Category: Business Support

ScotlandIS achieves new national first

ScotlandIS becomes first organisation in Scotland to be awarded Silver Cluster Management Excellence accreditation for its support to digital and tech clusters

ScotlandIS has achieved a UK first, having been awarded Silver Excellence from the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA).

ESCA has awarded ScotlandIS Silver Excellence Award for developing industry clusters through lifelong learning, creating special interest groups and strategy development. Clusters are regional concentrations of traded industries, shown to have higher average wage and employment increases and inhabit a higher number of innovative and high-growth firms and start-ups*.

The Silver Excellence Award recognises that best practice is being followed and ensures international credibility across global cluster management organisations, putting ScotlandIS at the forefront of cluster management in the UK.

ScotlandIS was the first organisation in Scotland to successfully secure Bronze Accreditation in 2015 and this new Silver status reflects continuous progress that the organisation has made to cluster management.

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said:

“Being the first organisation in Scotland – and highest rated CMO in the UK – to achieve Silver Accreditation is a major achievement. Evidence points to cluster membership helping to make organisations more resilient to economic difficulties, such as during the Covid-19 crisis, building ecosystems that help organisations to share resources and help each other.

As we now strive to build a Digital Nation in Scotland, it is important that Scotland’s flourishing tech sector can access international clusters to help build their robustness and adaptability, safeguard these businesses against any future challenges, and enable digital to continue to underpin all that is critical to our economy . Our Silver Excellence Award ensures that we remain at the forefront of quality cluster development.”

Daniel Stürzebecher, ESCA Expert noted in its assessment of ScotlandIS:

“Already now, the cluster organisation performs in certain aspects on a level that could be considered excellent regarding the Gold Label standards. ScotlandIS will more and more look beyond national borders and has recently introduced internationalisation activities as a focus.”

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“I’m delighted to congratulate ScotlandIS on becoming the first organisation in Scotland to achieve Silver Accreditation from ESCA.

Our technology sector is more crucial now than ever before as over the coming months and years we recover from the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

We’re working towards becoming a world-class digital nation, and ScotlandIS’ achievement and support for the Scottish tech sector is instrumental in achieving this goal.”

Europe is home to approximately 2,900 specialised clusters. Economic activities that are in specialised clusters account for about 19 per cent of jobs and 22 per cent of wages in Europe*.

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What We Learnt From Running a Week-Long Virtual Festival

It’s fair to say that Talent Fest 2020 wasn’t the festival we were expecting to deliver. For the past three years, we have developed a successful model for delivering a week-long digital skills festival and grown it to be the largest in the South East.

In March, when it became clear that running a physical festival as we have in past years would not be possible, we had to pivot to a virtual festival in a matter of weeks. What we ended up with was not only something that still delivered on all of our goals, but which also helped us reach new audiences, be more inclusive and brought us together at a time where community and support is needed more than ever.

Luckily at Wired Sussex we have spent years working with innovators and startups at The FuseBox and so we are used to pivoting, rapid prototyping and experimenting, and we were able to apply this approach to our festival.

That’s not to say that it was easy, or perfect, but I thought it might be helpful to share some of the lessons that we learnt along the way.

Focus on the “why”

Start by focusing on what problem you were trying to solve for your attendees – not what event you were going to run for them. Once you are clear on the benefits of the event for your audience, then you can think about how to deliver on that.

Find the non-negotiables

What are the crucial elements that have to happen, no matter what? Focus on what’s a fundamental part of the event’s DNA and the key to its success. This might be there must be time for everyone to introduce themselves at the event, or that your talks have to happen live. Whatever it is, make sure that you are clear and that you have a plan on how to deliver on that.

Explore the platforms

There are lots of platforms available to host your events. 2 key considerations when choosing the platform; firstly, what works for your content/format but also (and perhaps more importantly) what is the most user-friendly for your audience.

Pivot!

You are basically innovating and prototyping new formats as you go. This means that you have to be agile. Your plans might change (often). Try to embrace this.

Don’t cut corners on accessibility and inclusion

Moving events online allows you to be more inclusive and attract more diverse audiences who might not otherwise be able to attend your events. Make sure that you are following best practice around your content and provide an anticipatory welcome to your attendees.

Plan for technical disruption

Technical difficulties are a known major risk factor. They can affect the whole of your event or specific individuals who are having problems connecting. There are a couple of ways that you can mitigate against this. If you are hosting an online event, you can ask a colleague to also join the call so if your internet cuts out there is still a member of your crew available.

It is more tricky to support attendees who are having technical issues. You could send out information before the event of helpful hints and tips to attendees (although most of us are getting up to speed with how the tech works). Or you could have a member of your team available as “tech support” who attendees can contact if they are having problems. That leaves you as the host to focus on the content.

Timing

Think about the scheduling of your event. Does it still make sense to host it at the same time as you historically have? If it’s not live, does it have to be for a set time period or can the content be available for a whole day/week? Making your event available for an extended period makes it more accessible – our lives don’t typically followup 9-5 at the moment, and it is good to allow people to engage as their schedule allows.

Also, think about the duration: often the longer the event the bigger the drop-off is, so think about how long you want your event to be. Does it all need to be one event, or could you spread it across a few events?

Accept that it will be messy

For any large event, it is going to be difficult to test at scale, so you are basically going “live”, untested. This means that there may be a few hitches. Obviously, try to mitigate against this. Run through risk assessments and think of contingencies. But also remember that, generally, your audience is on your side – they aren’t necessarily going to be expecting a perfectly produced slick production, they want the learning from the content so make sure that is first and foremost in your mind.

Brief your contributors

This is a new world for a lot of us, and clarity is as important as ever. Write briefs for your contributors. Be clear about what you want from them, how it will work, what the formats and platforms are, when you need it by, who the audience is. Send these to speakers, contributors and staff.

Everyone has their own stuff going on

When you are rushing and against deadlines, it can be frustrating waiting for responses/content from contributors. But remember, whilst the event might be your top priority, this is just one thing out of a whole bunch of things that are on your contributors’ plates.

Be clear about what you need, by when, but also plan for the fact that you might not get this. A way to mitigate it is to increase the number of contributors you have involved with your event, and then if someone can’t deliver to your timeframes, you should still have plenty of content.

Also, don’t take this personally, be polite – there are other opportunities to work together at a mutually convenient time.

“Sync”

If you are working with other team members on the event, make sure that you are in sync with one another. You will come up against multiple tight and conflicting deadlines, and you need to collaborate to hit these. Up your communication. Have virtual stand-ups to check in on one another. Maybe introduce what Bruce Daisley referred to as “burst-mode’ in his keynote at the Skills Summit. Make sure that you are in sync on this and know what each other need. Be compassionate with each other. The same as your contributors, your team with have lots going on. Support them and collaborate.

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Mockups Design

The Recovery Roadmap Summit

On 23rd June 2020 the UKTCG will host the Recovery Roadmap Summit to plan how tech communities across the UK can emerge from this crisis even stronger.

The Summit will explore the disproportionate impact on the UK’s nations & regions in the face of Covid-19 and what we can do together to recover and reboot. The day will consider the different draft recovery plans that areas have and share learning across clusters to answer the question, ‘What solutions have people come up with which could be replicated in different areas?’ This is particularly focused on the impact on the tech sector and how the tech sector can support its local communities.

The Roadmap to Recovery event is designed to be action orientated, with political leaders setting the scene followed by a series workshops to practically share knowledge and best practice including

Strategic Insight

  • Keynote & panels on the strategic approach to our response to COVID-19 with Ministers, Local Authority Leaders and Mayors

Practical Responses

A series of practical workshops and sessions focussed on:

  • the new skills we need to develop in the talent pool and how it can be done
  • business support that helps transform our business base for a digital future
  • building the physical infrastructure to ensure our future resilience

Geographical Focus

Ensuring our plans are globally competitive we will have sessions considering:

  • International approaches and best practice
  • the unique needs of our nations and regions
  • using wider geographies (such as the Northern Powerhouse) can give us an international platform

AUDIENCE

This will be an invite-only event for key policymakers and ecosystem leaders in our communities across the UK.  The sessions are action orientated and are for the people formulating our response to this crisis., We expect to have 200-400 attendees from across the UK.

ACTIONS FROM THE EVENT

Following the conversations, we would use the data and market intelligence gathered to create a  report and policy document on areas of best practice & knowledge sharing which we can then feed into our localities. This would act as a call to action and maintain ongoing conversations.

The Draft Agenda is

If you’d like to know more about the Summit or how to get involved please email hello@TechSPARK.co

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Managing Your Business Through a Crisis

It goes without saying that we’re living in unusual and challenging times. But even in normal periods, we can all face business crises. So, how do we manage our way through them: operationally, financially and in our communications with the outside world?

We ran a series of short virtual events to help Wired Sussex members do just that. Below you will find an overview of the sessions and videos of the talks.

Finances

Mark Horsfield and Peter Hedgethorne from Plus Accounting shared their advice about how your businesses could and should respond financially when faced with a crisis.

They also covered the newly announced government Bounce Back loans scheme, Furlough, the Self-Employment Scheme, other grants available and their general advice to businesses at this time.

Plus, to help businesses keep abreast of all the latest developments they have been sharing really helpful updates via their blog, which you can find here.

Strategy

Alex Morrison, Founder and MD of digital media agency Cogapp, explained how we might use the OODA system (Observe > Orient > Decide > Act) to develop a strategic approach to managing a crisis. This gave members the opportunity to probe deeper into an article that Alex had recently published on ‘How to Manage an Organisation through a Crisis’.

Communications

Vicki Hughes, MD and Founder of PR and communications consultancy FUGU PR, spoke about communicating with your team, your clients and your customers when your business hits an unforeseen bump in the road.

Originally posted 11/05/2020 on Wired Sussex

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COVID-19 Business Resumption Guide from Manchester Digital

Manchester Digital has launched a free guide with advice for employers as lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted.

Created in partnership with senior HR specialists from Manchester Digital’s Employer’s Forum group, the guide lays out key considerations for employers in areas including people, office environments, employee health, home working, business travel and visitors, holidays and communications.

The guide can be downloaded for free here.

Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, said: “Even with restrictions eased slightly, the virus still presents a high risk, which will impact how businesses operate, and in particular how and when offices can safely re-open.

“Our free guide is intended to pose questions and considerations to employers as they’re thinking about the short, medium and long term plans for their business operations post lockdown. Of course, change is inevitable, so employers will need to remain flexible and able to respond quickly.”

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How We’re Supporting Our Community: A Message From Wired Sussex MD Phil Jones

Since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown, the Wired Sussex team have been working tirelessly to support our regional digital, media and technology cluster.

We began with a rapid response strategy. This was designed to establish the immediate effect of the crisis on our members, focus on helping share our community’s knowledge, expertise and resources, and lobby national and local government on your behalf.

In the past five weeks, we have surveyed hundreds of businesses and individuals and spoken directly to many others in order to understand what the impact has been on our members, if the government support packages will work for them, and what new tactics we should develop to provide appropriate advice and support.

You can find the results of our initial survey here. We know that many of you are finding the current situation extremely challenging. In summary, two-thirds of the freelancers we spoke to expect to experience significant financial hardship, many small companies are not eligible for the SBBR grants as they are in managed or co-working spaces, and over three-quarters of companies are furloughing staff. Further, the government’s much-trumpeted emergency business loan scheme (COVIL) was not actually delivering for our members.

Our Slack Group, open to members and non-members alike, has become a go-to resource for hundreds of people, providing detailed and up-to-date information on support programmes, sharing resources, and connecting Wired Sussex members with digital and non-digital business, charities and community groups. Amongst the many successes that the Slack group has been party to, we are really pleased that it was instrumental in helping create the online home of the Covid-19 flashcards, which went from concept to launch in 72 hours, and are currently being used in hospitals in nearly 50 countries worldwide. If you want to connect, learn or help, then join the Wired Sussex Slack Group today.

Cardmedic Covid-19 flashcards
Covid-19 flashcards

Wired Sussex is engaging with the government, both regionally and nationally, on an almost daily basis. We are founder board members of the UK Tech Cluster Group and every week we have a weekly call with the Minister for Digital to help her understand the challenges our community faces and suggest action the government could take.

The work our sector does is critically important to the future of the region and will be key to the economic recovery of the UK, so it is vital that this sector is helped now when, through no fault of its own, it is in need.

We are pleased to see that in some key areas (e.g. targeted support for start-ups, revisions to the emergency loans scheme) the government has indeed listened and adapted. We will continue to openly and forthrightly articulate our clusters’ needs to the government.

We have followed up on this rapid response work up by adapting our business support programme to online and virtual delivery. We have already delivered over a dozen events virtually on various platforms. This included pivoting Talent Fest 2020, our week-long festival to support digital talent and leadership, to feature (all online):

  • 1-2-1 portfolio advice from top design talent for 70+ budding digital creatives
  • A leadership Skills Summit with top international speakers including Bruce Daisley
  • A Jobs Fair providing information via talks and 1-2-1 advice to over 1,000 people worldwide on how to get and grow a career in digital in this region

Wired Sussex is a small, not-for-profit business and like most of you, it has been an uncertain and difficult time for us too. But we are determined to keep on supporting you and to hold dear to these guiding tenets:

We are independent

We don’t receive any funding from the public sector to sustain our organisation. We rely on income from our members, supporters and our FuseBox innovation hub residents. This means we always speak out for our community, and are never compromised in that.

“All the pieces matter”

We are not just about identifying and helping a few selected high-growth businesses. We support and recognise the value of every part of the regional digital ecosystem. So whether you are a start-up, a scale-up, a small firm or a freelancer, you matter equally to us.

Real lived knowledge

We are a local organisation with deep local roots. We listen and respond to our community every single day. The activity we undertake and the support we deliver is always based on understanding your challenges, your needs and your concerns.

But we cannot deliver without your ongoing support. If you are a freelancer or a business working in digital, media or tech in Sussex and are not yet a member of Wired Sussex, please join now. It’s just £72 (+VAT) per year. That’s less than £1.50 per week for a shedload of benefits (and love!).

Please help us to help you. It is your support that will enable us to continue supporting everyone in our cluster who needs it, both now and in the future.

Originally posted 04/04/2020 by Wired Sussex

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Thames Valley tech scale-ups set to lead COVID-19 economic recovery.

The Thames Valley’s high growth tech sector will be a core driver of the region’s economic recovery, according to new research from consultancy Beauhurst. Its COVID-19 Business Impact report showed that nearly 20% of tech businesses (19%) have been positively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis:14% cited a “surge in demand”. Meanwhile, 23% reported a “moderate” negative impact, with just 5% saying they were “critically” affected.

Tech community remains strongest part of UK economy

Partnering with tech and digital platform ConnectTVT,  Beauhurst’s report found the Thames Valley following London as the region with the highest number of positively impacted business. Tech led sectors that enable remote working – VoIP, EdTech, eHealth and digital security – are seeing a rise in demand. The country’s extremities, primarily the South West and devolved region are the most negatively impacted.
An analysis of the region’s response to the pandemic shows that 19% of the 2,000 businesses surveyed have limited their physical services. Seven per cent have had to further limit their service or product with the same figure losing a main customer group.

Investment key to future success

Elsewhere, Beauhurst’s report found that 22% of jobs (615,000) in the high-growth economy are immediately under threat. Additionally, investment capital is on shaky ground with £18.9b of equity investment at moderate to critical risk.

Louize Clarke, founder of ConnectTVT says, “These findings are reassuring only in the short-term. Looking ahead, we know the region is heavily reliant on investment – 69% of the Thames Valley’s scale-ups have used equity funding to grow since 2011. With this lifeline under threat, businesses will need support elsewhere to be able to hold onto teams, innovation and any chance of growth.”

Henry Whorwood Beauhurst’s Head of Research & Consultancy adds, “These firms will be integral to the UK’s productivity as we enter recovery, so it’s crucial interventions proposed by the Government reach these companies.”

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Coronavirus: a guide to business support for the tech ecosystem- Updated 04/05

In the face of coronavirus, many of us are looking at ways to safeguard our future. We’ve tried to collate all the information available into one space for you. Things will be changing all the time and we’ll be updating this page regularly as the Government provides more information and support.

Support for our community

The team we’re here to offer any support and advice that we can, you can contact us via hello@techspark.co

Below we have detailed some of the packages announced by Government and how they could impact you

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Government  has announced it will provide support to businesses around wages:

  • All employers are eligible for the scheme.
  • It’s only wages of people who aren’t working but are furloughed and kept on the payroll. We don’t know how you’ll show people are furloughed
  • The grant will cover 80% of their salary and offer retained workers up to £2,500 a month
  • It can be backdated to 1 March.
  • Employers can top-up salaries if they wish
  • There is no limit on funding and it’s open for at least three months.
  • IT will be paid to businesses by the end of April

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme will offer access to lending and overdrafts for businesses affected by the current crisis. The government will provide the banks with a guarantee for 80% of funds loans so lenders have the confidence to still provide finance.

  • Rates are 0% for the first 12 months
  • This is still a commercial loan so needs repaying, will be assessed on your business and may require security for the remaining 20%
  • The maximum amount to borrow is £5m
  • Loans will be available from Monday 23rd March
  • More info via the British Business Bank here 

UPDATE- Bounce Back Loans

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme has gone live today. Supplied by the British Business Bank’s accredited lenders, the programme offers access to loans worth 25% of a businesses turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000. Details of the scheme include:

  • Up to £50,000 loan: Loans will be from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover or £50,000, whichever is lower.
  • Interest rate: The government has set the interest rate at 2.5% per annum, all businesses will pay the same rate of interest.
  • Interest paid by the government for 12 months: The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to the lenders to cover the first 12 months of interest.
  • No principal repayments for first 12 months: Borrowers will not have to begin principal repayments for the first 12 months.
  • Finance terms: The length of the loan is for six years but early repayment is allowed, without early repayment fees.
  • No personal guarantees: No personal guarantees are allowed

More info here.

Business rates – £10,000 grants.

The Government has announced that many companies will not pay Business Rates in 2020-21. Most relevant to our sector is the £10,000 grants which will be given to up to 700,000 businesses in the UK.

  • Grants of £10,000 will be awarded to businesses who are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief.
  • This scheme is being run by local authorities and awards should happen without you having to apply if you have SBRR eligibility. Funding will come to councils in early April to do this.
  • If you are in managed space you likely haven’t done this so you won’t be eligible.
  • It’s possible your managed space provider has so worth checking in.
  • More info here

UPDATE – Business Rates £10,000 grants

Over the weekend that the government has released new funding of £617m for co-working space tenants, market traders and other businesses in England who aren’t being given funding through the coronavirus business rates grant scheme. The grants are to deliver £10,000 and £25,000 grants to companies 

The government has said this fund is aimed at

  • small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs,
  • prioritising businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief.
  • Businesses must be small, under 50 employees,
  • must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop in income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.

However local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.  We are working with Local Authorities in the West of England on this scheme and will update as guidance is released.

Statutory Sick Pay

All SMEs will be able to reclaim statutory sick pay for employees affected by Corona however no system is yet in place for this so it may take weeks to months for money to come back.

  • It’s for SMEs only (fewer than 250 employees)
  • It’s for 2 weeks SSP per employee who are off because of Corona
  • No sick note is needed just employer records

Self employed /  Contractors / Freelancers

If you are self-employed Government offers support similar for employees

  • You will receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly profit up to £2,500. You can still work through this time, unlike furloughed employees.
  • it will initially be for 3 months but payment won’t be until June
  • You need at least self-assessment return for 2019 & payment will be calculated using average monthly profits over the last three financial years
  • The cut off is for self-employed profits of £50,000 p.a.
  • If you are eligible HMRC will be in touch.

Some people won’t be eligible for the above. If so Government  has said it will make it easier for you to claim Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit at the rate of Statutory Sick Pay

  • During the crisis, the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be relaxed if you are sick with Corona or self-isolating
  • People can claim Universal Credit and access upfront payments without going to the jobcentre if they are self-isolating
  • Employment & Support Allowance can be paid you’re sick with Corona or self-isolating from day 1 (instead of the usual day 8)
  • Universal Credit has been increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months.
  • All self-assessment payments for businesses will be deferred to 2021.
  • Info on Employment and Support Allowance is here and Universal Credit here

Tax & VAT

Both business and self-employed can receive support from the HMRC time to pay scheme which means you can defer payments

  • The Chancellor announced that he is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. You now have until the end of the year to pay them
  • HMRC will discuss instalments, suspensions of debt collection or cancelling interest
  • They have a Corona hotline 0800 0159 559.

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Businesses still see opportunities for growth, despite pandemic

Despite Covid-19, many firms have identified opportunities for growth over the next nine months. Approximately one third of those surveyed believe business opportunities will rise due to increased or new demands related to Covid-19, particularly in cloud services, digital connectivity, remote working technology, and digital health solutions.

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Coronavirus Support: Manchester Digital to provide free membership

The coronavirus has had a serious impact on Greater Manchester’s technology sector and Manchester Digital is here to support the region and its businesses.

Manchester Digital’s COVID-19 revealed that for most businesses, the most impactful way the organisation could help was to use its platform and network to allow businesses to maintain an online presence and a connection with other businesses that may require their services.

For that reason, Manchester Digital has come the decision to offer free membership to the wider sector.

Benefits include:

  • The promotion of a company’s news, initiatives or offers
  • Helping to increase the audience attending a company’s online events and webinars
  • Aiding business’s recruitment drive via access to a job board and enhanced profiling
  • Access to research, resources and support
  • The ability to connect and network with other members of Manchester Digital’s community
  • The ability to feed into Manchester Digital’s lobbying work around business support for the tech sector during the Corona pandemic.

What else are Manchester Digital doing?

#MDTechCommunity Slack Channel – The organisation’s Slack channel boasts over 250 members and a dedicated #coronavirus channel in which members are sharing tips, advice, and camaraderie.

Content – Manchester Digital has also been creating content to help the sector, and will continue to do so. Some examples of the information it has shared can be found below.


Want to raise your profile?

If you want us to help you to raise your profile, contact michael@manchesterdigital.com to arrange sharing your news, jobs or events on their site.

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