The answer to the UK’s pressing dID-dilemma
Growing concerns that the UK’s leading position in digital financial services may be threatened by failed attempts and the lack of urgency to create a unified digital identity ecosystem have so far been falling on deaf legislative ears. The attempt in the House of Lords in April this year, for example, to amend the Financial Services Bill – with an obligation for HM Treasury to publish plans for a digital ID system for the financial sector – failed to gather enough support. But the termination of Gov.uk Verify – the dID system plateauing at a 7 per cent uptake – and the unwillingness of individual ministries and HMRC to join a common dID platform shouldn’t blind us to major standalone success stories such as the EU Settlement Scheme (6 million applications) and the digital Covid Pass, which drove downloads of the NHS app by 28 million users.
iProov, a British liveness detection and presence assurance solution provider, has been involved in both projects, as well as other highly regarded dID projects, many of them run outside the UK. iProov was, for example, the first non-US supplier to win a contract with the Department of Homeland Security. Its proprietary Flashmark facial authentication and anti-spoof technology went live in Estonia’s state-certified Digital Identity Program in February 2020, and, more recently, it has been running or participating in dID projects in Australia and South Africa.
What iProov brings to the remote identity verification table is a state-of-the-art technology ensuring that the person authenticating is the right person, not a criminal, and a real person, not a machine. It brings an additional element of security to identity verification and provides guarantees that synthetic IDs and rampant deep fakes can’t play the system. iProov’s Flashmark solution involves flashing a unique, one-time sequence of colours onto the user’s face and – with the help of machine learning – determining whether it’s a live person initiating the authentication. iProov has also been applying its genuine presence assurance patent to physical kiosks to make its secure services available at low-security locations such as the remote unmanned border ports of the United States.
The person at the helm of iProov is technology pioneer Andrew Bud CBE, who has previously been involved with projects in fields as diverse as nuclear fusion and mobile telecom. His last business, mBlox, became the world’s largest processor of mobile payments in 2007. When fraudsters started to take advantage of the company’s network, he decided to move on to the emerging field of liveness detection and presence assurance and established what came to be a world-leading enterprise.
While GOV.UK Verify, the intended default mechanism for citizens logging into online public services, wasn’t previously deemed secure enough by the NHS, iProov could provide the extra level of protection needed to store the Covid Pass and highly sensitive personal health data on the service’s app. Both the Covid Pass and the EU Settlement Scheme have demonstrated how the adoption rate of digital public services can be positively affected by the utility of the proposition. Even users who may have been concerned about the safety of their private data when remotely onboarding an application managed to overcome their fears in the knowledge that they can get certificates otherwise awarded as a result of drawn-out, cumbersome in-person processes. Their trust may have been further boosted by an onboarding experience similar to what they have experienced when opening a bank account with tech-savvy fintechs.
Agile technology companies such as iProov, who form partnerships with both private and public organisations, are great agents of knowledge transfer between the two sectors. And so can be individuals such as Natalie Jones, who was digital lead on the EU Settlement Scheme and has recently been appointed Director of Digital Identity at the Government Digital Service (GDS) tasked with building One Login – the next and hopefully final iteration of a single sign-on system for all government services. News that that GDS has used Solid technology from Inrupt, the start-up of internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee, to build a proof-of-concept suggests that this time it will be the real thing. And chances are that iProov will also have a role to play.
Tidal turbines could generate 11 per cent of the UK’s power – new research
The UK’s annual electricity demand is expected to more than double by 2050. To meet this daunting target without relying on fossil fuels, the government is betting big on wind power – one of the cheapest forms of renewable power available.
But in August and September 2021, calm weather caused wind energy generation to drop 60 per cent below the seasonal average. Planned and unplanned outages of nuclear power plus high demand for natural gas compounded the problem, resulting in network operators restarting coal power stations and energy companies raising prices.
As hosts of COP26 in Glasgow – the 26th UN climate change summit – the UK has framed the negotiations as a chance to show that “science and innovation can deliver climate solutions”. Established energy sources such as offshore wind will play a big role in decarbonising the economy and slowing climate change. But how can a fully net-zero grid guarantee electricity when the wind drops again in the future?
There’s another way of generating clean energy that the UK has so far failed to exploit: tidal stream power.
Harnessing the tides
The UK has two high tides and two low tides each day. This movement of water is created by the gravitational force of the Moon and Sun and the rotation of the Earth. In places like the Pentland Firth in northern Scotland, islands funnel and speed up these tidal flows. Tidal stream turbines are designed to work in these turbulent waters to generate electricity.
Tidal stream turbines work in a similar way to wind turbines – they even look alike. Wind turbines use the wind blowing over their blades to create a lift force, behaving like an aeroplane wing. One end of the turbine blade is connected to the hub of the rotor, so the lift force on the blades causes them to rotate. This turns a generator, producing electricity.
Tidal stream turbines do the same thing underwater using tidal flows instead of the wind. Most tidal stream turbines that have been installed so far sit on the sea floor, but some designs connect the turbines to a floating structure, making it easier for engineers to maintain them.
Tides come in and out like clockwork. That means, unlike most renewable energy sources, it’s possible to predict how much power tidal-stream turbines will generate this time tomorrow, next week, next year, even ten years from now. This makes it easier to match supply with demand and plan for the outages of other sources.
In a new review, my colleagues and I showed that the UK and British Channel Islands can generate 11 per cent of their shared electricity demand each year using tidal stream turbines. This would require installing 11.5 gigawatt’s worth of energy in the strongest tidal streams – roughly the same as the installed capacity of offshore wind in the UK to date. It took the offshore wind industry in the UK 20 years to reach this level. If tidal stream power is going to contribute to the country’s future electricity needs, turbine installations must be ramped up soon.
So what’s needed to unlock its potential?
Getting tidal power afloat
One reason tidal stream power projects are so rare is that construction can only begin once there is solid evidence turbines will not significantly harm the environment. The risk of marine animals colliding with turbine blades, for example, is difficult to quantify, because monitoring their behaviour around turbines requires a lot of work that is difficult to do underwater.
A recent study described marine mammals near a tidal stream turbine in the Pentland Firth over 451 days. On 344 occasions when porpoises swam close to the turbine, none of them passed through the rotor while it was rotating. Most of the time, the porpoises gave the turbine a wide berth.
Some scientists worry large arrays of underwater turbines might prevent water mixing between the ocean bottom and the surface, which is important for the cycling of nutrients in marine ecosystems. But research has shown that these potential effects are likely to be an order of magnitude less than the same ones expected due to climate change.
Mainly though, tidal stream power is very expensive to install. Wind and solar energy were too once, but these costs fell as governments invested in them. Investment pays for the installation of new projects and the subsequent learning process cuts costs in the future. UK government funding has provided a secure revenue stream for over 10 gigawatts of offshore wind energy projects, but funding for tidal stream power amounts to less than 1 per cent of this. Even with that modest support, the first 8 megawatts of tidal stream power installed in the UK cut the cost of generating energy this way by 25 per cent.
Three tidal stream projects that total 124 megawatts are eligible to bid for funding support in the next auction round, scheduled for December 2021. We estimated that installing them would reduce tidal stream’s cost by roughly 40 per cent, making it competitive with combined cycle gas turbines and biomass. This would only amount to 1 per cent of the UK’s installed offshore wind capacity, and just 1 per cent of tidal stream’s 11.5 gigawatt potential. Clearly, costs can be expected to fall much further.
The government funding rules dictate that tidal stream projects must bid for support against projects using cheaper technologies that have less potential to reduce costs in the future. Floating offshore wind farms would face a similar dilemma, but have been guaranteed separate funding by the government, giving it a route to market and cost reduction.
At COP26, the UK government should deliver on its fine words about science and innovation and provide the funding needed to unlock tidal stream energy’s potential.
Enabling a sustainable future for the business community
Susan Taylor Martin, Chief Executive, BSI
Recent research has shown that fewer than one in four of the world’s largest companies are on track to meet basic climate change targets and that Europe will miss its 2030 climate goal by 21 years. Although there are an increasing number of net-zero corporate commitments and government targets, there is a lack of real direction for business leaders as to how these targets can be met. Governments and industry need clear, practical guidance to meet their net-zero ambitions. Standards can play a key role in providing that guidance and thereby accelerating our progress.
The international standards system, which uses national delegations to develop consensus best practice, is a trusted, global framework that can deliver real, practical change through the promotion of common approaches to solving complex problems. For example, the international standard BS EN ISO/IEC 27001:2017 on information technology was based on British Standard BS 7799 and has provided easy-to-use insight into managing cybersecurity risks for more than 15 years. And consensus doesn’t mean slow. International standards can be produced very rapidly; PD ISO/PAS 45005:2020 for safe working during Covid was developed during lockdown and published last year. There are a large number of international standards already available – and new standards are published all the time – that could support organisations to develop more sustainable processes, products and services. Standards are poised to redefine best practice around, among other things, energy-smart appliances and innovation in battery production – essential technologies that will accelerate our journey to a net-zero economy.
This year, BSI has worked with the other national members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to agree that the content of all our standards should be aligned with the latest climate science. Together with the President and Secretary-General of ISO, we signed the London Declaration in September, committing BSI and ISO to embed key climate considerations into every new standard that is created. We will also retrospectively add these requirements to all existing standards as they are revised. This is change on an unparalleled scale because it is both systemic and highly practical at an organisational level.
BSI and ISO will be present at COP26 in November, presenting our work on sustainable finance, industrial biotechnology and voluntary carbon markets. We have developed a Climate Action Kit with ISO to illustrate through case studies how governments, industry and other stakeholders, working together on the role of standards and regulation to stimulate industry transformation, can accelerate market take-up and scale change.
There has never been a more important time for consensus best practice standards that can respond to the global challenges of today, building trust and resilience and accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world. Sustainability and the digital economy are the principal drivers of our work to support government, industry and society in the decade ahead and we would welcome engagement with business leaders, experts and consumer organisations alike who want to get involved in shaping the standards we need for a future net-zero economy.
For more information about how BSI can help your organization to be future-ready please visit www.bsigroup.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM BSI
The building blocks for bespoke trading technology
Hamish Adourian, Head of Sales and Marketing, and Vana Angou, Marketing Executive at Sinara
Picture the scenario: an old trading IT system at a broker has grown unwieldy and costly but still manages all the key order and trading data for the broker. Down at the trading desk, traders are unsure if they’re making the most of intraday market opportunities; compliance is worried the audit trail isn’t as complete as it should be; and the sales team is keen on an exciting new trading service or market data service solution they can take to market, but the business doesn’t have the capacity to create the technology to support that for the planned Q4 launch. A visit to the IT team finds them under huge pressure just to keep things running, and managers are seeing difficulties finding (never mind retaining) the skilled IT staff they need.
These are just a few of the real-world problems faced by financial market participants under pressure in a market being accelerated by developments in technology, with new fintech challengers always keen to pick up any dropped batons.
“We’ve been dealing with these kinds of issues for a long time,” says Hamish Adourian, Head of Sales and Marketing at Sinara Consultants. “The question most technology executives will eventually be faced with is whether to buy in an existing software solution or build something new, whether that’s for making operations more efficient or delivering new products or services.”
Once a decision is made to build something new, a well-run software project will start with an analysis stage to fully identify exactly what it is the business needs. Good communication and project management are vital, with skilled engineers and business analysts who can ‘translate’ between business and IT. With market pressures demanding ever shorter delivery times, a more agile project might be the means to deliver something the business can start testing and even using for real, then gradually over time add more features and perhaps migrate from an older system.
Another choice for the business might be whether to try to increase their own internal software engineering capacity to deliver the project. In practice, the reality of attempting to hire, retain and develop talent and build up the associated infrastructure can hit budgets hard. This is where established software houses such as Sinara can offer real value, allowing financial firms to concentrate on their core business and maximise the benefit from their IT investments.
“You could still well ask why you shouldn’t just go for something already well-established that everybody else uses, and yes – sometimes you should,” says Adourian. “But there will be times where to get that competitive advantage, to become the market leader and to bring a business idea to life, you’ll need to invest in building something new. At Sinara, we’re able to do that while taking advantage of pre-built solutions like SinaraTLC – so you get the best of both worlds.”
Talk to Sinara about your trading technology plans and challenges by visiting tlc.sinara.com/welcome
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM SINARA
Driving change in cross-border payments
Sending money home is important for millions of people around the world. Almost a billion people receive money from friends and relatives who have moved abroad or live outside their home country, and the value of these international payments (known as remittances) is more than half a billion dollars a year.
People move to new countries for a range of reasons – education, employment, escaping persecution or lack of opportunities at home – driven by a desire to build a better life. These migrants are part of the fabric of our global society, and many are motivated to send money home, in support of family, friends or investment projects. Unfortunately, transferring money to the developing world has not always been simple or cost-effective.
For the past 15 years, a UK home-grown business, Small World Money Transfer, has been on a mission to help its customers to transfer money quickly, securely and easily – online, in app, in-store or across a large agent network. An alumnus of the UK government’s Future Fifty programme, Small World has expanded from an initial team of two people to a global operation servicing customers around the world who need to send money, largely to countries in Asia, Africa and Central and South America. These customers are traditionally poorly served by traditional banks.
New options for cross-border payments
One problem that migrants face when they try to send money home has been ‘de-risking’ by the banking sector. Many traditional banks have withdrawn from providing banking services to companies that specialise in cross-border remittance services, largely due to the heavy burden of regulatory compliance relating to money laundering. As a result, the remittance business has consolidated into just a few global players with scale. Over the years, this has been very harmful to the underbanked.
Small World has an important part to play as a strong challenger to the global giants of the sector. They partner directly with banks around the world to provide remittance services. ‘It takes a lot of work and time to build out a network of banking partners and to keep their confidence and trust over many years,’ says Small World CEO, Nick Day. ‘But that’s the business we’re in, and we work with some of the largest banks worldwide. We are specialists and they understand that.’
The company is meeting a very real need, has a strong social purpose and has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Its customers can send money digitally or in person to any of 180 countries worldwide, paying funds directly to a bank account or mobile wallet or for collection at one of over 300,000 bank and post office branch locations.
The falling costs of international remittances
Money transfers can be very expensive, especially for individuals sending money to other consumers across international borders. The average cost of sending $200 internationally was 6.4 per cent in 2020– with a hefty $13 taken from wages that are often low and hard-earned. In general, banks are the most expensive, with specialist payment service providers such as Small World among the most cost-effective.
Small World is actively driving down costs for its customers, with big investments in technology and automation – the average fee they charge for international payments is around $5 for a $400 transaction.
The importance of choice
But customers looking to send money home don’t only want low fees. Small World’s four million customers are also looking for convenience in how they send and how their recipients receive the money. ‘We have an omnichannel approach,’ says Mr Day. ‘As well as our digital presence and our mobile apps, we have 84 dedicated branches across Europe and a large network of more than 10,000 agencies to serve customers. We also operate a number of call centres with specialist staff, covering the broad range of languages that our customers speak.’
The company takes the same flexible approach to making payments. Recipients can have money paid into a local bank account, in different currencies, or collect it as cash paid over a branch counter.
Where a bank account is unavailable or reaching a convenient bank counter impractical, the simplest and cheapest solution may be to use a digital wallet on a mobile phone. Small World’s services work equally smoothly with payments made to mobile wallets, and these services have grown rapidly in countries with limited banking infrastructure and widespread mobile usage.
Convenience, simplicity and trust
These benefits mean that cost isn’t the only consideration. ‘A big part of our premise is not to force people to take the cheapest option,’ says Mr Day. ‘We give people a choice so they can choose the one that works best for them. Cash over the counter may be a bit more expensive than money directly into a mobile wallet, but it works better for some people.’
As well as providing people with choice so they can pick the most convenient method, money transfer needs to be simple, too – both for the sender and the recipient. Small World is highly focused on how customers experience its service.
It has a team of specialists in user experience, from design to engineering, and is constantly refining the service as well as launching new features and services to improve the ease of use for customers. Driven by data, this is a constant journey to deliver the best experience.
In addition, Small World addresses regulatory complexity. Money transfer is a highly regulated business. Remittance services typically need Central Bank approval and Small World is authorised to provide these services across Europe, North and South America, and much of Africa.
‘A lot of what we do is applying technology and data to simplify what is complex from a regulatory perspective,’ says Mr Day. ‘There are banking regulations for each territory, and each bank has its own requirements, which may vary by amount or type of payment sent. Our aim is to make sending a remittance convenient, straightforward and easy – with a low fee and a very competitive exchange rate.’
Regulations are important because they promote trust, and user confidence is very important in this industry.Funds that are being transferred may be essential for education, housing or medical fees. For peace of mind, the sender needs to know when the money has been received safely at the other end.
‘It’s important that the money gets there quickly, but there also needs to be good communication around the transaction,’ says Mr Day. ‘We provide that.’
Minutes not days
Speed is also important. Someone sending money home wants the recipient to have rapid access, especially if the money is being sent to cover an emergency. Some traditional methods of transferring funds can take days to come through. For most customers, the ideal speed is measured in minutes.
This is where Small World’s close relationship with its banking partners comes into play, in what Nick Day calls its ‘plumbing’. Because there is no third-party network to deal with, transfers are rapid and low cost. ‘We have around 450 relationships with banks across the developing world,’ he says. ‘We are integrated into their systems and work directly with their treasury operations so we can put money straight into bank accounts and mobile wallets.’
The rise and rise of international remittances
Cross-border transfers will continue to grow in importance as global migration increases and wages rise around the world. The pandemic has slowed the pace of global movement in recent times, but the underlying drivers behind migration remain strong. Successful services will be underpinned by a deep understanding of migrants and the people they send money to, together with the ability to navigate a complex and changing ecosystem of regulatory and banking stakeholders. Small World’s customer insights and its focus on cost and convenience, combined with strong and trusted banking relationships around the world, gives it an ability to provide value and choice to its customers that is unmatched in the industry.
For more information, please visit our website.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM SMALL WORLD
A decade of success in the volatile world of videogames
The videogames industry is a notoriously volatile and fast-moving business, with its place at the forefront of technological change requiring readiness for upheaval at any moment. That makes it all the more impressive that Liverpool-based Ripstone is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a games studio this year, successfully building a company fit for the modern gaming landscape and continuing to prepare itself for where games are heading next.
A decade ago, co-founders Phil Gaskell and Leo Cubbin recognised that the industry was in the midst of a transition that offered huge opportunities for a company willing to embrace them wholeheartedly.
‘We both recognised that digital distribution was going to be transformative for the games industry, so we hatched a plan for a games publishing label that specialised in that space,’ says Phil, recalling the founding of Ripstone. Fulfilling that vision wasn’t easy – Phil recalls breaking down in tears in his kitchen in the company’s early years, fearing that they might go bust.
However, a series of smart decisions shifted the company’s focus to games development and consigned those tears to the past. With over 40 million sales and successful titles under its belt, including Chess Ultra, Poker Club, Snooker 19 and Pure Pool, the company is thriving in the modern gaming landscape. In 2021, everyone wants games that keep players coming back, and with a roster of evergreen simulation titles that do just that, the company is in an enviable position.
Ripstone’s ability to adapt to the demands of the moment has been underpinned by a strength of vision that has helped it stay the course while others around them grasp at the ‘next big thing’.
‘I think we’ve been good at resisting the gold rush and staying true to our vision,’ Phil reflects. ‘When we set the company up, the talk was that console games were dead. Our people at the time wanted us to plant our feet firmly in both the mobile gaming and Facebook gaming space and we had to work hard to convince them that our vision was the right one. We were right to do so.
‘We continued to deliver high-quality premium console games and watched on as those around us flocked to mobile, and, sadly, mostly failed. Now, 10 years later, console gaming is stronger than ever and Ripstone has tactfully positioned itself to reap the benefits and continue to grow in a booming sector.’
Alongside its financial success, the company has also built a reputation as an exceptional employer, cemented by the recent recognition by GamesIndustry.biz’s Best Places to Work Awards 2021. The award recognises positive approaches to diversity and other employment practices.
‘We’re a people business and always have been,’ says Phil, explaining that a lot of work has gone into making sure Ripstone offers the right benefits and environment to enrich its employees’ working lives. ‘Winning an award shows that your work is paying off and the team is happy. When you foster a workplace like that, you know you will be getting the very best out of the people, and it will shine through in the games you make.’
Two new studios in Birmingham and Marathon, Greece, are a big part of the company’s plans as it continues to evolve and focuses on building strong internal development teams founded in Ripstone’s positive work culture.
‘Birmingham is headed up by Mark Williams, an incredibly talented programmer who we worked with on some of our early games,’ says Phil. ‘We’re actively growing the development studio there over the coming years with game programmers, artists and production and design staff. They’re working on an as-yet-unannounced title, and knowing how good Mark is with technology it’s promising to be one of the most visually stunning games you will ever see.’
The company is growing its development and marketing teams back at its home base in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, too. ‘We’re brimming with ideas and, thanks to our continued success, we’re well placed to make ambitious original games, grow our profitable live games and work with partners eager to harness the creativity of our fantastic talent,’ Phil explains.
The new studios and a growing team provide a base for continuing Ripstone’s tradition of staying ahead of the curve. This includes exploring opportunities in China and the rise of streaming, which is making inroads in the realm of gaming after revolutionising other forms of media.
‘Our focus at Ripstone is to create a catalogue of games that will continue to delight global audiences and generate solid revenue on all streaming platforms,’ says Phil. Ripstone’s vision has carried it through a decade – and it looks primed to stay strong as it heads into the next.
To find out more click here.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM RIPSTONE
How to navigate the mortgage market when rates are rising
Recent events in both financial markets and the wider economy mean that interest rates look set to rise sooner than expected.
A fall in unemployment from 4.6 per cent of the working population in August to 4.5 per cent in September – according to official Office for National Statistics (ONS) data – would not normally be noteworthy. We saw the furlough scheme come to an end in September and the Bank of England had concerns we would see a spike in unemployment, but that has not materialised. The ONS also expects wage inflation to continue. Wages were up 7.2 per cent in Q3 2021 vs Q3 2020 and predicted to rise between 4.1 per cent and 5.6 per cent in Q4 2021 vs Q4 2020.
Inflation doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon. Even with a surprise downturn to 3.1 per cent in September vs 3.2 per cent in August, it is still more than 50 per cent above the target level of 2 per cent set by the Bank of England. In October, we saw real issues around fuel supply, energy prices and supply chain issues, so inflation may well hit 5 per cent before it starts to peg back. Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, was quoted as saying it “will have to act” over rising inflation, which was a very clear reference it intends to raise the base rate up from its current level of 0.1 per cent.
Money markets had already started to shift in September as much of this data started to filter through.
As the vast majority of mortgage lenders buy in their funds from money markets, it is a strong indication of where mortgage rates will go as they often have to act ahead of any movement from the Bank of England. The above picture tells us that we can expect around two base rate rises over the next two years, closing out 2022 at around 0.5 per cent, but only one more is likely after that point to 2026. So while interest rates are set to rise, they do not look like they will go up sharply or much higher than where we are now. The sheer level of debt in public and private finances means it will be a ‘steady as you go’ approach from the Bank of England.
Inflation and the mortgage market
The obvious answer to all this is to look for a longer-term fixed-rate product, but this comes with a number of risk warnings and caveats to achieve the best outcome.
As a rule, if you have more than a 25 per cent deposit when you look to arrange a mortgage, you are likely to get a rate of less than 1 per cent. These are likely to be the lowest that mortgage rates will ever be, so fixing in for five years makes a lot of sense. If you have less than 25 per cent equity, it may well prove cheaper to take a short-term deal now and fix for the longer term afterwards.
Mortgages become much cheaper when you have a magical 25 per cent equity as house prices have never fallen by more than 25 per cent in any one cycle, so banks deem you as low risk – hence the preferential pricing.
If you are looking at moving, or perhaps had a credit blip in the recent past, fixing for the longer term may not be for you. As per the above, it may make sense to go shorter term, or even take a penalty-free product so you can move or renegotiate the product once the event has passed that is stopping you from getting the lowest priced products now.
It’s not recommended that you fix for more than five years, as products past that term become disproportionately expensive. There are two reasons why: firstly, the cost of funds are far greater, as no one can predict the future, and secondly, the risk of you defaulting goes up over time, so banks also need to price in that risk on top of the usual product pricing.
Once you have a clearer idea of what path to go down, finding the most suitable product and lender becomes much easier. Everyone’s situation is unique, so there is never a one-size-fits-all approach and it is strongly encouraged that you get specific financial advice before going ahead.
If you would like personalised advice, contact one of the team at Rose Capital Partners to discuss what all this means and the best course of action for you
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM ROSE CAPITAL PARTNERS
Why the world needs to decarbonise transport now
Sujith Kollamthodi, Director of Strategy & Innovation, Ricardo
The world depends on transportation by land, sea and air. However, it poses some of our most pressing economic, environmental and social development challenges.
Moving people and goods accounts for one-quarter of global energy use, and the demand for energy from this sector is continuing to grow. This is due mainly to the increasing number and size of vehicles on our roads: more than 1.42 billion are currently in use, with an expected two billion by 2040. Road vehicles, most still powered by fossil fuels, account for nearly 75 per cent of total transport-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions from aviation and shipping are also projected to sail upwards between now and 2050. Flying contributes 12 per cent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, while the marine sector, if it were a country, would be ranked between Germany and Japan as the sixth-largest source.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has demanded that action to curb emissions must happen now. Industry must ramp up the rate at which it develops the new technologies needed to decarbonise every sector of the economy, while lobbying governments to support the introduction of these technologies.
The transport sector has a critical role to play if the ambition of net zero by 2050 is to be achieved. Without aggressive and sustained reduction policies, transport emissions could increase at a faster rate than those from other sectors. This would threaten the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The challenge is clear: the timeframe for action is shrinking.
Reducing transport emissions requires the development of low-emission alternative fuel sources, including advanced biofuels, electricity, hydrogen and renewable synthetic fuels; investment in the electrification of transport systems; and the promotion of cleaner modes of transportation, including public transit and cycling.
Ricardo, a global environment, engineering and strategic consulting company, uniquely operates at the intersection between environment, energy and transport. The company’s expertise in policy, strategy and technology innovation is trusted by organisations around the world seeking solutions to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The company has been doing substantial work in decarbonising transport across land, sea and air. ‘We’re pleased to be making a difference and supporting innovation and implementation,’ says Sujith Kollamthodi, Ricardo’s Director of Strategy and Innovation. ‘From hydrogen-powered aircraft to solar-powered trains, we’re focused on designing solutions that enable mobility to continue to grow and support economic aspirations, while recognising it fundamentally has to be done differently if we are to limit the impacts of climate change.’
We may not be fully able to reverse the impact of the fossil fuel age within our lifetime. But with sustainable mobility solutions, we can correct the course of environmental change and improve the quality of life for the next generation.
Learn how our decarbonisation expertise can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM RICARDO
Turning CCTV data into actionable intelligence
Thibaud Weick, CEO, and Tristram Riley-Smith, Chairman, SeeQuestor
Video has long been used by law enforcement to investigate crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. But trawling through video recordings for evidence takes a great deal of time and resources. Increasingly though, technology is being used to assist the police in their analysis of video evidence, while at the same time avoiding any negative impact on civil liberties.
In any large city there are thousands of CCTV cameras recording people as they go about their lives. While the majority of cameras are owned by businesses and residents, many are owned by the public sector – the police, transport authorities and local government. In London’s Kings Cross St Pancras station alone there are over 400 cameras. Millions of hours of video footage is produced by CCTV every day.
This video footage is used for many purposes including spotting potential danger in industrial premises and managing crowds for reasons of safety and efficiency.
Gathering the evidence of crimes
The police also have access to considerable amounts of video footage when investigating crimes. For any one case, there may be thousands of hours of video available for inspection – far more than can realistically be examined.
This is a major problem for policing. Evaluating video evidence is very difficult in practice. Simply playing video recordings can be problematic as there are so many different formats. And once the video is playing, individual police officers are left “eyeballing” video records for hours on end. Distractions and lapses of concentration can mean that vital clues are missed.
As the use of CCTV grows, more and more video becomes available to examine. Police forces are inundated, and it’s estimated that only about 1% of video evidence can ever be scrutinised. In a case in Queensland, Australia involving the murder of a 12 year old girl, the police had over 21,000 hours of video to examine – a task that would have taken one person 15 years to complete without the aid of technology.
How does technology provide a solution? Smart video analytics tools such as SeeQuestor’s Post Event solution use massive computing power combined with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to extract the “noise” from video records, enabling Law Enforcement to focus on those parts of the video that may generate evidence.
This technology doesn’t remove the need to have a human being examine the evidence. It merely cuts down to a manageable amount the amount of evidence that needs to be examined. This frees police officers up to work on reducing crime and increasing public safety.
In addition, by providing strong evidence for criminal trials, the technology can also be used by defence teams to ensure that people accused of crimes have a fair trial. Everyone has a right to justice and a true record of events can help justice to be delivered.
Monitoring in real time
Policing isn’t the only use of this smart video technology. It can also be used to monitor video in real time. In reality it is impossible for a single security officer to monitor half a dozen (or more) TV monitors effectively. SeeQuestor’s iCCTV Real Time service provides security teams with alerts so that their attention can be directed to those screens that need close attention.
These alerts give security teams time to identify and if necessary apprehend persons of interest, spot suspicious pieces of luggage that are left unattended, flag and locate individuals carrying guns or knives, monitor unfolding events and prevent accidents and crimes. They are critically important in many environments: counter terrorism, traffic control and optimisation in smart cities, managing footfall at large events, and spotting danger signs (smoke, movement) in major industrial installations like power stations.
Maintaining civil liberties
This powerful technology naturally enough causes some people to question its effect on civil liberties and especially privacy. The truth is that while privacy is important, there are other liberties that citizens have – the rights to physical safety and to life for instance. There are times when privacy is not paramount.
For example, under the European Convention on Human Rights (article 8) privacy can be invaded if the actions taken are proportionate and necessary and if there is true accountability for those actions. These are important safeguards and organisations like SeeQuestor build them into their products, to ensure compliance.
The reality is that it is not the technology itself that is troubling. It can bring many benefits when used appropriately. It is how it is used that needs to be managed. And properly managed smart video technology has an important part to play in keeping society safe by turning unmanageable volumes of video data into actionable intelligence.
For more information please visit www.seequestor.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM SEEQUESTOR
A bathroom retailer designed for growth
Paul McClenaghan, CEO and Martin Hargreaves, CFO, Victoria Plum
Victoria Plum is a fast-growing online trade and consumer bathroom product retailer and installer. The Doncaster-headquartered company most recently reported a record 46 per cent increase in sales to £103 million and an EBITDA up 115 per cent to £4.5 million.
The company’s outstanding growth can be attributed to a successful management-led turnaround, following the business’s acquisition by private equity fund Endless in October 2019. Since then, Victoria Plum has undergone an extraordinary transformation under the leadership of chief executive Paul McClenaghan and his senior management team.
Today, the business is ideally positioned and configured to further capitalise upon the speeding up of the structural shift to online retail.
So, what are the secrets of Victoria Plum’s success? ‘Our mission is to be known as the most trusted, most respected and most profitable bathroom product provider,’ explains Paul McClenaghan. ‘We also know that to achieve this goal, we must revolutionise and disrupt the bathroom installation industry. This, in turn, informs our strategic and tactical decision-making. It led us to develop and launch our bathroom design and installation service, a move that clearly differentiates us and creates higher value transactions and deeper customer relationships.
‘Whether it is a complete bathroom installation or a product fix, we believe that when a customer comes to us to buy a shower or a tap, what they really want is hot and cold running water. This means we understand that we don’t simply sell bathroom products. What we truly sell is customisable experiences that people become emotionally invested in.’
From selection to purchase and from design to installation, Victoria Plum provides a clear, simplified and frictionless process that meets the real needs of its customers.
The company’s investment in its design and installation service has truly set the brand apart. By building upon the firm foundations provided by Victoria Plum’s customer-verified reputation for trust and quality, the company has set new standards and expectations in the marketplace.
‘We also know that we are the only online bathroom product retailer with the infrastructure and capability to successfully deliver this end-to-end service,’ says McClenaghan. ‘This is a true competitive advantage that we will continue to further evolve and drive ahead because it structurally differentiates our brand.
‘We also benefit from having a first-class, multi-award winning delivery service employing our own teams, which means we can meet customer expectations around delivery timescales.
Victoria Plum is entirely customer-focused and data-driven, with the latter enabling the former. The company seeks out and utilises the latest technology innovations to further refine its competitive advantage. This includes implementing advanced AI to manage customer queries and identifying consumer and trade market and buying trends to further improve and target Victoria Plum’s offer.
The business’s most vital element in its formula for success is its people. Victoria Plum has established and maintained an inclusive culture it is extremely proud of – particularly as, with the exception of its warehouse and distribution teams, everyone at Victoria Plum now works remotely.
‘We took the decision to work remotely at the end of March 2020 and have not looked back,’ says McClenaghan. ‘We have no intention of returning to the old way of entirely office-based working. Instead, we have turned the office space within our 275,000 sq ft Doncaster distribution centre and a new location in Hessle, near Hull, into hubs where people can work and meet according to requirements.
‘We are committed to investing in our people and providing everyone with opportunities for growth and development because we know our people are critical to our ongoing success.’
With the positive transformation of the business continuing at pace, and following an outstanding set of financial results, what’s next for Victoria Plum?
‘We have an ambitious growth strategy and are committed to further accelerating our rate of expansion,’ says McClenaghan. ‘We see no reason why we cannot continue to expand at the speed we want to. Our market fundamentals are strong and we have the necessary scalable infrastructure in place and a clearly differentiated design and installation service that is rapidly growing in demand.
‘In addition, the constant stream of valuable data and consumer insights we receive and interpret means we have the agility to quickly adapt our product offer to meet market requirements, keeping us ahead of the game. We are ideally positioned to make Victoria Plum the most trusted, respected and profitable bathroom product provider.’
Victoria Plum is an online bathroom retailing sensation. Find out why at www.victoriaplum.com.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM VICTORIA PLUM
Sir Clive Sinclair: even his failures were prescient inventions
Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the UK’s first mass-market home computer, has died at the age of 81. Pioneer of tiny portable devices, truly affordable computers and novel, electric forms of transportation, he leaves behind what some see as a checkered history of hit-and-miss inventions.
But Sir Clive’s contribution to British technology, and by extension the British economy, is beyond dispute. An icon of home computing, he created devices that were enjoyed by millions, the majority of whom would have been unable, in the 1980s when his computers were launched, to purchase the expensive models on the market.
Even Sinclair’s so-called failures reveal an inventor who sought to solve everyday problems rather than amass a personal fortune. And many were prescient. Anticipating electrified personal transportation, Sinclair developed an electric car, then an electric bike – long before the vogue they both enjoy today.
These later inventions may have been a business failure, but they were a triumph of the will and the imagination. Sinclair long ago secured his legacy as the “father of the home computer”, but time is only now vindicating his other creations. Now, at least, we have the chance to catch up.
Sinclair’s earliest contribution to consumer electronics was the Sinclair Executive, the world’s first pocket calculator, which went on sale in 1972. No match for today’s calculators, the Executive nevertheless established Sinclair as a technological pioneer.
He subsequently shifted his attention to develop a string of genuinely affordable home computers, beginning with the launch of the Spectrum ZX80 in 1980. At a time when computers were still regarded as an exclusive technology affordable only to businesses and the wealthy, Sinclair’s targeted the mass market, with a price tag less than £100 – £440 in today’s money.
This period of innovation gave rise to the ZX Spectrum, the iconic home computer on which many people of a certain age shot their first pixelated aliens. That device, with its trademark rainbow sash, is still fondly remembered by millions of early computer users, whose parents may have hoped they’d pursue more explicitly educational experiences on the novel device.
For Sinclair, the Spectrum’s resounding place in history as primarily a games machine must have rankled, given his well-known ambition to get computers to the masses as a means to expose them to technology he knew would come to define the future.
Still, placed in the general public’s hands, the ZX Spectrum did inspire a generation of software designers, including some of the leading lights in today’s UK games and tech industries. The beauty of these computers was in their ability to support all kinds of creativity – including those who wanted to build games.
Later in his career, Sinclair was regarded by many to have gone off the boil. He launched an unsuccessful bid to make the ZX81 the official BBC computer (not the Spectrum, as many believe). It ended up becoming much more successful than the BBC’s choice, the BBC Micro.
The BBC contract was awarded to Acorn, founded by former Sinclair Research employee Chris Curry. The rivalry between Sinclair and Curry was wonderfully – if apocryphally – retold in BBC 4’s Micro Men. The show was described as “mostly true” by those present at the time, though Sinclair himself stated that “it was a travesty of the truth. It just had no bearing on the truth. It was terrible.”
The “mockumentary” style made tongue-in-cheek references to Sinclair’s C5 electric car, launched in 1985 with the promise of delivering a “new power in personal transport”. The C5 recorded abysmal sales, with road users understandably nervy navigating mixed traffic from a seat inches above the road. The show also references Quantum Leap, Sinclair’s abortive attempt to get into business computing, including a parody of Sir Clive’s exaggerated jumping in the QL computer’s TV advert.
Micro Men reflects how some in the media turned on Sinclair after his early computing triumphs, focusing on his subsequent inventions, which they quickly deemed to be failures. But that perspective fails to recognise the hidden influence Sinclair’s work continued to have in the latter part of his career.
The company that won the BBC contact, Acorn Computers Ltd, was itself an offshoot of Sinclair’s vision and innovation. It went on, under the new name Advanced RISC Machines, or ARM, to create the central processing units (CPUs) that drive most of the devices we use today.
Sinclair also possessed startling prescience. Electric vehicles are set to take over our roads in the next decade or two, but Sinclair’s C5, manufactured in Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-1980s, could have started the push towards electric cars decades ago. It wasn’t to be.
Sinclair was soon at it again, this time with the Zike, first released in 1992. An electric bike with a top speed of 12mph, the Zike also failed to excite consumers. Yet this invention also appears to have anticipated future trends in personal transportation, given the proliferation of electric bicycles and scooters on our streets today.
Sinclair’s drive was not necessarily to be the best, but to be the most affordable. That’s a business model that many technology companies still emulate. All his inventions bear the hallmarks of products designed to solve everyday problems. Many sought to place cutting-edge technology into ordinary people’s hands.
Sir Clive’s true legacy is the lasting impact of those central motivations. Millions of people fondly remember Sinclair’s early computers with more then retro nostalgia. They were many people’s first chance to experience computer power, delivered by an inventor who valued access over exclusivity.
Despite criticism and even derision in the media, Sinclair was never disheartened, following instead his own often-quoted, endearingly simple advice: “Don’t give up. Stick at it.”
Beyond good intentions: how to strengthen diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Cynthia Davis, Co-Founder, Diversifying.io; Andrew Brown, Head of Talent Acquisition, Diversifying.io; Paula Arnold, Head of D&I Consulting and Partnerships, Diversifying.io
Companies with the highest proportion of ethnic and cultural diversity are 33 per cent more likely to outperform their competitors.
The business case for diversity is stronger than ever – not to mention the moral and social responsibility, whether that’s in terms of gender, ethnicity, culture, disability, age or any other characteristic that might set you apart. You might think this is old news by now, but while lip service has been paid in abundance to the importance of diversity, the stark reality is that progress remains sluggish.
‘It’s hard to find your voice when you are the only person that looks like you in a room,’ Cynthia Davis, co-founder of diversifying.io, reflects on the early days of her career. ‘I was Black and a woman in a world that favoured those from a particular background, with a particular voice and a particular look that did not align with mine.’
A CIPD survey from before the pandemic found that just 14 per cent of employers put diversity and inclusion in their top three HR priorities, falling to a mere five per cent one month into lockdown. While diversity and inclusion are undoubtedly a lot higher up the priority list now and progress is indeed being made, there is still a lot to be done. There is a fear that a ‘business as normal’ approach is creeping back into companies that still have a considerable amount of work to do.
We’ve seen some massive corporations speaking out over the past year and a half, decrying systemic racism in the UK, but if you take a closer look at their team, particularly at senior leadership and board level, the representation isn’t there – 37 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic diversity at the highest level.
How do we quicken this pace? How do we move from good intentions to impactful change? Research indicates that there is no shortage of goodwill in this area. Generally, people want to do better. It is the strategy, the know-how and the budget that is often missing, which can lead employers to fall into the trap of a ‘tick-box’ exercise.
Cynthia has faced these issues from the outside – beginning her career as all-too-often the only woman of colour in the room – and from the inside, progressing within the recruitment industry before making the leap to starting her own company. Diversifying.io is a female and minority-owned career platform on a mission to challenge traditional and biased hiring processes. They urge companies to stop looking at diversity and inclusion in silos and consider the issue more holistically, from recruitment to progression to retention. It’s a complex issue that requires lots of ongoing solutions.
Diversifying.io is a job board with a difference, allowing employers to showcase their jobs to a diverse community and taking steps to attract job seekers from all backgrounds. Unlike other recruitment platforms, diversity and inclusion are interwoven into everything Diversifying.io does. Equality is their driving force, and this is what sets them apart from other career platforms.
To date, Diversifying.io has advertised more than 10,000 positions for over 800 companies, and they have attracted more than 200,000 job seekers to the site in the past year. The platform excludes no one and is open to all career levels and industry sectors, working with organisations from Sky and eBay to Shelter and Mind. By advertising on Diversifying.io, organisations are choosing to make a change. They’re choosing to prioritise representation, commit to inclusion and demonstrate what steps they have already taken to support underrepresented communities through their initiatives, culture and strategies.
‘Advertising on Diversifying.io is a case of actions speaking louder than words,’ Cynthia continues. ‘By teaming up with us, employers demonstrate that they are genuinely committed to building an inclusive work culture and that they understand the benefits that come from allowing people to be their authentic selves at work.’
Visit diversifying.io to get in touch and access more diverse talent.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM DIVERSIFYING
Why travel is never a wasted journey
Travel is changing rapidly as digital technology plays an ever-larger part in the lives of consumers. People now have access to a far wider range of information, including reviews from other travellers and virtual reality tours of resorts.
But change isn’t just about better information. People are becoming more demanding as ordinary tourism become commoditised. They want experiences they would not be able to have at home and service levels they are unused to. And, in an Instagram world, they want to feel exclusive and show off that exclusivity to their friends.
How about chartering an underwater submersible to view marine life beneath the waves in Antarctica? Or waking up to a private sunrise yoga session at the top of the Empire State Building in New York? In today’s world of tourism, this type of exclusive experience no longer needs to be a fantasy.
Travel in a rapidly changing world
As the pandemic recedes and we move away from its worst effects, people are again looking to book that much-needed break. And some, with money saved from previously cancelled holidays, can afford to spend a little more to generate those memories beyond the ordinary. But in a time of amber list uncertainties, people want something very special to tempt them to travel.
Most of all, people want a little luxury, and this starts with planning a holiday. Inspiration can sometimes be hard to find. Specialist holiday planners can find you places you might not know about or think are inaccessible – perhaps places where celebrities are going or that have been in the news.
Once inspired, travellers want to be confident that the details of their trip have been planned: a short, private transfer; an accessible hotel room; restaurants that understand their food intolerances; the little things that will keep children happy (and quiet), which can be a simple as their favourite snacks.
They also want to know that everyone in their party will have an enjoyable time. Elderly or disabled travellers will need special attention, while people with particular interests such as music or photography will want to experience the best opportunities the trip can bring. Parents may want to introduce their children to opportunities beyond the Xbox, such as making their own wildlife safari documentary.
Personal service and exclusivity
Luxury and personal service go together. Travellers want to make the most of every second of their long-awaited trip. So who wouldn’t want to be met at the plane door and whisked through immigration and security, avoiding the crowds and the airport queues?
Even more important is exclusivity – the feeling that you are privileged in a way that few others are by experiencing front row tickets to New York Fashion Week, a meet and greet with the lead cast from a Broadway show or afternoon tea with royalty in India.
As well as these ‘hero moments’, travellers want the basics of their holidays to be personalised and exclusive. The little details are important, such as securing premium rooms where others can’t, arranging exclusive use of a private hideaway or obtaining tables in fashionable restaurants that are booked up months ahead.
Sustainability is key
Sustainability is central to the requirements of many travellers – and especially regeneration. “Leave nothing but footprints” is no longer sufficient. People increasingly want to leave an environment that has been improved in some way by their visit.
Truly sustainable travel isn’t about carbon offsets. It protects animals from poachers. It provides education to the children of hotel workers. It increases the biodiversity of forests and oceans. Luxury travellers can be part of regeneration – joining a patrol protecting endangered rhinos or even helping to build a school.
Travellers who are concerned about contributing to damage caused by over-tourism should look for alternative destinations that can be equally inspiring. They could swap India’s Golden Triangle for Kerala, for example. The waterways of Ljubljana in Slovenia are just as romantic as those in Venice. And the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique offers sun, sea, sand and silence, unlike a standard package holiday where solitude is in short supply. You won’t miss out on anything by considering the alternatives.
Future of travel
As the world slowly reopens, more people have more to spend on holidays. Cheap and frequent city breaks are making way for occasional luxury travel that builds real lifetime memories and experiences and gives a wow factor that can be shared with friends. Travelling in today’s more complex world doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right inspiration and detailed planning, you can have the ultimate holiday.
Never A Wasted Journey is an award-winning travel consultancy specialising in luxury, tailor-made holidays and adventures worldwide. When you book with Never A Wasted Journey, everything is bespoke, including your booking conditions
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM NEVER A WASTED JOURNEY
Bringing vehicle damage repairs to you
No matter how carefully you drive, bodywork dents and scratches can happen for many reasons, such as somebody opening their car door into your vehicle or a careless motorist bumping into you during a traffic jam. They go to their vehicle one day, and there’s a dent in the side panel or a scratch that wasn’t there before.
In most cases, getting your vehicle to a garage is the solution that will spring to mind, but then there’s the worry about how long it will take to fix. That’s why it’s easy to put off having those repairs done – you simply don’t want your car or van off the road for too long.
This is a particular problem if you’re a fleet manager – time is money, and money is time, after all. You can’t afford to have even one vehicle out of action, as hire cars, replacement vans and direct repair costs soon add up.
What's the alternative?
Well, how about a business that can get the repair completed on the same day at a time and location you decide?
Rapid Repair Network is changing the way vehicle damage is managed. It aims to turn a traditional vehicle repair that could take a week to fix into a same-day repair done with the minimum of fuss and disruption to the driver.
The business was established in 2017 by managing director Robert Hawes, and it has grown far beyond expectation. It specialises in minor damage, including panel dents, scratches and bolt-on parts, such as wing mirrors.
‘Rapid Repair Network has one vision: to offer insurance and fleet companies a solution for same-day vehicle repair throughout the UK,’ says Hawes. ‘We manage thousands of repairs using our network of 350 repair vans that provide a same-day repair, backed up by more than 100 drive-in repair centres.
‘Many of our fleet customers have vehicles throughout the UK and require us to manage the entire repair process from notification to completion. Keeping their fleet on the road is of incredible importance to them as they often have custom-fitted vehicles. This means costs build up quickly for every day they’re off the road.’
More than meets the eye
Of course, as with many businesses, there’s more to the company than first meets the eye. For example, Rapid Repair Network’s entire repairer network is accredited to meet the requirements of the top UK insurers. The company has also developed its own management systems.
‘Ultimately, repairing vehicles on the same day is what we do,’ says Hawes. ‘But having strong data that we can use for the customers’ benefit is vital. For example, suppose we’re constantly replacing wing mirrors for a fleet customer: we can highlight this to the fleet manager, and they can address it with their staff to find ways to reduce this type of incident reoccurring, ultimately reducing costs.’
That all seems great so far, but how is a same-day repair identified? It seems a straightforward process from the outside looking in, but there’s a slick system behind it all.
Rapid Repair Network receives the notification of damage either directly from the fleet customers or the accident management company that manages the fleet. Once information is received, a customer service adviser contacts the driver to obtain images of the damage. Rapid Repair Network has developed a clever app to assist the driver in taking the pictures with an easy-to-use walkthrough and submit process just by using a text or email link.
Once these photographs are received, a Rapid Repair Network damage assessor then reviews the damage and ensures it’s within scope for a same-day repair.
As soon as the damage assessor has approved a same-day repair, Rapid Repair Network contacts the driver and books the vehicle in. If the damage is too severe for a one-day repair, it’s referred to the traditional repair network.
The future of vehicle repairs
So, is this the future of vehicle repair? Same-day repairs have been around for a while, but Rapid Repair Network has focused on the challenges within the industry and made them its strengths. The company can take on many different repairs by having more than 350 repair vans that are not restricted in their scope. From a scrape on the door of a Ford Transit to a complex bumper replacement on a Mercedes, the business can, and does, do it all.
‘We have an incredibly dedicated team here,’ says Hawes. ‘This is a testament to what we have achieved since 2017. Rapid Repair Network’s service is innovative, and we continue to identify new ways to find solutions in repairing vehicles on the same day. Keeping cars and vans on the road will always be our focus, and if we continue to do this while offering industry-leading customer service, we can look forward to future success.’
To find out more about Rapid Repair Network, visit rapidrepairnetwork.com
Space City: the home of affordable television advertising
Victor van Amerongen, Creative Director, Space City
For many UK companies – even large and established ones – the prospect of advertising on TV can be daunting. There is a general perception that TV is only for the big boys – brands with at least a couple of million to spend on creating an advert and buying airtime.
Space City has tried to change this. Since 1992 it has been producing cost-effective TV ads for a wide range of companies, including many that are using the medium for the first time.
It has pioneered new ways to make adverts for relatively modest budgets without sacrificing production values.
To put this in figures, in a world where the average UK TV ad costs around £180,000, Space City makes ads that are predominantly in the £20,000 to £80,000 range.
The company was founded by Victor van Amerongen, a former BBC current affairs producer, and Amanda Alexander, a composer of TV signature tunes.
It has grown steadily over the years and now ranks at number 27 in the Campaign top 100 UK advertising agencies, with annual billings in 2020 of £52 million.
Space City has been based in Hammersmith, West London, since its inception, although it now also has an office in Manchester. Investment in its facilities has been one of the key ways it has managed to cut the cost of production; the company now owns three 4K edit suites, a recording studio, a casting studio and extensive in-house graphics capabilities.
A large proportion of Space City’s adverts are DRTV (direct response) or BRTV (brand response), meaning they include some sort of mechanism to generate immediate interaction from viewers. Most commonly the call-to-action will be to go to a company’s website, download an app, respond by text or make a call.
This accountability means that most adverts can be carefully tracked to ascertain how well they are working, including the number and quality of responses, which in turn gives the advertiser information about their cost-per-response (CPR) or return-on-investment (ROI).
Space City’s clients include many well-known brands, including Alzheimer’s Society, British Heart Foundation, British Seniors, Emerald Waterways, Greater Anglia, Kärcher, Kenwood Travel, Palmer’s, Post Office, RSPCA, Scope, Unilever, Villa Plus, Virgin Experience Days and Wowcher.
The company made the first-ever advert for a price comparison website, Confused.com. It has also created several memorable musical jingles, including tunes for Moonpig and GoCompare.
Space City offers advertisers a complete script-to-screen service. Based on a brief, the creative team will devise a number of script ideas and advertising concepts. Once an ad is in production, they will then take care of all aspects of filming, including casting, wardrobe, location hire, crew sourcing, post-production editing, voiceover recording and music composing.
So, if you’ve thought about TV advertising but you haven’t yet taken the plunge, why not call Space City now?
Put your business on TV with a cost-effective TV commercial from Space City.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM SPACE CITY
How Barnsley College are developing the skills force of the future
Yiannis Koursis, Principal and Chief Executive, Barnsley College
Barnsley College is an anchor institution in the heart of South Yorkshire. We are an Outstanding college, widely regarded as one of the best in the country.
We are dedicated to Transforming Lives. This value is at the very core of everything we do; for our students, for our colleagues, for our communities.
We are stepping up to help address the digital skills gap that exists in the economy, and have developed an extensive network of businesses we work with directly on our curriculum; ensuring what our students learn is what businesses need and focuses on developing their work-place skills.
Working closely with employers, communicating well with stakeholders and meeting the needs of our local community will ensure that we remain at the centre of training and education in Barnsley and beyond.
Our new SciTech Digital Innovation Hub, supported by The Department of Education and The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) officially opens in October 2021.
The development is the product of a significant investment in the improvement of our facilities and digital curriculum in line with Barnsley’s ‘TechTown Five Year Action Plan.’ This aims to create ‘More and Better Jobs’ and businesses by promoting the acquisition of digital skills, promoting digital entrepreneurship and using digital technology to transform existing businesses. These are all actions towards addressing the digital skills gap which threatens to cost the UK economy over £100billion in GDP growth.
Facilities within the SciTech Digital Innovation Hub will have a special focus on digital industries including cyber security, network technologies, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality alongside software and programming. Industry-standard, high-spec technology available to students includes powerful PCs, network laboratories, software development studios, immersive rooms, cloud facilities, Microsoft and gaming studios plus smart, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.
The Hub provides facilities to enable us to deliver an exciting new digital curriculum in response to the digital skills gap. Our young people are the key to addressing this and upskilling the current workforce is also a vital consideration for employers. We continue to work hard to promote that agenda too through apprenticeships and other professional training courses.
Colleges must continue to rise to the challenge and offer solutions that drive the future economy, meet the nation’s skills gaps, and present an opportunity for real progression to learners.
Barnsley College has worked with hundreds of employers, addressing their skills need, adapting our curriculum to meet employment demand, and working with them to develop the workforce of the future. We are working with businesses to lead the economic recovery and meet employers’ needs, both now and for future roles, by providing students and adults with the skills to succeed.
The recent Skills for Jobs white paper from the Government will enable us to go even further, drawing on our unique knowledge and specialist expertise providing a huge boost to our local, regional and national economic needs.
We believe that every adult has the right to life-long education and training, ensuring they have the skills to succeed in the new and future economy. Adult learning drives the economy by ensuring that workers are more skilled, more productive, and happier.
Barnsley College is best placed to deliver the required education, training and opportunities for all learners. The government are looking to further support and enhance the sector to help us continue to deliver robust, in-demand training and qualifications, helping us to reignite the economy.
With the right level of backing, colleges can significantly expand their offer as a strategic support to employers across innovation and skills. This is critical as we work with employers to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and crucial too as we urgently move to a green economy in response to the climate emergency.
Barnsley College is committed to being actively involved in the social and cultural development of our community, raising aspirations and driving social mobility. With the backing promised, we can go further with our plans and become a leader for societal and civic change, collaboration and positivity.
Our ongoing, ambitious programme of working with employers, co-developing our curriculum, and building impactful partnerships within the region and beyond, offers a real chance for us as a College, and as a sector, to play a huge part in the future economic recovery and success of the country.
Barnsley College is working to meet the digital skills gap and drive the future economy. For more information, please visit www.barnsley.ac.uk
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM BARNSLEY COLLEGE
Driven by faith: a delivery company built on service and spirituality
Harinder Singh, Managing Director, BJS
BJS is a family-run delivery business based in the Midlands. Launched during the 2009 recession, the two-man service has yet again shown its ability to thrive and grow in challenging economic climates and this year ranked 22 in the Sunday Times International Track 200.
From its very inception, spiritual guidance was sought for the venture from Baba Jaswant Singh Ji, who the company is named after. Prior to his death in 2020, Baba Jaswant Singh Ji was based in Punjab and the founder of a trust that runs projects for the welfare of humanity, including the provision of health care facilities and higher medical education, while showing “the path of spiritual righteousness”, to “foster human values and welfare with esteemed devotion indeed”.
BJS now employs 800 people, with MD Harinder Singh proving that the company sees itself as having a responsibility to the 800 families reliant on them. Such a compassionate, heart-centred business is unusual, but given it has a turnover of over £45 million, it is clearly a good thing for both people and profit.
In addition to going above and beyond to support communities, BJS also goes above and beyond for its clients – which is why it is the preferred delivery partner for leading retailers including Made, Wayfair and Richer Sounds.
Though the shift to online buying began pre-Covid, the pandemic has undeniably accelerated the move from bricks and mortar to bricks and clicks, with physical retailers now having a reduced impact on consumers who are increasingly directly reached via online and social channels. The challenges of success in this area have put delivery companies centre stage – with a worthy spotlight for BJS, which is proactively evolving its service offerings to meet the emerging needs of retailers, e-tailers and start-ups.
BJS supports its customers’ shipping strategies to meet a range of consumer demands, which can help build repeat business as well as convert first-time customers swayed by ease of delivery – fast is good, but so is flexible. Options such as free returns, for example, can drive dominance and give brands a competitive edge. Eco-commerce is a big deal, too – smaller boxes and reduced packaging with recyclable waste wins consumer praise and lowers shipping costs thanks to smaller volumes. It is this out-of-the-box thinking and added value insight and guidance that has led so many clients to trust BJS with their boxes. BJS believe that good business can benefit people, profits and the planet.
Delivering all sorts of things for all sorts of people – visit www.bjshomedelivery.com to find out more
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM BJS
Hyper-convergence: the cloud on your terms
To say the working landscape has changed over the past 18 months or so would be a major understatement. Most organisations have had no choice but to implement years’ worth of digital transformation in mere days, sparking the cloud revolution we all knew was imminent. Cloud storage is now omnipresent, woven into the DNA of any digital business, but how organisations leverage the cloud is completely different. What was once a simple vehicle for conveniently and securely storing data is now an engine of productivity and a driver of change, particularly when it comes to media enterprises.
Data is the driving force of any modern digital business. It needs to flow in a controlled and methodical pattern, supplying vital business functions by being available on demand to those who need it and to be accessed across multiple global sites. Naturally, this flow has been complicated by the move to a more remote methodology, forcing the hand of many businesses to lean further into cloud productivity than they ordinarily would. But while the medium may have changed, the work has not, especially for the media production industry.
Businesses that can quickly adapt their infrastructure to maintain collaboration, keep up with productivity and meet demands remain competitive. But as this varies, teams and departments still need access to the same data, at the same speed with the same level of security to perform their role in the production workflow effectively. As always, technology finds a way, and now disruptive technologies are empowering the creative media industry to look beyond the task of data storage and into the new world of dynamic data management.
Storage-powered collaboration for a hybrid world
While the focus has recently shifted to cloud productivity, it’s important to note that the future will be very much a blended, hybrid one, a methodology adopted some time ago by the creative media sectors.
When it comes to data storage, studios and broadcasters have historically depended on on-premises hardware supplied by the major data appliance vendors. Aside from a few exceptions, most of these vendors tend not to include cloud-based solutions in their offerings, and lock customers into long contracts. This hinders collaboration, and in turn, the growth and flexibility of media creation companies, and the only available solution for upscaling storage needs is to add more capacity to existing appliances.
The secret is adaptability: operating one integrated system that seamlessly combines on-prem and virtual workflows in a secure way with as little friction as possible. And this level of operation is only truly made possible by having a software-defined solution in place that adapts to collaborative needs, sandwiched with an on-premises data centre. This is more than just cloud storage and cloud access; this is end-to-end workflow and data integration.
Dynamic multi-site data gains and efficiencies
Those working remotely should have the same experience as those who choose to work on-premises, and vice versa. For studios operating virtual workstations, this is a vital part of the workflow; and that’s where dynamic data management enters the picture.
A hyper-converged approach allows creative media businesses to stay agile and keep infrastructure costs low by virtualising key elements of conventional “hardware-defined” systems. Solutions such as pixstor and ngenea inspire collaboration, allowing teams to work together on projects whether they are in the same building or on the other side of the planet, and opens secure sharing with third-party facilities and customers.
Working seamlessly across multiple operating systems and leveraging cloud provider networks for ultra-high-speed data transfers, businesses can easily expand on-premises pipelines into the cloud with a software-defined solution such as pixstor, while still enjoying the guaranteed sustained collaboration, performance, scalability and intelligent management tools of an on-premises deployment.
Supported by ngenea, an intelligent data transport mechanism, businesses experience can be tightly integrated on-premises, and cloud infrastructure under a single namespace. This delivers unparalleled performance and high availability failover protection to teams by harnessing hierarchical storage management (HSM) and NAS acceleration. Achieving performance gains when moving large volumes of data is a perfect example of storage becoming a key driver of productivity rather than just a background enabler, boosting efficiency continuously, with minimal infrastructure investment.
Even the act of storage can be refined and enhanced with the right technology. Archiving with an innovative data-management platform such as ngenea keeps ease of access a number one priority, allowing teams to retain 360-degree visibility of their assets no matter their archive status – from file and object stores to legacy storage.
The environmental impact of data movement
What this means is effectively removing the overheads associated with data flow and management; we’re increasingly likely to see this approach evolve as more and more data-heavy industries embrace hybrid working. However, it’s not just efficiency, cost and productivity where businesses stand to gain – they are also beginning to assess the environmental impact of their data storage methods.
With climate change so crucial on today’s agenda, businesses are now factoring in how they store and manage data when assessing their own environmental footprint, and by 2025, Greenpeace estimates that our society’s data habits will consume more than 20 per cent of the world’s energy. The more intelligent and efficient the data management solution, the smaller the impact on the environment. This translates directly to cost and collaboration efficiency. If a business transfers its workflow into the cloud using a private server, it suddenly has no infrastructure cost and no need for on-site labour to maintain its servers.
In 2021 and beyond, data storage is going to be about so much more than where you keep your data. It’s going to be the agenda that drives your business and powers your workflows. Hyper-converged infrastructure offers scalability and agility, optimised performance and collaboration, and the option to reduce costs. By adopting integrated cloud solutions such as ngenea and pixstor, media creation businesses will have everything that they need, from on-premises to remote working and everything in between. In simple terms, it gives media enterprises more choice, more collaborative efficiencies, and more freedom.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PIXITMEDIA
The big clean-up of London’s sewage system is underway
London’s skyline is scattered with cranes building surface structures to house and serve its ever-growing population, but along the city’s river, an even more momentous construction is taking shape below ground.
This 25 kilometre tunnel running below the Thames from west to east is being delivered by Tideway, a company that prides itself on reconnecting London with its largest river and greatest natural asset.
The River Thames is in many ways the heart of London; it’s the reason the city was established in the first place, and for thousands of years it has been used as a source of food, as a transport artery, and for recreation and industry. Its historic importance cannot be overstated, and Tideway’s ambition is to not only improve the quality of the river water, but also the lives of the communities through which it runs.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a £4.1 billion sewer upgrade currently under construction deep beneath London. Its primary goal is to clean up the Thames, by intercepting millions of tonnes of raw sewage that currently pollute the river from the existing Victorian infrastructure and diverting them into the new tunnel.
The project represents the biggest upgrade to London’s sewerage system since it was first constructed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, in the 1860s, and is the largest project ever undertaken by the UK’s water industry. Overflows from Bazalgette’s system will be reduced by 95 per cent when the tunnel becomes operational in 2025, massively ameliorating the water quality and offering a range of benefits for the ecology, recreational river users and Londoners in general.
Governed by a desire to showcase not only the best in engineering but also leading the way in its sustainable business efforts, Tideway has committed to delivering this project by minimising its impact on the environment. Using the river as a transport route for materials to and from the site has significantly reduced the need for HGVs on London’s already congested roads, and creates a template for other businesses to use the river as an effective and sustainable method of transport.
The project has led the way in sustainable financing for the construction industry, issuing £1.8 billion of sustainable debt to date. Its funding model is paving the way for private financing to fund public infrastructure for a cost-effective way to modernise the assets on which we rely. And as the beginnings of this new legacy for London’s largest waterway rises from the tides with emerging areas of extended embankments, so too does the possibility of a greener and more sustainable way to build infrastructure.
Environmental responsibility isn’t just part of our job. It goes to the very heart of what Tideway is as a company, and our ambitions and values are broader and more profound than just the simple construction of a tunnel. Not only is Tideway’s work sure to clean up the River Thames for generations to come, but the project’s investment in local communities, its inclusive career opportunities, charity partnerships and education programme will help ensure that the legacy of the Tideway project will be felt by many.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM TIDEWAY
The British manufacturer with an ear for precision
Adriaan Posthuma, Managing Director, Uniplex
The tuning fork was invented in 1711 in London by John Shore, trumpeter and lutenist to composers Henry Purcell and Georges Frideric Händel. 130 years later, the Ragg family started manufacturing the highest-quality musical tuning forks in England. For more than 180 years these essential tools for the industry have continued to be made in Sheffield, the steel city, to the highest standards by Ragg Tuning Forks.
Tuning forks have come a long way since Shore’s original A 422.5Hz musical fork. The accuracy of tuning forks has allowed the tool to be used in many different fields, such as medicine, science, sound therapy and of course music. At one time every “eyeball” telephone exchange would have had a fork supplied to calibrate the device. Nowadays it is likely to be police forces that rely on this simple but precision-made instrument. This is because Ragg produces the tuning forks that are used to calibrate speed cameras across the globe, ensuring they are accurate and, therefore, functioning correctly.
One of Ragg’s most popular tuning forks is named after its inventor, as they all tend to be: the Gardiner Brown. The Gardiner Brown is a beautiful chrome-plated tuning fork used by doctors throughout the world to perform diagnostic tests such as the Rinnie test, which gauges a patient’s hearing. The Ragg fork is a favourite with doctors because they know it has been made to a very high standard, ensuring precision and accuracy when emitting the frequency they require.
A diagnostic device produced by Ragg is the modern Rydel-Seiffer, a fork that has a black triangle on one prong and a white triangle on the second prong. The degree of intersection of the two triangles is used to assist the physician with his diagnoses in diabetic neuropathy.
It’s not only doctors and policemen that trust Ragg Tuning Forks. While they have been used in medicine for centuries, one application that has emerged in recent years is the use of tuning forks in the field of sound therapy, occasionally with acupuncture. Ragg Tuning Forks are also being used to assist in the field of weight loss, and one of Ragg’s most popular forks, the OM 136.1Hz, is often used while meditating or practising yoga, as the vibrations help maintain concentration and are believed to cleanse the mind, thus ensuring complete relaxation. Users choose Ragg tuning forks because of the quality of the manufacturing process and the use of only the highest grades of steel or aluminium, ensuring longer sustain and purer tones, which is essential during sound therapy sessions.
It is probably the John Walker Tuning Fork, however, that is the most recognisable product in the Ragg musical range. This fork has been used by musicians for decades to ensure the accuracy of their instruments and is seen as the gold standard throughout the industry. While digital tuners and tuning apps have long been available, classical musicians and piano tuners will still use a tuning fork for the complete accuracy they provide. Despite the design being around for hundreds of years, Ragg Tuning Forks are still developing new tuning forks for the music industry. The latest addition is a beautiful, hand-crafted, gold-plated John Walker tuning fork, a perfect gift for the passionate musician that can be made to any frequency desired.
Click here to check out the highest quality medical, musical and sound therapy tuning forks.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM UNIPLEX
Making investment sustainable
Richard Lewney, Chair of Cambridge Econometrics and Philip Summerton, CEO of Cambridge Econometrics
Since its founding more than 30 years ago, Cambridge Econometrics has emerged at the forefront of applied economics, helping investors and policymakers navigate an increasingly challenging world.
The impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be particularly significant and long-lasting. Understandably, investors are keen to assess the risks as well as maximise any potential opportunities that will arise as the world transitions to a zero-carbon world. Responding to this demand, the company has developed climate scenarios specifically for the investment community and now serves a broad range of the world’s biggest banks and investors. It’s no surprise that in both 2020 and 2021, the company’s clients and peers ensured it made the Financial Times’ UK’s Leading Management Consultants list.
The company’s climate scenarios have been developed using a state-of-the-art model of the global economy, which is based on a more realistic representation of the markets than its rivals. The team can map out the scale and distribution of climate-related risks, including:
These risks can be mapped over time, broken down by industry sector and geography. The impact of different global temperature pathways can also be tested, providing investors with the key economic indicators that they need to develop ‘climate risk-aware’ sustainable investment portfolios. Together with the insight of the sustainable investment team, smart investors who partner with Cambridge Econometrics are likely to have a competitive advantage in the market.
The company’s climate scenarios are aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) – in fact, Cambridge Econometrics scenarios include more granularity by geography and sector and take into account a broad range of policies, such as carbon prices, subsidies and electric vehicle mandates.
For clients with in-house modelling capability, the results can be taken and converted into financial estimations. For other companies, Cambridge Econometrics offers a comprehensive level of support in partnership with Ortec Finance.
We can help you build an investment portfolio which is resilient to climate change, find out how here.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM CAMBRIDGE ECONOMETRICS
Alternative property use moves into the investor spotlight
Michael Walton, Chief Executive, Rynda Property Investors
Social changes accelerated by Covid-19 are shaking the property investor community to its core, as the risks from investing in traditional ways increase. This is important to us all as a significant part of most of our pensions are invested in property.
Traditionally, offices and retail assets have been the focus of investors looking for a predictable income return with some capital growth over the medium term. While pension fund trustees may have varied the focus of their capital allocation between different countries, most of their real estate allocation would have been there.
The shift to internet shopping, most pronounced in the UK at over 30 per cent during the pandemic, has reduced the need for retail units – as is so clear in our high streets. Investors at best have seen a reduced level of rental income and at worst been faced with empty shops and liabilities for business rates, insurance and service charges. While these changes were evident pre-Covid, the pandemic has supercharged the change in demand.
Offices, while not wholly insulated from changes pre-Covid, have witnessed a fundamental change in risk perception during ‘the work at home if you can’ government edict to counter virus contagion. What two years ago was a comfortable trustee allocation to prime offices is now filled with doubt and risk – will your tenant’s business survive, and if it does will any or as much office space be needed? Even if your tenant does want to keep the offices, will values decline as a glut of office space becomes available and rental levels decline?
With these headwinds, it would be easy to assume that investors would simply turn away from property and invest in additional equity and fixed income strategies. However, such strategies are providing very low-income yields and are currently viewed as ‘fully valued’ – so alternative property uses have come into the spotlight, including residential properties, student accommodation, care homes and infrastructure assets.
But are these sensible investments? And what is driving long-term demand and supply?
Focusing on care homes and student accommodation, the driving force of demand is demographics. To quote from a recent Office for National Statistics report: ‘In mid-2016, there were 1.6 million people aged 85 years and over (2 per cent of the total population); by mid-2041 this is projected to double to 3.2 million (4 per cent of the population) and by 2066 to treble, by which time there will be 5.1 million people aged 85 years and over making up 7 per cent of the total UK population.’
Over the next decade, the number of 18- to 20-year-olds in the UK is set to expand considerably and this, combined with a significant overseas interest in British higher education, means growth in student numbers and an increasing need for student accommodation. Therefore, demographic fundamentals are likely to underpin steady real estate returns for investors in these two sectors – hence the investor focus.
Investing in these alternative use properties is not without risks. For instance, what type of care home or student accommodation will be required and in what parts of the country is demand the greatest?
If you are tempted to consider these sectors of the real estate market, make sure your advisers have access to deep research and that they thoroughly understand the basis on which students choose universities and care homes are selected for loved ones. Do they know that accommodation choices will vary from first-year to post-graduate students and what the difference is between ensuite rooms and wet rooms in care homes? Consider the costs and economies of scale of managing these assets and consider the development of a brand for enhanced investment returns. For care home investment, check out the demographics in a three-mile radius of the site to make sure there is not only demand but also a ready supply of staff for the home.
Question your advisers’ experience and, if possible, ensure they are personally co-investing with you so there is an alignment of interest. It is also important to recognise that, at times, not investing might be the right strategy. Many alternative sectors have limited opportunities to invest and are therefore prone to sharp price changes when several new investors all want to enter a market at once.
Care homes and student accommodation are an important investment opportunity.
Click here to find out more.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM RYNDA PROPERTY INVESTORS LLP
How nuclear energy can help make all UK electricity green by 2035
Boris Johnson is set to announce at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that all of Britain’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2035, according to a recent report in the Times.
The government suspects that the British public – tired of petrol station queues and dreading winter gas bills – will like the idea of moving away from fossil fuels. But the nature of this energy crisis, stoked by a late summer lull in wind power generation, high wholesale gas prices and Britain’s meagre prospects for storing energy, demands a careful response.
And what energy technology offers low-carbon credentials and a reliable base supply? The UK government’s emphatic answer appears to be nuclear power.
Only three years ago, UK ambitions for new nuclear power plants were in trouble. Major Japanese conglomerates Toshiba and Hitachi had pulled the plug on their separate nuclear projects in the country. But with renewed support from Boris Johnson’s government, one of these now appears to be back on the table.
It was recently revealed that there are ongoing discussions between the government and American partners about US nuclear engineering firm Westinghouse building a new nuclear power plant on the island of Anglesea in north Wales. There is even talk of government support for Derby-based industrial giant Rolls-Royce to develop a series of smaller modular nuclear reactors. These are, in essence, scaled-down versions of traditional power plants that will generate 470 megawatts of electricity compared with the 1,000 megawatts from their larger equivalents. Importantly, with these new designs, true factory-based manufacture becomes possible. The factories produce modules for rapid assembly on-site. There are likely to be benefits for British businesses in the government’s approach. But how would a new generation of nuclear plants help keep the lights on while cutting emissions from the energy sector?
The nuclear option
The reactors in nuclear power stations convert the heat generated by splitting atoms (a process known as nuclear fission) to electricity, and can usually run at maximum power for months, whatever the weather. This process doesn’t emit greenhouse gases – although there are likely to be emissions during the construction of the plant itself. The vapour that rises from the iconic cooling towers of a nuclear power plant is water, not carbon dioxide.
Large nuclear power stations have huge turbine generators spinning at high speed. These hold their speed in the face of small national fluctuations, providing stability to the grid. A constant base supply of nuclear power could continue to meet demand when renewable generation falters because the wind isn’t blowing and the Sun isn’t shining.
There are other ways nuclear energy can aid decarbonisation. Heat generated in nuclear reactors might be pumped into the central heating systems of homes and other buildings, replacing fossil gas boilers. Nuclear energy could even go towards producing hydrogen fuel – a form of stored energy with potential benefits in heating and transport. And because nuclear fuel like uranium is what’s called energy-dense, even relatively small amounts can offer an ample supply. The UK also has its own fuel factory and plant for enriching uranium, allowing greater national control over the entire process.
There remain concerns about the cost and safety of nuclear power. But these should now be placed in the context of climate change. Fossil fuels in power generation must end, and the stable and continuous operation of nuclear power plants is a useful complement to the varying output of renewable sources such as wind and solar. This appears to be the government’s logic, favouring a boost to both nuclear and renewables investment.
UK governments have pushed to rebuild British’s nuclear capacity more than once in the last two decades. When Tony Blair was prime minister, he aimed for a series of very large nuclear power plants. The construction of the first of these, Hinkley Point C, is well underway. The pandemic and other problems have caused delays, but the first electricity generated from its two large reactors is expected in the summer of 2026.
Hinkley Point C is underpinned by a finance deal with China, struck by former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. The days when, in 2015, Osborne said “Britain should run towards China” are fading. So too is the rhetoric of a nuclear renaissance that coincided with a post-cold war optimism for globalisation and market liberalisation. First it became clear that competitive electricity markets struggled with the challenge of replacing old nuclear with new. Then globalisation faltered with the return of great power nationalism.
Nuclear technology is back in the government’s sights, but this time it will involve more British money and technology. Talk of a green future has been joined with voices on the right clamouring for a new sense of national self-reliance, free from the vicissitudes of global fossil-fuel supply. Despite such realities, and the many difficulties encountered along the way, the UK nuclear renaissance remains internationalist in outlook. It is a strength that should be defended.