NW business briefs: Next Energy; Cumbria LEP; Blackburn College; Equans; National Museums Liverpool; Redwood Bank

Next Energy team

Next Energy has secured a total of £45.8m in contracts in the first three months of 2024, marking the retrofitting contractor’s strongest quarter to date.

The reported figures are a 14.5% increase from the previous quarter, during which time the business secured a total of £40m in contracts with some of the UK’s leading social landlords and local authorities.

In the opening months of 2024, Next Energy has secured a place on three new frameworks, which means the business has been appointed on every major decarbonisation framework released to date, not limited to those by Procure Plus, EN:Procure, Fusion 21, Procurement for Housing and the Greener Futures Partnership. The company has also secured places on prominent Dynamic Purchasing Systems across domestic and commercial consultancy, compliance and installation for CHIC and Procure Plus.

Contracts secured via competitive tender include the Home Upgrade Grant Phase 2 (HUG2) for the West Midlands Combined Authority across Birmingham and Sandwell, and first place on the Liverpool City Council Energy Efficiency Framework, delivering the Energy Company Obligation’s 4th iteration (ECO 4) and other funded schemes targeting local people who are at risk of fuel poverty. The company has also grown its national ECO 4 capabilities alongside partners Octopus Energy, British Gas, Ovo Energy and E’on, now delivering Local Authority Flex for a total of 46 Councils across the UK.

These contract wins have fuelled Next Energy’s growth and have prompted the opening of a new office in the West Midlands. This expansion leverages the successful model established in Liverpool City Region. Next Energy, which specialises in energy efficiency home improvements, will install a range of insulation measures, perform roof replacements and repairs and replace windows and doors. Renewable low-carbon technologies including air source heat pumps and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels will also be used.

Michael Madigan, Director of Next Energy, said: “We ended 2023 on a high note, which then enabled us to hit the ground running as we entered the first quarter of 2024. We have secured some really important contracts with some of the UK’s most reputable housing providers and councils, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the wider Next Energy team.”


Diana Downing

A fintech start-up company near Penrith has developed software to combat fraud with an ‘Innovating for Success’ grant of £50,000 from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (Cumbria LEP).

The grant met 20% of the total project costs of £246,657 enabling Transaction 360 Degrees to develop its product and test its feasibility or ‘proof of concept’. It means that, for the first time, a service is available for financial services companies to use that delivers accurate, continuously updated data, to safely screen for ‘know your client’ and anti-money-laundering risks.

Transaction 360 Degrees CEO and founder, Diana Downing, says it is a game-changing approach for the industry and that the service is crucial for tackling financial crime and for meeting stringent industry data handling standards. She said: “Trust is no longer just an emotion. In business it’s also a commodity. It has never been more important to understand exactly who you are really doing business with. We use a system of crowd cleansing to verify the data entering our data environment, and then check and cross reference it with other data sources before we rely upon it. This unique approach allows us to identify linkages, relationships and dependencies, which were previously unknown.

“The Cumbria LEP grant has been a catalyst for us to develop this product, our second one. The rigour of the grant scheme also helped us to develop our internal project management and, as a result, we are in a stronger position on other fronts, too. We have cemented relationships with key partners, have the financial backing of investors and should have a revenue generating client on board soon.”

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria LEP, said: “It is great to see the difference that the Innovating for Success grant programme has made in supporting Transaction 360 Degrees to deliver their ambitions. They are an excellent example of why we launched Innovating for Success – to encourage small and medium sized businesses across Cumbria to invest in either innovating or decarbonising their business.”


Blackburn College has been chosen by Lancashire fabrication company, WEC Group, to become a provider of manufacturing apprentices to the business.

Darwen-based WEC Group, one of the largest engineering and fabrication companies in the UK, has specialised in fabrication, laser and waterjet cutting, and CNC turning and milling for more than 40 years. It employs more than 900 staff working across aerospace, defence, oil and gas, nuclear, mining and automotive industries.

WEC was impressed by Blackburn College’s ‘work to classroom’ model. The college will first offer a Level 3 Machining Apprenticeship, based on a day release, which includes one day of learning at the college and four days onsite at WEC over the course of four years. This working model means that students are able to learn continuously on the job as opposed to spending a block of time learning and a block of time on placement.

Edd Belshaw, Group Apprenticeship Coordinator for WEC, said: “Working with Blackburn College on the new Level 3 Machining Apprenticeship offer is a very exciting opportunity for us. The one-day-per-week College Day model fits perfectly into our busy work schedule, meaning our apprentices get the benefit of learning within our workshop and learning the theory side of things at Blackburn College.”

Suhail Khan, Engineering Development Lead at Blackburn College, said: “This apprenticeship model bridges the gap between theory and application. It allows us to work closely with local businesses and set our curriculum to their needs, rather than sticking to a standardised national curriculum.”


Equans has extended its partnership with Manchester City Council, which will see vital maintenance continue to be delivered to homes across the region.

The energy services specialist has provided ongoing maintenance and repairs to 12,000 homes and carried out refurbishment and adaptations on behalf of Manchester City Council Housing since 2021, with the partnership now running to 2027.

This three-year extension will see Equans continue to deliver approximately 55,000 repairs to council-owned housing stock and undertake 11,000 gas service inspections every year, as well as refurbishment and adaptations. The partnership also delivers a strong social value focus, committing to employ 15 apprentices and donating 1,000 hours of volunteering activities to local communities based in and around Manchester every year.

Richard Carmichael, Managing Director for Equans Local Authority Services, said: “This contract extension is testament to the strength of our collaborative relationship with Manchester City Council and we look forward to continuing the relationship over the next three years, working hard to provide an effective, customer focused service for the people of Manchester.

“We are committed to having a positive impact on the communities we work in and we will be proud to continue to contribute to making the area a great place to live, work and visit.”


CGI of proposed entrance to International Slavery Museum

Two museums with powerful collections and stories of local, national and international significance are inviting local people and visitors to have a say in shaping their future as part of £20m regeneration plans.

National Museums Liverpool is sharing the plans for the redevelopment of both the International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, inviting everyone to not only explore the designs but also speak to architects and the project team and gain an understanding of the ambition for both museums. Teams from National Museums Liverpool will be taking the plans out into various community spaces as well as holding a drop-in public planning consultation day at Museum of Liverpool on April 4, from 12 noon-4.30pm. There will also be an opportunity to meet members of the team in an online event on April 4, from 6-7pm: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/consultation

Michelle Charters, Head of International Slavery Museum said: “We’re so grateful for the thoughtful, collaborative work of our community stakeholders who have been integral in getting the designs to this stage and we’re delighted to be now sharing them with the wider public. The proposals for International Slavery Museum represent a major new chapter for the museum, and the city in addressing its role within the transatlantic slave trade.”

Ian Murphy, Head of Maritime Museum said: “The Maritime Museum opened more than 40 years ago as part of the Albert Dock’s redevelopment in the 1980s. As the first of National Museums Liverpool’s three waterfront venues, we have welcomed millions of visitors and shared the extraordinary stories of Liverpool’s rich maritime heritage with people from around the world. We’re looking forward to sharing these impactful new designs, that signify an exciting future for the museum, with fresh energy and opportunities.”

Both venues are expected to close in spring 2025 for works to begin, reopening in 2028. Historic England is the Government’s adviser on the historic environment. Marie Smallwood, Historic England’s Head of Advice North, said: “It’s really important that the emerging plans for this site are sensitive to its setting within Liverpool’s historic docks and we’re being consulted by National Museums Liverpool as their approach develops. It is encouraging that the proposal is going out to public consultation to help shape the future of this part of Liverpool’s amazing maritime heritage.”


Stuart Davidson

Specialist business bank, Redwood, is celebrating a £500m milestone as it continues to support small businesses in achieving the best returns on their cash.

It has passed the landmark figure in the customer deposits it holds, with a 13% growth since December 2022.

Stuart Davidson, Director of Products and Strategy, said: “Businesses come to us because they know we will help them make their money work hard for them.

“Redwood had another year of consistent growth in customer deposits, and we are anticipating further growth in 2024.”

He said the bank recognises there is high customer demand for longer term savings products, adding: “This became even more apparent with the base rate rises. Businesses are keen to make the most of their savings while the rates are favourable. We are strongly positioned to serve this market with our products. It is clear that customers appreciate a bank that is competitive and keeps things simple for them.”