be tough – but the framework and action plan that has been created from the programme provided us with a clarity of purpose. The whole leadership team attended the programme, and its impact has been truly transformational.”

Janice Mears, head of business growth at Growth Platform, said: “I am delighted that this innovative programme is now being offered to businesses across Liverpool City Region. We know from the success of the previous Innovation Sprint programme that this will be of real benefit to those businesses who are looking to develop their innovation practices and tackle their scale-up challenges, thereby improving their productivity and driving profitable growth.”


Recycling LJMU items

Liverpool John Moores University has cleared its former campus at IM Marsh and enlisted the help of Johnsons 1871 and Bulky Bob’s for Business to organise and facilitate the donation of thousands of reusable items to charities, community groups and schools. This project has brought economic, environmental and societal benefits, as these items will no longer face disposal at landfill, or the more sustainable, but still impactful, recycling process.

The university’s used items have now been made available to the local community, including schools and charities, free of charge. This not only reduces the amount of money required, but also reduces the environmental impact of using raw materials and manufacturing new furniture, so a better outcome for the environment. The project involved the administrative input of LJMU, headed by recent graduate, Andrea Craig, Johnsons 1871 which categorised the many items and created the online portal, allowing users to reserve products, and Bulky Bob’s for Business, which publicised the project and provided the logistical delivery of donations to the recipients.

Shaun Doran, CEO of Bulky Bob’s parent, FRC Group, said: “This has been a very exciting and successful project which has received an overwhelming response. We are so pleased that it has granted reuse to over 3,000 quality items from LJMU campuses, bringing both societal and environmental benefits. It was promising to see that there was such an interest in the used furniture and classroom equipment, so we really hope that this partnership will encourage other organisations to enlist our services to make used goods available to schools, charities and community groups in need.”

Mark Nevitt, head of business and stakeholder services at LJMU, said: “It is great to see the furniture being reused and helping out so many local groups and organisations. The mission of the Furniture Resource Centre is to end furniture poverty. We are delighted to work in partnership with them and Johnsons minimising our environmental impact.”

Bulky Bob’s is also working with carbon conscious waste management company Fresh Start Waste, based in Astley, near Worsley, on helping to recycle essential furniture items for families most in need across Liverpool and Manchester. Sean Martins, commercial manager at Fresh Start Waste, said: “We’ve been delighted to move many of our customers up the waste hierarchy into ‘reuse’ whilst also doing our bit to protect the environment and help socially in terms of ending furniture poverty. We’re excited about this partnership and working ongoing with Bulky Bob’s to maximise reuse and do something positive with items no longer required, but that aren’t yet ready for recycling.”


Tim Berry and the turbine

A Lake District spa resort is now generating its own electricity thanks to a hydropower project driven by a water fed turbine. Drawing on the natural water supply from a fellside beck, English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues has installed the turbine at its flagship site on Windermere, Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa.

An 860 metre pipe is conveying water at up to 79 litres per second to the turbine, which is housed in a Lakeland style dry stone building to blend in with the local environment. The hydropower system is fully automatic, with the turbine adjusting the flow through the jets according to the available water. It is expected to generate a power output of 53kW to 60kW to attain 180MWh to 200MWh of electricity each year, roughly equivalent to powering 50 homes a year.

Tim Berry from English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues said: “This is the latest environmental initiative at the resort, designed to tap into the natural energy source of the fellside beck we have on site. We’re already on target to create enough energy for about a third of our electricity needs for the venue.

“Combined with the 2,000 trees we planted here at Low Wood Bay in memory of my father, Michael Berry, we will now be offsetting 500 tonnes of CO2 per year.”

He added: “Run-of-the-river hydro-electric projects like this are more environmentally friendly and we have gone through a rigorous environmental checklist to ensure that there are no adverse effects on the environment and that scenery and wildlife are unaffected.”


New home for The Nest

Destination Chester, a network of the city’s tourism partners, is working with Storyhouse and Wild Rumpus to create a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction, designed to keep Chester’s high street flourishing. Part of the ‘Chester Designed By Nature’ campaign – the brainchild of the Destination Chester partnership – it will showcase some of the county’s best artists, storytellers and entertainers.

Named The Nest, it is set to launch for the October half-term holidays and will feature lantern making, storytelling and art workshops for families to enjoy. After half term, the space will host talks, workshops and events aimed both at adults, young adults and families. The scheme is in partnership with Chester Race Company.

Jen McAndrew, Destination Chester project manager, said: ‘We are so delighted with the Race Company’s support, it is this sort of initiative – using empty prime retail space – that will help us overcome the challenges of the pandemic. The Nest is just the start of the year’s programme – we are certain it will boost the city’s footfall, support businesses and grow Chester’s stature, taking a creative approach to tourism that echoes the city’s wonderfully independent spirit.”

The Nest is set to be designed by Rachel Shore, from Wild Rumpus, the events company behind the ‘Just So’ festival and Chester Zoo’s lantern parade. It will be designed sustainably, with a preference to recycled and upcycled materials.

Chester Race Company is part of the Destination Chester network and is donating the premises for the new attraction, until the end of November. Marco Garavello, finance director of Chester Race Company, said: ‘We’re delighted to be part of this. The network has been designed so we can all work together to create more of a buzz around the city. Hopefully, the brilliant nature of our location on Bridge Street will drive more footfall to the city and drum up interest in this great project.”


Lisa Maynard-Atem

The Black United Representation Network (BURN) is partnering with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce with the aim of connecting the business community of the UK’s largest Chamber of Commerce with the unique range of services provided by BURN. These services will enable businesses to make tangible steps towards providing a more inclusive workplace and providing more opportunities for black employees and business leaders.

The BURN CIC is a membership organisation founded by nine Black VCSE and micro companies to challenge and tackle deep rooted racial inequalities in Greater Manchester which negatively impact people of African Descent, to bring about systemic change. It says Greater Manchester has an acute shortage of people of African descent in senior leadership positions that can influence policy and decision making.

Manchester-based BURN was established in February 2020, and founding members come from Wigan, Stockport, Manchester, Trafford and Salford. Its objective is to achieve parity and equality of opportunity for black residents covering health, business, education, employment and training, to build back better in the post-COVID world.

Managing director, Lisa Maynard-Atem, said: “I am very excited about our partnership with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. They are the perfect example of what a progressive ally looks like and have already demonstrated their commitment to what we intend to achieve as an organisation. I have no doubt that this will be a transformational journey for all parties that will lead to some very positive outcomes.”

Greater Manchester Chamber is the largest accredited Chamber of Commerce in the UK, with more than 4,500 members. For around 224 years, the chamber has been dedicated to uplifting the Greater Manchester community and culture through its strong presence, providing a platform for organisations and businesses in all 10 local regions to raise their profile, connect globally and build their networks.