July 2013

Cultivating success: the UK's future as an agricultural powerhouse

Following consultations with key figures within the agriculture industry, the government has unveiled its Agricultural Technologies Strategy that outlines its plans for boosting the sector. In light of the current global concerns about food security and demand from a rising population, it is ever more important to continue leading technological innovations. Novel approaches to dealing with water, land and energy shortages, as well as improvements in nutrition and satellite imaging, are all fields that require research and commercialisation.

Under the new strategy, funding of £90m will be given to centres for agricultural innovation, with a further £70m allocated to projects that intend to help bring research from the lab to the market.

UK digital economy even bigger than reported by government

According to a new report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, commissioned by Google, the UK’s digital economy is 40% larger than official statistics have previously suggested. 270,000 companies make up the digital economy, with businesses from all different sectors unlocking the potential of digital in their own space. Digital companies, when compared with non-digital companies, are generating 25% more revenue growth and on average employ 3 more people.

The report also criticises the government‘s ‘out-dated’ economic classification system for allowing the digital economy to miss out on government support due to misleading reporting. It claims that the idea that technology companies are all just un-profitable startups is no longer the case, since the widespread use of ‘Big Data‘ and cloud-based software has meant that even traditional industrial businesses are becoming digital.

Hopefully this realisation will filter into policy-making circles and improve the funding environment for digital entrepreneurs.

£500m Regional Growth Fund to be disbursed this year

Michael Fallon, Business and Enterprise Minister, has announced that the government’s flagship Regional Growth Fund (RGF) scheme for promoting growth in the UK regions will be dishing out a further £500m in the next twelve months. It has spent £200m since last July, prompting criticism that not enough is being done to stimulate enterprise. However Fallon has responded that, although progress has been slower than he had hoped, after all “it is public money…we have to be careful that it’s used for the purpose claimed for”.

One third of RGF funds go to local authorities and local enterprise partnerships, which can distribute smaller chunks to local businesses, while the remainder will go directly to businesses and projects. The funds are given out in amounts of above £1m, and companies must invest around 6 times the amount awarded to them from their own sources.

Dress to impress: e-commerce fashion takes flight

Spending weekends trawling from store to store struggling to fit into different outfits in small changing rooms is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as the internet shopping revolution takes off. As e-commerce clothing retailers grow in number and online markets become saturated with both low- and high-end retailers such as ASOS, Matches Fashion and Net-A-Porter, is there really space for new entrants?

Angels and VCs seem to disagree. Over the past month a high number of e-commerce clothing retailers have received investment from venture capitalists and angels alike. This is an interesting trend: consumers are both changing their buying habits, and also continuing to spend in an uncertain economic climate.

Brewing up a storm in the funding world

When the time comes in a business’ lifecycle to raise cash, the usual choice of routes seems narrow and often arduous, often requiring the release of a significant portion of equity or agreeing to limiting bank terms. But what other choice is there?

Well, Brewdog is trialling an alternative. For Brewdog’s founders, the well-trodden paths of venture capital and bank funding not did appeal. Instead, they have raised successive rounds of investment by releasing shares for purchase by members of the public, directly from the company itself. It calls this scheme ‘Equity for Punks‘, giving us some clue as to the impression of counter-convention they have cultivated to appeal to their share-buying fans. Along with a stake in the company, shareholders are also entitled to a range of discounts and benefits. The founders have promised to facilitate a market for the shares by 2015, as they are currently very difficult to cash in, not being listed on a stock exchange.