Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News: Cumulus boosts profile through Pitch@Palace


Cumulus Energy Storage (CES), a high-tech start-up with a base on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, has taken part in a bootcamp as part of the Duke of York's Pitch@Palace initiative.

Cumulus is developing prototype battery technology which can be developed commercially to cope with the rigours and requirements of the renewable industry. Storing the electricity from intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar at source, or "grid level," is a key problem due to the mismatch between the availability of intermittent wind or sunshine and the changing demand for grid electricity.

Cumulus is developing a grid-level energy storage battery with 1MWh-100MWh storage capacity which it hopes to be the lowest cost battery technology in the world. By using its new batteries, developers of offshore wind farms or solar farms could reduce the price at which electricity must be generated from the source to break even over the lifetime of the project.

With research in San Francisco and manufacturing in South Yorkshire, Cumulus was one of 19 projects to secure funding from the Government's Energy Entrepreneurs' Fund (EEF) that was established in 2012 to help bring a range of new and innovative low carbon products to market.

In less than three years Pitch@Palace has helped over 200 businesses grow, with some now enjoying huge global success. This year's event focuses on technology and HRH has been touring the country looking for firms. The first event was hosted at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing's (AMRC's) Factory 2050 building on the Sheffield Business Park in September.

Pitch@Palace was set up by The Duke of York's Charitable Trust to support start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK. It gives potential entrepreneurs the chance to explain their hi-tech business ideas to Prince Andrew and a panel of experts, in front of an audience of investors, business leaders and mentors, in a bid to secure the backing they need to take them to the next level.

CEO Nick Kitchen pitched at the Sheffield event and Cumulus was one of 42 entrepreneurial companies selected to attend a boot camp where participants heard from industry experts and Pitch@Palace Alumni, and received support and mentoring. Having missed out on being one of the 15 that will go forward to pitch at St. James's Palace in November, Cumulus is now in contention for the "People's Choice" award - an opportunity for the public to vote for their favourite Pitch@Palace entrepreneur.

Nick Kitchen, CEO at Cumulus (pictured), said: "Last year, the National Grid paid £90m to wind farm operators to not generate electricity. The reason for this is that the grid isn't designed to cope with variable and intermittent electricity that is generated by renewables. It needs a buffer, which needs to be used when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, to store that electricity and deliver it later at the time that its needed - this is what Cumulus Energy Storage does.

"At the moment the main buffer is pumped hydro - two reservoirs that are geographically constrained - hence the need for our very flexible battery - copper / zinc super storage - that we can position anywhere we like in the electricity network.

"We have a very experience management team and we have ten people in San Francisco, six in the UK, and we are currently raising £4m for product development with a pilot line set for 2017."

A 20kWh operational prototype is being developed in the company's labs in San Francisco and in the UK, Cumulus has established a "customer interest group" with the likes of E.ON, National Grid, Sheffield Forgemasters and Sheffield University.

The plan is to manufacture the super-storage battery units in the Sheffield city region, on or near the AMP where Cumulus is based.

Cumulus Energy Storage website
Pitch@Palace website

Images: Pitch@Palace


News: Parseq expanding in North East and nationwide


Rotherham-headquartered business process and technology specialist, Parseq, has announced further investment in its Sunderland operation that will generate 450 jobs.

Based at Hellaby, Parseq specialises in mobile and online banking software and technology-led outsourcing services. It handles over 70 million calls, digitises 25 million customer correspondence documents and processes £15 billion of electronic payments every year.

Following a period of significant growth through contract expansion and new deals, Parseq is taking on a new 36,000 sq ft, 900 seat call centre, that will sit alongside its existing operation in Sunderland, which currently employs more than 1,300 people.

The investment by the firm, which provide business services to a prestigious client base of blue-chip brands, including EDF Energy and SunLife, will create 450 new roles and secure Parseq's position as one largest investors and employers in Sunderland.


Graham Stein, managing director of contact centres at Parseq, said: "Since March of this year we've created 200 new roles and we plan to increase this by a further 450, with recruitment starting immediately and into 2017.

"Sunderland has a rich employment and business network and it's this, combined with our unique approach to working with businesses to provide outsourced services, which is enabling us to reap rewards and reinvest in the city.

"All of our UK operations are performing exceptionally well which means we're not only expanding and recruiting here in Sunderland, but on a national scale too."

The firm employs more than 2,000 people nationally and represents some of the UK's most respected companies, including the top ten international banks, a third of the country's utility sector, financial and insurance services.

Following a number of acquisitions, the combined turnover of the group now exceeds £65m. Parseq set the aim to be a business with a £100m turnover in three years.

Parseq website

Images: GVA


News: Prototype Creative sign with Tykes


Prototype Creative, the Rotherham-based design agency has become Barnsley FC's new exclusive provider for marketing and design services throughout the 2016/17 season.

Based at Manvers, the enterprising multi-disciplined agency was established in 2007 by web developer Josh Abbotts and graphic designer Gav Winder. It works with a wide range of clients, from SMEs to large global corporations including Boeing, Tower Hamlets College, Alcoa, Vitalife Health, EDLounge, and Ardagh Group.

As part of the deal, the Prototype brand is also now displayed on the newly-installed stadium tunnel at Oakwell and the official match ball stand. 

Gav Winder, creative director at Prototype Creative (pictured, left), said: "We are overjoyed to form a working partnership with Barnsley Football Club. The opportunities that this sponsorship will create for us will allow us to seriously grow.

"As lifelong Reds fans, it's a fantastic opportunity for us to work alongside the Club during what is a really positive and successful period in the club's history. We hope this partnership continues into the Premier League!"

Ian Leech commercial manager at Barnsley FC, added: "We're delighted to welcome Gavin, Josh and the team at Prototype on board as our latest commercial partner. After our initial meeting, they took the time to really understand us as a club and our goals and ambitions off-the-field. Prototype are right at the cutting edge when it comes to design services and I’m really excited to work with them and see first-hand the impact that their expertise will have at the club. 

"All of the designers at Prototype are Barnsley fans, so they really understand what it means to be a Red and how important this club is to the local community. Therefore, they are the perfect company to help us engage with our proud and loyal supporters through modern and creative design. Prototype are a forward thinking, creative, local based company that we as a club are proud to be associated with, and we can't wait to get going!"

Gav and Josh were awarded the top prize at the Rotherham Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2008 having built up the business at the RiDO-run Century Business Centre at Manvers with six months rent-free on the Rotherham Youth Enterprise (RYE) scheme.

Barnsley FC website
Prototype Creative website

Images: Barnsley FC


Monday, October 24, 2016

News: Dishonest Rotherham solicitor struck off


The actions of a partner which closed down a 125-year-old Rotherham solicitors has seen him struck off from the legal profession after a tribunal heard of acts of dishonesty, misappropriation and concealment.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which regulates more than 130,000 solicitors in England and Wales, stepped in and closed down the operations of Gichard & Co last year after an investigation into Charles Rhodes, senior partner, found that "there was reason to suspect dishonesty."

The recently published tribunal hearing shows how Rhodes, admitted to the roll of solicitors in 1991, had overcharged a client when dealing with executing a will, by over £250,000.

Investigators found a further nine cases where a total of £69,000 had been withdrawn in respect of costs for which no bills had been raised.

The first allegation involved the dealing with an estate where a total of £437,125 had been transferred from the client account to the office account but the final bill was only £170,250. Attending the tribunal in person, Rhodes was asked whether he would regard it as honest or dishonest for a solicitor to take more than three times the amount in costs that he regarded as reasonable. He replied that it was "hard to escape the conclusion, looking at it now, that it was dishonest."


At the time however Rhodes said that he had been under considerable pressure relating to matters in his personal life as well as his own health and that he was operating on "autopilot" and was not thinking at all. The Tribunal found that the amount of money was so significant that it could not simply be regarded as overbilling.

In the case, the principal beneficiary was only 16 at the time and a beneficiary of the estate later raised concerns over the costs and instructed another solicitor to get on the case. The estate in this case was repaid in full in May 2016, the other estates had not.

The tribunal also heard that Rhodes went on to create a false client account ledger together with false bills to substantiate the entries in the ledger and concluded that this was to deceive the investigating solicitors and the regulators in order to conceal his wrongdoing in respect of the misappropriation.

Rhodes told the tribunal that he had been "manifestly stupid" and that he would always regret his actions. He agreed that he had been a "monumental fool" and for that he had taken responsibility. He added that he had no intention of returning to the legal profession.

The tribunal concluded: "This was far from an isolated incident. The misconduct had taken place on an ongoing basis over a period of 12 years during which time estates had been repeatedly and deliberately overcharged, funds had been misappropriated and concealment had followed.

"The misconduct was at the highest level and the only appropriate sanction was a Strike Off. The protection of the public and of the reputation of the profession demanded nothing less."

SRA website

Images: Google Maps


News: AMRC degree smashes launch recruitment target


A pioneering foundation degree in manufacturing technology from the University of Sheffield and its AMRC Training Centre has smashed its recruitment target as it welcomed its first students.

The £20.5m centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham focuses on students aged from 16 upwards, taken on paid apprenticeships. Part of the The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, apprentices have opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses, doctorates and MBA levels. Sponsoring companies range from global leaders such as Rolls-Royce, Alcoa and Outokumpu to smaller, local firms such as Cutting & Wear and Technicut.

The two year, part time programme is designed to ensure bright, young people, who opt to start work straight from school, don't miss out on a University qualification.

The Foundation Degree, which can be delivered as part of a Higher Apprenticeship, also aims to provide manufacturing industry with the higher skilled employees it desperately needs and could lead to a BEng degree after a further year of part time study.

The AMRC Training Centre had been set the target of recruiting five students to the first year of the course. However, the course proved so popular with trainees and companies spread across South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that 20 students signed up for the first year and a further four have already registered for next year.

Students range in age from 18 to 30, with most at the younger end. Two thirds of the students gained manufacturing qualifications at the AMRC Training Centre, while three of the students have been working in industry for some years.


The course is delivered using a blend of face to face learning - lectures, seminars and tutorials - with online and self-paced learning and support to enable the students to combine their studies while in full time employment. The programme has been designed in partnership with academic staff and employers to ensure students can graduate equipped to meet the current and future needs of the advanced manufacturing sector. 

Kerry Featherstone, head of training at the AMRC Training Centre, said: "This Foundation Degree broadens access to the University. It gives young people who never thought of studying for a degree, or were put off by the prospect of running up debts to fund their studies, an opportunity to gain undergraduate and, maybe, post graduate qualifications while being fully employed and earning a wage.

"Manufacturers in our region and the rest of the UK desperately need people with a combination of vocational and academic skills if they are to compete internationally and this degree will bridge that gap."

Students and employers attending the welcome event at the AMRC Training Centre got the chance to meet course lecturers, who are all AMRC researchers, working with industry to develop practical solutions to improve manufacturing performance.

Professor Wyn Morgan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the University of Sheffield, said: "This is going to be a very challenging and intense programme.

"The AMRC Training Centre has developed a very strong academic and technical programme that responds to what employers tell us they need, while maintaining the standards you would expect of a Russell Group University.

"Anyone who successfully completes this course and goes on to secure a BEng while continuing to hold down a challenging job in manufacturing will have thoroughly deserved their success and we are determined to provide them with the support they need."

AMRC Training Centre website

Images: AMRC

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