Game on: Bradford hosts Yorkshire Games Festival

I was hooked as soon as I read the blurb: a near-future anti-gravity racing game that brings fast, frantic, adrenaline-fuelled action together with the raw sound of a thumping dance soundtrack and psychedelic visual effects. Formula Fusion is a video game developed by R8 Games for Microsoft Windows and hailed as a spiritual successor to the million-selling Wipeout series.

This one got me as well: a gang of bored friends find themselves locked in a haunted house crammed full of ghosts, exploring the hidden rooms and its dreaded contents for a means of escape. Candy Ghosts is a physical board game and digital companion developed by Wetgenes.

Both developers are based in Bradford and highlight the creativity at work in the UK games industry, which is estimated to generate nearly £3bn in GVA for the national economy and sustain more than 20,000 jobs in development, publishing and retail.

Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum this month hosted the Yorkshire Games Festival, the third such annual event and the biggest to date in terms of international speakers, suggesting that the festival’s reach and reputation is spreading.

The five-day festival was filled with inspiring talks, creative workshops and fun family activities, which the organisers said were designed to celebrate games culture and introduce new generations to the science and art of games development.

Talks included an insight into the imagination of Media Molecule, award-winning developer of the visually stunning PS4 game Dreams, a presentation by the BAFTA-nominated creative technologist Richard England about his work on the Jurassic World VR Expedition and a session about how a semester of social anthropology helped the developers of the hugely successful Hitman series to create dynamic social scenes.

Local independent developers presented their new games to a family audience for beta testing and valuable feedback. The sheer diversity of the medium was showcased with a collection of games that weren’t entirely rooted in the industry, such as the delightful Wobble Garden by Robin Baumgarten, a hand-crafted arrangement of sensing springs combined with reactive lighting and a favourite of the youngest visitors.

For nostalgia lovers, the museum’s Games Lounge featured a line-up of legendary arcade games from the Eighties, such as Street Fighter II, Galaxian, Space Invaders and the mighty Gauntlet. You’ve got to love the original Eighties prices too.

At their best, games offer pure, unadulterated fun and a chance to escape into fantastic new realms of the imagination. Behind the curtain, the creative mastery, developmental expertise and intellectual property realisation are equally awe-inspiring. From a business point of view, many of the technologies pioneered and commercialised by the gaming industry have potent applications for a wide range of sectors, from manufacturing to retail and financial services to agriculture.

For me, the most exciting part of the Yorkshire Games Festival was the opportunity to explore these applications in a two-day matchmaking event called Up Your Game, which was delivered by Bradford Council’s Enterprise Europe Network service and attracted nearly 50 businesses. It was designed to help entrepreneurs, SMEs and other organisations find new partners for collaborations such as commercial or licensing agreements, subcontracting or transfer of technology or knowhow in fields such as virtual reality, augmented reality or gamification.

Specialist tech companies from as far afield as Spain, Lithuania, Romania, Cyprus and Sweden attended Up Your Game and hooked up with Yorkshire firms to explore potential partnerships. These included Mirror 3D Lab from Cyprus, a specialist in 3D scanning, modelling and printing and  creators of true 3D copies of yourself, and Divine Robot from Sweden, a gaming developer that has expanded into corporate VR simulation for a number of different industries.

Congratulations to the festival director Kathryn Penny and the Enterprise Europe Network team. The Yorkshire Games Festival provided an inspirational look at the past, present and future of the industry in a way that was accessible for all ages. And I look forward to seeing what our local businesses can make of all the immersive technology they were exposed to during Up Your Game.

Finally, if anyone thinks this is solely a male preserve, they’d be wrong. Of the 32 million active gamers in the UK, an estimated 15 million are female.

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

Let’s take it for granted, NPR can be a game-changer

It’s easy to take things for granted. Quick internet access, for example, is an absolute necessity nowadays. I know people who’d rather go thirsty than be without their smartphone. But broadband in Britain was only introduced in 2000. Look how much things have changed since then.

Mark Bush was Britain’s first broadband customer. He’d created a hobbyist website about combat flight called Frugalsworld.com. In the early days it was just a few pages of rudimentary text. But thanks to high-speed internet access, the site morphed into a flight simulation game with 1.2m users per month at its height.

That highlights the leverage and power of fast connectivity to the world wide web and the multiple growth opportunities that it brings for individuals, businesses and communities. Broadband’s been a total game-changer. Northern Powerhouse Rail can have the same effect on Bradford district.

Transport for the North has just published its draft strategic blueprint for the next three decades, setting out an “ambitious but realistic” plan for how £70bn in infrastructure investment could transform the region and rebalance the UK economy. The plan’s centrepiece is NPR, a fast rail line from Liverpool to Newcastle with a new link between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford.

The document singles out the impact that NPR would have on Bradford, home to half a million people and the fifth largest economy in the Northern Powerhouse region, currently worth £10.5bn.

It says NPR is “central to unlocking opportunity and transformational growth in Bradford”, calculating that it will double the number of people and businesses within reach of the city and provide access to 750,000 more job opportunities in the key economic sector of the North.

NPR would more than halve journey times to Leeds, Manchester, Manchester Airport, Liverpool and York, putting Bradford at the heart of an integrated economic area across the North. The document notes that two key station options are under consideration, a parkway south of the city at Low Moor and a city centre station. It says the city centre option offers the real strategic opportunity to bring new transformational opportunities.

Subject to board approval, Transport for the North will officially launch its plans on Monday February 11 and these will form the group’s statutory advice to Government on the North’s ongoing priorities for enhancing sustainable and inclusive connectivity across the wider region.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at think tank IPPR North, summed it up for me when he said: “This is a bold but realistic plan to drag our creaking transport network into the 21st century. It sets up the North for the economic transformation it needs to make in the years ahead. Central government must now follow through. Our analysis shows that transport spending is twice as high per person in London compared to the North.

“Most importantly, the North needs to have the authority to deliver [this] plan which states that Transport for the North needs to have control over budgets and decision making. This is absolutely essential. The investment plan cannot be put at risk of the kind of central government dithering we’ve seen for many decades – and especially in recent years.”

I’ll politely echo that: no more dithering please. A Treasury commitment to fund NPR would not be an end in itself but allow Bradford and its partners to make the case for hundreds of simple investments in infrastructure, connectivity and place that could really help the district and the North to thrive.

Investment breeds confidence and creates certainty. Everyone wants a share in success. All of a sudden, Bradford becomes seen as Britain’s next big growth story, the best place to start a business, the best place to buy a house with a garden, the best place to raise a family and the best place to nurture the next generation of prosperous, creative and socially minded entrepreneurs. The advent of broadband opened up a whole new digital world of opportunities. NPR can have the same effect on Bradford, Yorkshire, the North and the UK. We should take that for granted.

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

Sunwin House inspiring next generation of arts and enterprise organisations

Built for the City of Bradford Co-operative Society in 1935-6, Sunwin House is a beautiful and rare example of the International Modernist style of architecture. The architect WA Johnson travelled widely throughout Europe in search of inspiration and was particularly influenced by the work of the German Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn and his design for the Schocken department store in Stuttgart.

When his tribute opened, the Co-operative Emporium was the envy of its rivals, with the first escalators to be installed anywhere in a Co-op store and lifts and stairs tucked around the edges of the open shopping area. The building even warrants a mention in Pevsner Architectural Guides, companion to Britain’s most significant buildings of the era.

Times change, as do consumer habits, and the doors of old Sunwin House have remained shut for the last decade since TJ Hughes gave up the ghost. But hopes are rising that a city partnership could bring together an exciting new purpose for this Grade II-listed building. The Architectural Heritage Fund has awarded a £5,000 project viability grant to Freedom Studios Ltd to start exploring potential new uses for Sunwin House.

Alex Chisholm, co-artistic director at Freedom, said: “We are thrilled that the AHF has shared our vision and belief in the future development of Sunwin House and its potential impact on Bradford. The partners – Freedom Studios, Impressions Gallery, BCB Radio, East Street Arts and Yeme Architects – are passionate about bringing this iconic building back to life for Bradford, and the AHF has given us that vital first support to do so.”

Matthew McKeague, CEO of the AHF, visited the building and met some of the partners behind the project. He said: “Sunwin House is an impressive building, which retains many of its original, high quality features. It represents the challenges facing many similar stores and shops but equally an opportunity for the likes of Freedom Studios and its partners to reimagine what we want from these buildings and what we want our city and town centres to provide for us. This grant will help support the development of their exciting plans.”

The plans aim to rejuvenate Sunwin House through art, culture and enterprise and would strengthen what we are calling Bradford’s “ring of culture”. This is the growing network of institutions new and old that circle City Park and include the Science and Media Museum, Alhambra Theatre, NEC Arena, Impressions Gallery, Art 21 Gallery, Brick Box Rooms, Kala Sangam Arts Centre, Bradford Playhouse and St George’s Hall. All strong players in their own right. Together, this is one ring to rule them all.

In a concept visual created by Yeme Architects, Sunwin House is presented as a multi-functional space to host the merged activities of established organisations and businesses.  These would include a culture hub with Bradford Literature Festival and City of Film at ground floor level, a multi-use event space on the first floor, an arts hostel and communal kitchen on the second floor, enterprise co-working space and training centre on the third floor and rooftop with allotments and pop-up cinema. Giving a new lease of life to Sunwin House could drive new interactions in the city, broaden collaborations between arts and enterprise, stimulate footfall and tourism, reflect the dynamism of our young population and raise aspirations. I’m looking forward to it already.

Of course, there is a long way to go to transform this idea into reality, not least making the finances stack up in a way that works for all parties, but this is a big and bold vision to reimagine a landmark high street building for the post-internet age. It offers a stage for our brightest and best homegrown organisations. And it would provide another compelling reason for visitors to come to our city centre, day and night.

In our economic strategy for Bradford District, one of our priority actions is using our unique architecture, heritage and cultural assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. We have a wealth of historic buildings that are both highly attractive and highly affordable. By building partnerships between local, regional and national organisations, we are developing ways to bring them back into use.

The original architect WA Johnson went to Europe to find his inspiration. He found it in Stuttgart at the Schocken department store. That building was demolished in 1960. Johnson’s tribute is still standing tall. And I’m delighted to see the old Emporium providing new inspiration for today’s generation of arts and enterprise organisations.

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

Bradford gave birth to 15 new start-ups every working day last year

“I think virtually all of the problems that Britain has, and Europe has, and the world has, can be solved by more entrepreneurship. So why don’t we start now by having more entrepreneurship?” So said Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, at the inaugural annual lecture for the Centre of Entrepreneurs (CFE).

We agree and I’m pleased to say Bradford is doing its bit. New figures from the CFE show 4,127 businesses were formed in the district last year. That’s 15 new start-ups every calendar working day. This represents growth of 2 per cent from 2017 and made Bradford the 10th most popular place to start a business in 2018, up from 14th the previous year. Who knows what wonders are being dreamed up on our doorsteps?

I’m delighted but not surprised at this national success story for Bradford, given our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer, growth potential and globally connected nature. We already know that Bradford is the best place to start a business in Britain, according to Barclays, which found the UK’s best business rate relief, road infrastructure, number of job vacancies, cost of commercial rent, and business survival rate in our district. These are clearly making for a fertile growth environment, as the new CFE figures illustrate so well.

The UK is an established entrepreneurial nation, as confirmed by the CFE, which has published its fifth annual analysis of company formations. Latest Companies House data shows that UK business formations reached a record 663,772 last year and recovered from a drop in 2017. “It is encouraging to see formation numbers recover and hit a new high,” says Matt Smith, director of the CFE. “These figures demonstrate the resilience and confidence of entrepreneurs across the country, confirmed by a 5.7 per cent increase of business registrations and the strengthening of London as Europe’s leading startup hub.”

Friederike Andres, research assistant at the CFE, added: “As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the Government needs to reassure entrepreneurs that it will continue to champion and support them. This includes efforts to mitigate any negative effects from EU exit, as well as tangible measures to reform business rates, boost SME procurement and tackle other underlying issues.”

Policy improvements can always be made to support entrepreneurs but tinkering around the edges won’t deliver the dramatic shift we need. I was fascinated to read about the radical plans to allow the North of England to raise its own taxes. This is the sort of bold transformation that could help to unlock more funding for the projects that will make the biggest impact.

In a newspaper interview, Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, explained it was time for the Government to consider a Department for the North, with its own secretary of state. “We should not close our minds to the localisation of taxation,” said Mr Berry. “A big complaint is that money is being invested more in London and the South than in the North. Taxes raised in the North could be spent in the North. And we should not close our minds to varying income tax at a local level.”

This could be transformational. Everyone knows that Bradford needs new infrastructure. Like many post-industrial cities in the North of England, it has suffered from decades of under-investment in the built environment. Upgrades to our infrastructure links would generate huge economic and social returns via increased productivity and agglomeration. It’s an argument that’s been rehearsed a million times before, but I’ll say it again: better physical and digital connections make it quicker and easier for our entrepreneurs to move around their goods and services.

The MP for Bradford South, Judith Cummins, was banging the drum for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and Bradford in Westminster Hall last week. She said: “Bradford, like other towns and cities across the North, urgently needs this high speed rail link to meet growing demand and to fulfil our economic potential. And that investment in NPR should include a Bradford stop in the city centre where the benefits will be felt by the greatest number of people.”

Instead of going cap to hand to senior ministers, we would have the power to make the investment decisions here. Business growth would surely follow, generating more wealth, more jobs and more tax returns. A virtuous circle. Who knows, we might even produce some of the innovations that can solve the problems of Britain, Europe or even the world, as Mr Schmidt would have it. We’ve certainly got the entrepreneurs, as the latest CFE figures show; we just need to back them.

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

New business development zones can unlock investment in district

With 15,000 registered companies, 60,000 employees, and 170 countries represented, DMCC is the four-time winner of the Global Free Zone of the Year award. Headquartered in Dubai, the 200-hectare development is believed to be the world’s most interconnected free zone. But once upon a time, DMCC was just an idea: the local government wanted to provide the physical, market and financial infrastructure to establish Emirates as a hub for global commodities trade. The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre was founded in 2002 and the rest, as we like to say, is history.

I’m mentioning this example because it shows just what you can achieve with a big vision. While we might not have the same sovereign financial firepower as the Emirates, we do have the globally connected district, the young and enterprising population, the distinctive offer and the significant growth potential. We’ve got a £10bn economy, 18,000 businesses and 200,000 employees. We’re lucky to have many successful manufacturing companies and a growing number of start-ups – 261 per month – and good survival rates among these business births. Bradford is also home to a healthy number of large employers, such as Morrisons, Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Building Society, which support and develop local supply chains.

But, as with most post-industrial towns and cities in the North of England, the district has experienced decades of underinvestment in the built environment. The heritage mills that made us famous might offer that premium raw, exposed brick look so coveted by young urban professionals, but these great buildings were originally constructed for vertical manufacturing and businesses in sectors like engineering, chemicals, energy and food manufacturing need crisp, clean and modern single-story production sites across larger plots.

This is the reason why Bradford Council is exploring new ways of unlocking the district’s economic potential through the creation of new business development zones. These will be in the areas at the heart of the old industrial revolution: Bowling Back Lane in Bradford, Salts Mill Road through to Dockfield Road in Shipley and Dalton Lane in Keighley. The plan is to investigate how land in these areas is currently used and identify opportunities to bring forward redevelopment of under-utilised or poor quality sites or expansion of existing premises to maximise site utilisation.

The council will also examine the potential of promoting infrastructure investments in these areas including public realm, green spaces, major highways improvements, new street lighting, parking provision, public transport networks, walking and cycling routes and signage. Achieving these investments will turbo charge the performance of key employment areas in Bradford to make them more attractive and efficient locations for businesses to operate and invest in.

Bradford Chamber of Commerce is involved and will work with the council to explore collaborative initiatives to boost productivity and growth within the business development zones and wider district. Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “We are looking at how to boost investment and employment. We want to help businesses unlock untapped potential by boosting their productivity while bringing under-utilised industrial land back into use.”

Mike Cartwright, of Bradford Chamber, added: “Our members employ many thousands of Bradford residents and many of the companies wish to grow and create new jobs. Additional industrial capacity will add expansion so we are delighted that Bradford council is looking at boosting both the productivity and availability of industrial land. We look forward to working with the council to develop innovative new approaches to boosting investment, growth and jobs.”

In fast-growing places like China, Korea, Singapore and of course Dubai, business development zones are treated as important tools in national or regional economic and industrial development agendas. Douglas Zhihua Zeng, a senior economist at the World Bank, has argued these zones can be effective instruments to promote industrialisation and structural transformation, so long as certain ingredients can be put in place.

Global good practices include sound legal and institutional frameworks, strong government commitment, high quality infrastructure, careful planning and design, ongoing skills training and specialised education, continuous technological learning, innovation and upgrading, deep connectivity locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, positive social development, and environmental sustainability.

That’s all doable from my perspective. The council’s mapping process will take 18-24 months. Delivery of development of these sites is expected by 2024-25, just a few years away. Who knows, it could be Bradford winning all the foreign direct investment awards in the next decade.

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

Space: the final frontier for Bradford’s young minds

After a journey lasting nearly a month and covering 238,900 miles, Chang’e-4 finally made history last week. The Chinese probe became the first robotic spacecraft to touch down on the far side of the moon, the unexplored side of the astronomical body. It’s cosmic, really, when you think about it. The successful landing represents “a huge stride” for China, according to the republic’s lunar exploration chief, echoing the US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words. It also signals China’s ambitions for the 21st century and its growing significance in the world.

For me, it highlights three issues: first, the power of science to inspire us to think beyond our immediate surroundings; second, the need to build and grow links with China as the emerging superpower; and third, the importance of aspiration and setting big goals.

Space truly is the final frontier and this was brought home to me when Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum hosted the spacecraft that took UK astronaut Tim Peake to and from the International Space Station. Mr Peake, who became the first Briton to walk in space, said he hoped the Soyuz TMA-19M would serve as “an inspiration for our next generation of scientists and engineers”. Students from University Academy Keighley were among those to see the spacecraft, which still bears the scorch marks from its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, and learn about Mr Peake’s sixth-month mission to space and find out about the careers in the fast-growing UK space industry. One day perhaps they might be the ones boldly going where no man – or woman – has gone before.

There will certainly be plenty of opportunities; in Yorkshire alone, nearly 40 organisations are engaged in space-related activities. Academics at Bradford University are doing pioneering research into space weather using machine learning and predictive technologies to extract knowledge from solar archives. Far out!

China’s multi-billion space dream – it plans to build a new space station, establish a base on the Moon and carry out missions to Mars – is part of its “national rejuvenation”, according to Chinese state media. To me, it shows the republic is increasingly a force to be reckoned with and one that our district economy needs to be wired into. As a globally connected district, we are making strong progress on that front and towards the end of last year, representatives from Bradford Council and Bradford University joined a trade and investment mission from the Leeds City Region to China, with the aim of creating stronger links in film production, education and tourism.

The week-long visit took in Qingdao, Hangzhou and Hong Kong and promoted our district’s products and services to these vast marketplaces. During the trip, Bradford Council signed a memorandum of understanding to advance cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, creative and innovation industries, technology, culture and education.

Bradford and Qingdao already enjoy good relations and in 2017 Bradford UNESCO City of Film opened an office in Qingdao to foster co-production opportunities between the two cities, which both have burgeoning film industries. Qingdao has China’s largest state-of-the-art film production studio complex, owned by Wanda Studio, and Bradford is becoming the go-to location for a growing number of national and international filmmakers. (Every time I go by City Hall these days they seem to be filming a new episode of Peaky Blinders.)

Qingdao is also home to the Tsingtao, the nation’s second largest brewery company. I was chuffed to learn that our representatives were flying the flag for Saltaire Brewery, which I’m told went down very well in what is known as China’s city of beers. Cheers!

As well as being a huge market for beer, China also represents a huge market for healthcare. To that end, Bradford University has teamed up with a Chinese technology transfer company, iBridge, to establish a new programme that will enable UK technology teams to attract investment and accelerate the launch of their healthcare technologies and products into China. The potential is enormous. According to the latest research by McKinsey consultants, the Chinese healthcare market is set to reach an eye-watering $1 trillion by 2020, up from $357bn in 2011.

The numbers involved in healthcare and other Chinese markets are just incredible, which is why we need to be putting maximum effort into developing these business relationships. As the Chinese have demonstrated with the Chang’e-4 spacecraft and its achievement in the wide blue yonder, if you want to make your mark, you have got to be ambitious. Shoot for the moon. 

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

Being a good teacher is the hardest job in the world

Of all the hard jobs in the world, one of the hardest is being a good teacher. Being a good headteacher is even harder. Every child in Yorkshire deserves the best possible education, whatever their background, and we rely so much on those committed individuals who can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instil a life-long love of learning.

Stuck between pupils, parents and politicians, our best education role models don’t always get the recognition they deserve, which is why I was so happy to see some of Bradford’s finest being singled out in the New Years Honours list. Developing our young and enterprising population is so important to our district’s future prosperity and wellbeing. The men and women who carry this responsibility deserve all our support.

Duncan Jacques, chief executive officer of the Exceed Academies Trust, becomes a CBE for services to education. The multi-academy trust currently runs six schools – Copthorne Primary School, Horton Grange Primary School, Horton Park Primary School, Appleton Academy, Holybrook Primary School and Harden Primary School – serving communities with some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in the district. All bar one of these schools have been judged as Outstanding or Good by Ofsted.

Mr Jacques said he was “delighted, surprised and honoured” with the award and on social media thanked all those who had sent him congratulations, including Jenni Mayo, headteacher of Oakworth Primary School, who said “many children in Bradford have benefited from your high aspirations and visionary leadership”. Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford council, summed it up when she said Duncan is “a great leader and educator… can’t think of a more important role in team Bradford right now”. I’ll second that, on behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, which fully recognises the contribution that teachers make to creating the workforce of the future.

Ruby Bhatti becomes an OBE for services to young people and housing. Ruby is an experienced solicitor, formidable advocate and dedicated public servant who has devoted much of her time to important causes in the Bradford community. Ms Bhatti’s numerous education commitments include board roles at the Dixons Academies Charitable Trust, Rainbow Schools Trust and the Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust. She supports other education leaders on governance on behalf of Bradford council and the Department for Education.

Ms Bhatti told her local newspaper: “The honour is an extremely humbling one which I dedicate to my late parents who brought me up and always tried to help others.” We need people like Ruby to make sure our schools are run properly. Thank you, and congratulations. 

Christopher Brown also becomes an OBE, for services to higher education. Mr Brown, of Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley, is chair of council at the University of Huddersfield, a post he has held since 2004. He helped steer this important Yorkshire institution to gold-rated status according to the Teaching Excellence Framework. Mr Brown, who read law at Oxford, is a former chief executive of gear maker David Brown Group plc and chairs the West Yorkshire engineering companies Wakefield Acoustics and Thermal Energy Ventures.

After successful business careers, it can be tempting for departing executives to disappear to the golf course. Not Mr Brown, who has dedicated nearly 15 years to the advancement of higher education in God’s Own County. He’s also a director at Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club. (That’s rackets, not clubs.) Congratulations, Chris.

Wahida Shaffi becomes an MBE for services to women, young people, interfaith and community relations. Ms Shaffi is the best sort of teacher in our society. She has more than 20 years’ experience of working with diverse communities from across the world. After completing an MA in international politics and security studies at the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies, Ms Shaffi has gone on to facilitate, deliver training, complete research, develop and manage programmes and produce films on subjects related to equality, diversity, gender, conflict and interfaith locally, nationally and internationally in Bradford, the UK, Sri Lanka, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Romania and Pakistan.

Did I mention Ms Shaffi is also the national director of the Catalyst programme, formerly the national women’s lead with the Christian Muslim Forum and is currently finalising the final phase of her Churchill Fellowship? I’ll leave it to her friend Jenny Ramsden who described Wahida on social media as “the strongest, kindest, nicest, most intelligent woman”. Congratulations on your award.

Duncan Jacques CBE, Ruby Bhatti OBE, Chris Brown OBE and Wahida Shaffi MBE… just a few of the inspiring teachers, in the broadest sense, at work across the Bradford district and in 2019 and beyond. Happy new year everyone.

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

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

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.