Meet the scale-ups: the 48 businesses driving district’s economy

In Chinese tradition, the number 48 means ‘determined to prosper’, or simply ‘prosperity’, which is good for business. It is certainly an auspicious number for Bradford, which is home to exactly 48 companies defined as scaleups. These are enterprises with average annual growth in employees or turnover greater than 20 per cent per annum over a three-year period and with more than 10 employees at the beginning of the period.

Scaleups matter because they are productive, they create lots of high quality jobs, they are innovative and international, they can be found across all sectors and they tend to be diverse. In Bradford, they account for combined turnover of £1bn and together employ 8,000 people. For a district with a £10bn economy, you can see just how important their contribution is.

According to the ScaleUp Institute, they include law firm Schofield Sweeney (turnover up 31 per cent), lift manufacturer Shorts (up 26 per cent), caterer Delifresh (up 24 per cent), packaging solutions provider Mailway (up 33 per cent), retail interiors specialist Cardinal (up 41 per cent) and wool dyers Luxury Yarns International (up a whopping 84 per cent). I could go on, but you get the message.

These firms are vital parts of our district economy, now and in the future. Many of them have been at it a long time. These are no Johnny-come-latelys: success in business does not come overnight and requires many years of hard graft, commitment and not a few sacrifices. Indeed, the Institute has found the majority of England’s 4,420 scaleups are more than 20 years old and the ones most likely to be growing at the fastest rate at aged between 10-15 years old. In other words, these are mature, grown-up businesses; reflective in many ways of their directors, whose average age is 54.

A question we’ve been considering at the Bradford Economic Partnership is how to prime the next generation of scaleups. Among the district’s 15,000-plus businesses will be a good number on the verge of strong growth in turnover or headcount that could propel them into hallowed scaleup territory. These might be businesses run by 34 year-olds or 44 year-olds whose stars are starting to align, whether in product development, market readiness or customer growth. They could soon be joining that exclusive club.

We must do all we can to help these firms and their directors because growth can be hard to manage. We need to make sure they have access to a talented workforce with relevant skills; that business leaders can tap into local peer-to-peer support networks and impactful leadership programmes; that companies can easily open up new markets, whether they are public sector, corporate or overseas; that fast-growing enterprises can attract appropriate growth capital; and that businesses have the space to grow, which means well-invested infrastructure (including a Northern Powerhouse Rail station for Bradford, if you’re reading this at the Treasury or Department for Transport).

The beginning of any journey is important and, according to Barclays, Bradford is the best place for starting a business in the UK. The lender analysed a range of factors and concluded that Bradford has the best business rate relief, road infrastructure, number of job vacancies, cost of commercial rent, and business survival rate. London was a lowly 12th in the list. Leicester and Coventry also fared well, suggesting that 21st century growth will come from previously overlooked regional cities, especially those with strong connectivity.

I’m an optimist and I believe that many of our ambitious start-ups in Bradford can go on to become scaleups in the next decade or two, if we can give them the right support. Our region is already faring well for scaleups. The institute’s 2018 index shows that the Leeds City Region has the highest number of visible scaleups in England, outside the South East. We can build on that and I look to our strong base of family businesses and manufacturing firms to step up and create new wealth and prosperity. We know that 48 is a lucky number for the Chinese. So let’s see how many noughts we can add to it in Bradford.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Tech savvy, global and social minded: new fabric of Bradford

Ambitious, tech savvy, internationally active and socially minded with strong ‘green’ credentials, companies like Melrose Textile are becoming the new fabric of Bradford.

Based at historic Allerton Mills, this company is a leading manufacturer, importer and distributor of rugs and flooring products. It is expanding its base of major UK retailers and e-commerce companies to include new international customers. It is investing in IT and fulfilment to stay ahead of changing consumer trends and keep at the cutting edge. Its focus on the recycling and up-cycling of materials is winning over customers who increasingly expect businesses to be environmentally responsible.

Melrose is also engaging with young people through the education system to help spread the word about the many good careers to be had in manufacturing. Andy Murphy, managing director, visited the One in a Million free school during Bradford Manufacturing Week and left pupils feeling inspired about the potential of the manufacturing sector.

Vice principal Andy Haughey said: “Andy brought a real energy into the room and the information he shared, which was supported by props and examples of the fabric he works with, really engaged students. His one-hour presentation prompted lots of questions from the youngsters in the room and has led to an ongoing relationship between the school and Melrose Textile that we feel we will benefit from for years to come.”

It was good for the business too. Mr Murphy added: “We learnt as much from the pupils as they did from us. Managing our talent pipeline is hugely important and Bradford Manufacturing Week helped us look closely at our workplace offering and reassess our business culture, based on what we saw and heard from the young people who visited us. Thanks to this initiative, we’ve now had an insight into what switches young people on which will definitely help us attract the next generation of manufacturers into our business.”

The jobs will certainly be there for them. Bradford’s manufacturing sector added 4,000 jobs between 2016 and 2017, taking headcount to 26,000 people. This massive growth of 18 per cent compares to 3 per cent for UK manufacturing jobs as a whole. Manufacturing represents 13 per cent of our workforce, a greater proportion than Yorkshire (11.5 per cent) and the UK (8.2 per cent), according to the ONS Business Register and Employment Survey, putting Bradford at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.  

The textiles sector made up much of the recent growth in new manufacturing jobs. This is being driven by wider trends of re-shoring and just-in-time supply chains that play to Bradford’s strengths with its base of agile, responsive and well-invested SMEs like Melrose. Did I mention that our GVA per worker is higher than any other city in the Northern Powerhouse?

Nick Garthwaite, the brainchild behind Bradford Manufacturing Week and President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, is not one to sit still for long and is already looking ahead to next year’s initiative. He said the success of October’s inaugural event, which attracted the attention of Prime Minister Theresa May, highlights the need to improve school pupils’ experience of manufacturing and future proof the industry by inspiring the factory owners of the future.

Mr Garthwaite added: “We are looking closely at creating Bradford’s Manufacturing Weeks in the future where we dedicate at last a fortnight in October to organise school and manufacturing initiatives. More time means more experiences and more value to even more young people in Bradford. We owe it to the next generation to extend our initiative and involve even more employers in the district – we firmly believe we can at least double the number of schools and businesses involved in 2019.”

In today’s world, data is everything and we have some wonderful new evaluation statistics to share with you from the 25 district secondary schools and 40 manufacturers which took part in the creation and delivery of more than 143 events and 3,000 work experiences for students aged 14-19 during Bradford Manufacturing Week. Of the schools which took part in site tours, 100 per cent rated the experience as high or very high quality. Of the schools which completed the feedback survey, 100 per cent felt their students benefited from taking part in the activities. There was also strong feedback about the high quality of work experience days, the range of localities covered and the good mix of industries to be experienced. I can see a theme reflecting throughout this feedback, the same one that shines through when you look at many of our manufacturing businesses and the men and women who lead them. High quality. It’s the new fabric of Bradford.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Chamber head recognised by university

Chamber head recognised by university

One of the region’s leading business figures has been awarded an honorary degree.

Sandy Needham, Chief Executive of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bradford University’s Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences on Wednesday 5 December 2018.  Sandy was recognised for her contributions to business and enterprise, aswell as for having a pioneering attitude and commitment to collaboration.

Since her initial involvement with the Chamber in 1997, Sandy has helped spear-head several business support and economic development initiatives, and in 2014 managed the merger of Bradford, Leeds and York & North Yorkshire Chambers.  The recommendation for the award came from the university’s Dr Crina Oltean-Dumbrava, a steering group member of Bradford Chamber’s Property Forum.  Sandy also has close ties to higher education:  she was previously a member of the University Council, chairing the Audit Committee and the Yorkshire Innovation Fund; she is currently a member of the University Court.

The merger of the three Chambers of Commerce covering Bradford, Leeds and York & North Yorkshire has subsequently created one of the largest business support organisations in the country.  Sandy’s other non-executive roles include:

–       director of Leeds Business Improvement District

–       member of the Business Innovation & Growth Panel of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

–       British Chambers of Commerce Board Director

–       Member of Bradford Economic Partnership,

–       Bradford City of Film Board member

–       Deputy Chair of Bradford Business Improvement District.

Sandy said of the award:

“I’m very flattered and humbled to be honoured in this way.  I’d like to think that my contribution to the business community and economic success more generally is making a difference to our region’s prosperity, although I am just one of a bigger team of people with the same objectives in mind.”

Sandy was one of five high profile figures to be recognised at the graduation ceremony – the others were University College London’s Nicholas Barber, Welcome to Yorkshire’s Sir Gary Verity, social services professional Jonathan Phillips and local academic Dr Hassib Sahyoun.

Initiatives that Sandy has helped oversee during her time with the Chamber include:

–          Providing industrial units and offices on easy terms for start-ups

–          Creating the ‘Raising the Bar’ project to recognise businesses’ support of the wider community

–          Establishing a company to loan funds for businesses unable to borrow from high street lenders.

University of Bradford leads global tech initiative

Watching the big beasts of international politics get together in Argentina at the annual G20 leaders’ summit is a timely reminder to everyone that it’s good to talk. As their post-gathering communique spelled out, there are many difficult problems facing the world, not least the future of work, an infrastructure for development, a sustainable food future and gender equality. We can’t expect the big players to agree on everything but at least they’re all in the same room for a couple of days, even if they do return to business as usual as soon as they get home.

While Russian president Vladimir Putin and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman were doing the high-five in Buenos Aires, another international gathering was taking place in India, one with a very strong local connection that highlights the role that one of our city’s finest institutions is playing in tackling some of these big global challenges.

The University of Bradford launched the third annual World Technology Universities Congress (WTUC) at Chennai, a gathering of technology-focused institutions from Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas held for the first time outside the UK this year. Hosted at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the Hindustan Institute of Science and Technology, representatives from this growing network of universities debated, discussed and agreed how they can work together on cutting edge research and development opportunities to help deliver solutions.

The network was championed by Bradford’s vice-chancellor Professor Brian Cantor, who said: “Higher education, research, science and innovation are key drivers of economic growth, which depends on the positive exploitation of knowledge. Education transforms lives and societies, providing the route for technological advancement and social mobility. By harnessing the combined strength, resource, expertise, experience and knowledge of a network of the world’s great technology universities, we will create a global alliance of the brightest and best, dedicated to making knowledge work for the benefit of society.”

An example was provided by Professor Anne Graham, associate dean in the faculty of life sciences at the University of Bradford, who spoke at the WTUC. She told delegates about joint research programmes involving Bradford and international partners which are addressing local challenges with globally scalable solutions, including innovative efforts to improve dementia patient care and advance wound care through the regeneration of skin.

I was pleased to see the network add four new members at this year’s congress, taking the total to 22 technology universities. As Prof Cantor says, these institutions are committed to having a direct impact on the real world. And it’s great that Bradford is leading the way on this strong global initiative. Next year’s congress has already been confirmed and takes place at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in Taipei.

As the G20 and WTUC demonstrate, it’s good to talk, whether you’re a politician, an academic, in business or a public servant. But in the emerging Internet of Things, it is devices which are doing all the talking. IoT refers to the new networks being established between connected technologies that can gather and share information to help inform and improve decision making.

Bradford council is pushing the boundaries in this field. It introduced a low power, wide area telecoms network in 2017 which has allowed a number of exciting technology pilot projects using sensors to measure all sorts of different things. These include water levels in rivers, waste levels in bins, footfall in district locations and safety at home to support independent living among the elderly. The data is gathered, shared and analysed to help the local authority to make better decisions and allocate its resources more effectively.

Another example of Bradford as a Smart City is the collaboration between the local authority and Extreme Low Energy, a Lancashire SME, to reduce the cost of electricity through the distribution of energy throughout office buildings via ethernet cabling. It’s safe and clever and clearly won over the judges at last week’s iNetwork awards, where it triumphed in the Partner Excellence category.

Nobody’s pretending the problems of the world will be easy to overcome. But it’s inspiring to see how initiatives being developed on our district’s doorstep are offering hope that solutions can and will be found. I’ll give a high-five to that.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.