Breakfast launch of the Digital Catapult Centre

Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire is an initiative for start-ups and small businesses in the creative and technology sectors to develop and showcase their digital ideas and products and build their capabilities. They can use it to connect and collaborate with larger businesses, universities and public sector organisations, and it is only one of three new regional centres across the whole UK.

It will be an integral part of the Digital Health Enterprise Zone creating innovations in digital health and social care and incubating and growing SMEs in digital health and care technologies.

At the breakfast launch event, businesses will be able to find out how they can benefit from the power of data, unlocking new value from the data value chain, and the ‘Internet of Things’ in an exciting new space to put Yorkshire firmly on the global digital innovation map. Let’s work together to strengthen the region’s economy.

The event will be held on Tuesday 10 March at the Bradford Design Exchange.

To book places please click here:

For news and updates, please follow the centre on Twitter @DigiCatYorks and use the hashtag #DigiCatYorks. Should you have any questions, please contact

Rail strategy for North to be unveiled

Businesses interested in the North’s long-term rail travel prospects can find out more at an event in Leeds on 4 March.

A Rail North event at PWC, Wellington St, Leeds, from 8.30-9.30 (breakfast from 8) will outline a long-term strategy that sets out how rail will support Northern economic growth over the next 20 years by improving connectivity.  It is also hoped to bring forward future electrification schemes to realise the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ concept mentioned in recent months.

Roger Marsh of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, along with James Lewis and David Hoggarth of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, will present at the event.

Also in the spotlight will be the new franchises planned for Northern Rail and TransPennine Express.

Email to reserve a place or call Vikki Crockford on 0113 2517422.

BCC: Disappointing lending figures raise questions about availability of growth capital

  • British banks and building societies drew down £8.4bn in Q4 2014 from the Funding for Lending Scheme.
  • Net lending to businesses fell by £6.9bn in Q4 2014.
  • Net lending to SMEs fell by £810m in Q4, compared to a contraction of £100m in Q3.

Commenting on the Funding for Lending figures published by the Bank of England today, Dr. Adam Marshall, Executive Director of Policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce said:

“It is disappointing that lending to SMEs in particular continues to contract despite the best efforts of the Funding for Lending Scheme. Although large businesses have little difficulty in accessing a wide range of funding options, young, fast-growing businesses across the UK are still finding it unacceptably difficult to access the finance they need to grow their business.

“There is urgent need for greater support for the businesses that will create wealth and prosperity in the future. This means increasing access to bond and equity markets, and building a bigger, better British Business Bank. Although all parties realise we have an access to finance problem, more radical solutions need to put on the table in order to help British businesses grow in the long-term.”

Chamber members to pilot new YouTube business channel

West & North Yorkshire Chamber members will have the opportunity to take part in a pilot programme where they can have their videos uploaded onto a new business channel on YouTube. The Chamber is working with member, Gareth James of Clockwork Eye, to run this three month pilot, and will promote the business videos for members free of charge.

The video clips need to be centred around topics which will help SMEs in running their business including how to’s, top tips and skill improvement.  Videos purely advertising the business will not qualify for the pilot.

The videos will be promoted via Chamber communications including social media, websites and newsletters.

Darren Precious, head of sales & marketing at the Chamber said: “Once you have a really great video the dilemma is how do I get it out there, and to a receptive audience. With this pilot we’re helping Chamber members distribute useful information giving them profile and helping other businesses at the same time.”

Any Chamber member interested in including their video on the Chamber business channel should contact Gareth on 01535 517077/07795 548978 or email

(pic: BCC Business Manifesto: ‘A Business Plan for Britain’ video, view here.)

Internet export pioneer Chamber International launches online carnet service

Overseas trade specialist Chamber International, which was at the forefront of a UK-wide drive to enable businesses to get official documentation for their exports faster, launches a major new initiative next month.

The move to enable exporters to apply for ATA Carnets online is expected to save businesses which exhibit at overseas trade shows, travel abroad with product samples or ship professional tools and equipment to carry out work overseas, significant office time and get approved documents to them faster.

ATA Carnets, which translates to “book of temporary admission tickets”, can be used for temporary exports – where goods are not to be sold – to fast-track customs in more than 80 countries belonging to the Carnet scheme without the need to pay duty and/or local tax on their arrival.

Chamber International provides scores of ATA Carnets annually for businesses throughout the UK wanting to take items abroad as commercial samples, for presentations, display at exhibitions or trade fairs, and for professional equipment used by people working abroad such as theatre companies and touring rock bands.

Once issued, Carnets can be used for multiple international trips and are valid for a year. Countries, and territories, which accept them are in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

Head of the Carnet team at Chamber International, Alison Holmes, says “The new digital application revolutionises the application process at a time when more countries are a joining the international Carnet scheme and more businesses are looking to trade overseas.

One regular user of the Chamber International ATA Carnet system, which sees huge benefits in the system moving online, is award-winning national opera company, Leeds-based Opera North.

Opera North technical and operations director, Ric Green, says: ”We do co- productions or rentals with opera companies in Europe, Australasia and the USA. Sometimes they are overseas for quite short period but they can stay for two years.

“We are currently sending Katya to Boston, our production of Norma is in Chemnitz and then goes to Bordeaux, while our production of Pinocchio went to Chemnitz and Moscow and is now in Bonn.

“We find Chamber International’s team knowledgeable and helpful. Online Carnet services will enable much quicker collation and processing of the information which will be a real benefit to us. We are very pleased Chamber International has had the foresight to do it.”

Chamber International assists chambers of commerce with a wide range of specialist international trade services and is also supporting Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) by delivering its We Are International export campaign, which aims to being an extra £1.6bn to ten local authority areas and create thousands of new jobs in the next five years.

SCENE STEALER: Opera North technical and operations director, Ric Green, is shown how to access ATA Carnets on line by head of the Carnet Team at Chamber International, Alison Holmes.

Fast-growing export markets under spotlight

Tips on how to access fast-growing export markets will be unveiled at a major event in Leeds this spring.

More than 80 novice exporters are expected to attend the We Are International event on 26 March, at Deloitte in Leeds.  Speakers will give insights on how to access foreign markets, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Eastern Europe, and the potential rewards involved.

The initiative – delivered by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, Chamber International, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Yorkshire, Enterprise Europe Network and MY Export Hub – aims to add £1.6bn to the City Region economy and create thousands of jobs by 2018.

This latest Export Network event is the seventh event since We Are International was launched in March 2013. Scores of businesses have received help on a range of exporting issues including setting up overseas offices, identifying distributors, adapting products for overseas markets and securing sales.

The network of export ambassadors is drawn from many sectors, including chemicals, design, healthcare, textiles, healthcare, logistics and food  and food services.

One of them, Keith Ellis, of food company Bagel Nash, said: “Yorkshire & Humber has been highlighted as having the highest growth in export activity in England.  There are many high-growth markets beyond continental Europe and we are delighted to have specialists to speak about proven export markets for Yorkshire companies.”

To book on the event or get more information, call 0845 034 7200 or visit

Grants for skills needs

Funding handed down to the Leeds City Region from the Government is available for businesses to invest in workforce skills.

£17.5m has been secured from the Government’s Employer Ownership of Skills scheme (EOS).   The money is available in grants of £500 – £50,000 to SMEs to invest in the skills of their workforces and aims to address skills shortages in key sectors that offer the greatest opportunities for economic and employment growth, such as manufacturing, construction, digital, hospitality and medical technology.

The LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) is establishing a new service to finance employers’ skills requirements and ensure SMEs are fully equipped with the resources needed to develop a skilled workforce.  Businesses will have support to source the most appropriate training and providers to suit their skills needs and help identify what funding opportunities are available to support business investment.  Guidance will be available to support employers through what is finally acknowledged as a complex market for sourcing provision.

Help is already available and the LEP is working with West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and others to deliver the service to business.

For more info, visit here or call 0113 386 1910

Roger Marsh, chairman of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a step change in addressing the skills needs in the City Region and will help improve business competitiveness across our diverse growth sectors.  This funding commitment confirms the trust government places in our City Region; recognising our achievements of creating more and better jobs for our residents and acknowledging our ambition to work collaboratively with employers to drive the skills agenda.”

West Yorkshire SMEs in internet windfall as Superconnected scheme expanded

Over 27,000 small businesses in Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale have become eligible for a grant of up to £3,000 to help them boost their internet connectivity, after the extension of the government-funded Superconnected Cities scheme to include the whole of West Yorkshire.

The Superconnected Cities scheme, which awards ‘connection voucher’ grants of up to £3,000 to individual businesses to cover the costs of installing high speed broadband, is part of a nationwide programme to boost high-speed internet connectivity among SMEs.

Previously available to businesses within the Leeds and Bradford districts, and delivered by Leeds City Council, the expanded scheme will make the grant funding accessible to 27,365 additional businesses across the Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield districts with immediate effect.

Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a huge boost to business in West Yorkshire, and means this transformational technology grant is now available to almost 80 per cent more firms than before.

“Superfast broadband is a business critical resource for many companies, and these vouchers take just minutes to apply for and don’t require any match funding.”

Leeds and Bradford have seen the UK’s highest take up rates for the vouchers and this month became the first area outside London to issue more than 1,000 connection grants since the Superconnected Cities programme was launched in February 2014.

Mark Durham of Superconnected Leeds Bradford, which administers the grants to eligible firms, welcomed the broadening of the scheme, saying: “We have worked hard to ensure as many Yorkshire businesses as possible get access to this funding before it closes in March next year.

“Over 99 per cent of businesses across West Yorkshire are now eligible for a grant, so we hope to see a flurry of applications and many new connections to the superfast network. Great high-speed web connectivity is one of the easiest and most effective ways to transform the efficiency of a business and broaden its capabilities.”

Cllr Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and the economy, said: “Leeds’ connection voucher scheme has been a massive success story and the fact it is now going to be rolled out to other local authorities in West Yorkshire is proof of this achievement.

“The expansion of this scheme is important to make sure as many small and medium sized businesses as possible in West Yorkshire benefit, which all helps towards building a strong regional economy.”

Photo: Mark Durham (holding i-pad), project manager, Superconnected Leeds Bradford

For further information go here.

BCC Annual Conference: Inspiring the next generation of talent

  •  BCC Annual Conference: 10th February 2015, QEII Conference Centre, London
  • Speakers include senior cabinet ministers, Nick Boles MP, Kathryn Parsons, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Decoded, Jules Quinn, Founder of The *TeaShed and Margaret Mountford, Chair of the Bright Ideas Trust
  • To register for a free press pass please contact the press team on 020 7654 5813 / 5817 or register via the website.

The British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference will feature an inspiring panel session, with young entrepreneurs, Nick Boles MP, and former apprentice judge Margaret Mountford, on developing the talents of the next generation and promoting entrepreneurship. The discussion will focus on helping young people jump over the gap between education and work, how the UK can support young entrepreneurs, and the role of businesses in helping young people achieve their ambitions.

The young person’s panel supports the BCC’s wider ambitions over the next year, and the work already happening across Chambers all over the country, to bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work.  This will help to provide businesses with a pipeline of talent and get more young people into work.

Speakers include:

  • Senior cabinet ministers
  • Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Skills and Equalities
  • Kathryn Parsons, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Decoded
  • Jules Quinn, Founder of The *TeaShed
  • Fraser Doherty MBE, Founder of SuperJam
  • Angus Thirwell, CEO and Founder, Hotel Chocolat
  • Margaret Mountford, Chair, The Bright Ideas Trust and former judge on BCC’s The Apprentice
  • Penny Power, Founder of Digital Youth Academy
  • Chuka Umunna MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • John Longworth, BCC Director General

Tickets are available by visiting the Annual Conference website:

Commenting ahead of the Annual Conference, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“We have a multitude of new entrepreneurs in the UK, and the great news is that young people in particular are really going for it. Young people are also our future leaders but far too many remain unemployed.  At our Annual Conference we’ll be discussing how we can develop the talents of the next generation and promote entrepreneurship. It is a core theme from our manifesto, as it is crucial to businesses all around the country and to our future prosperity as a nation.

“Our Workforce survey showed that firms face skills shortages, and believe young people are unprepared for the world of work.  We’re using that insight as a springboard for activity across the Chamber network that will bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work. This will help create a pipeline of talent for growing firms and get more young people into work. What better way to inspire the next generation than to hear from young entrepreneurs themselves, who have gone from start-up to successful global business.”

BCC: Disappointing trade figures highlight need for national export strategy

  •  The UK trade deficit on goods and services was £2.9bn in December 2014, compared with £1.8bn in November 2014.
  • In December 2014 there was a deficit of £10.2bn on goods, partly offset by a surplus of £7.3bn
  • In 2014 the total trade deficit rose to £34.8bn, the largest deficit since 2010.

Commenting on the trade figures published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:

“After a welcome pick up in the past two months, it is disappointing that our trade position weakened in December. While monthly figures can be erratic, the longer terms trends are still concerning – the deficit widened to a four year high in 2014 and exports fell more significantly than imports.

“We are clearly not making adequate progress in rebalancing our economy, and the weakening of the Eurozone is creating problems for our exporters. Much greater efforts are needed to develop a national strategy for boosting exports, with improved access to finance for growing firms.”