Thursday, July 19, 2018

News: Zen Golf stars at The Open

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An adjustable putting and full swing platform developed in the Sheffield city region is centre stage at The Open this week as a partnership between Zen Golf and Sky Sports continues.

With offices in Sheffield and a studio at Templeborough in Rotherham, Zen has developed the Zen Green Stage - a world-first, computer-controlled platform that enables golfers to practice an almost limitless number of breaking putts. It can also easily be converted to a full-swing platform for other types of practice and play and can be combined with golf simulators.

The British-made product made its TV debut on Sky Sports at The Open Championship in 2017, and interest has soared with subsequent high profile airings during Sky's ongoing golf coverage including the 2018 Masters, Players and US Open tournaments.

Nick Middleton and fellow inventor Andrew McCague based the concept on an original idea by the test pilot of the Mach 3 Lockheed Blackbird, US Air Force colonel Horace Templeton, who first created green-reading maps in the 1970s. In September 2014, Zen used similar techniques to help create greens maps at Gleneagles used by the victorious European Ryder Cup team.

Nick Middleton, managing director at Zen Golf, said: "The buzz about the Zen Green this season has been amazing, and is growing week by week. PGA professionals and other golf coaches can now engage with pupils who are fascinated by Sky Sports' innovative coverage, which now includes the Zen Green Stage. Everyone is talking about it – the top golf coaches, and the top golf TV presenters."

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Zen is now working with Harewood Asset Finance to offer golf academies, teaching professionals and other potential buyers the option to pay monthly, spreading the cost of purchase and improving cash flow for their business.

Tour putting coach Phil Kenyon, who teaches on a Zen Green Stage at his Harold Swash School of Putting studio at Formby Hall Golf Resort Hotel & Luxury Spa in Southport, said: "For many coaches the Zen Green Stage will be the final piece of the jigsaw at their golf academy: it opens up new creative possibilities for both putting and full swing coaching. It is a great product, but raising the capital to buy one can deter some people. I can see the new finance option being very popular."

Middleton added: "Adding the Zen Green Stage to your business connects you directly to modern audiences who love to watch Tour golf coverage on Sky Sports. Merely by being there it gets your golf club or academy into the headlines, it positions you as technically-advanced, and it creates a big additional fun-factor to every visit to your establishment."

The Open Zone created for Sky Sports has been used to enhance the broadcaster's coverage at Carnoustie. A number of the world's leading players have been taking part in a 99-yard challenge and it has also been used to recreate memorable putts from recent Open winners. The 1999 Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie, was invited to The Open Zone for a putting masterclass.

Zen Golf website

Images: Sky Sports

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News: Former Maltby Colliery site on the market

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The remaining employment land at the former Maltby Colliery in Rotherham is being promoted by landowners, Hargreaves Services.

The 500 acre colliery was mined for over 100 years until geological conditions could not be overcome and underground operations ceased in 2013.

It had been expected to continue coal production until 2025 but the winding tower was brought down in 2014 and the mine shafts have been filled and capped. With the sudden closure, a restoration scheme was developed and future uses were examined through the borough's new Local Plan.

Hargreaves Services has recently established a new division, called Hargreaves Land, which aims to bring forward developments and unlock value from the group's 17,500-acre land bank, which is valued in excess of £50m.

The company's UK-wide land portfolio includes over 50 sites ranging from former coal mines undergoing remediation, through to prime consented sites ready for development.

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At Maltby, Hargreaves is working with consultants WYG on a masterplan which is due to be submitted in Autumn 2018. With the Local Plan being adopted, around 80 acres is being made available for commercial/industrial uses around the former pit head.

Through the local plan hearings, the company had suggested that land at Maltby could be suitable for lower density uses, "including potential use by an aggregates business, construction firm or other larger scale occupiers."

With rail infrastructure on site, representations for Hargreaves add that it "is likely to help to attract interest for waste (including reverse logistics and recycling facilities), energy, industrial or other "bad neighbour" type uses from a wider catchment."

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For the majority of the site, a reclamation scheme has been approved that will see the Green Belt returned into woodland and grassland.

The new brochure for the site, drawn up with agents at Knight Frank, shows nine available plots and states: "The plots would be suitable for a variety of associated uses and ancillary opportunities such as waste processing, aggregates, composting and green energy projects."

Rothbiz understands that an international firm which hosts auctions for large scale plant and machinery has previously shown an interest in the site.

Hargreaves land added: "We are actively seeking to work with prospective occupiers to facilitate the re-use of the land and premises for employment purposes.

"Adjacent land, which is also within Hargreaves Land control, has been successfully promoted as a potential housing site."

Hargreaves Land website

Images: Hargreaves Land

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News: Clifton Park recognised with Green Flag Award again

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Clifton Park on the edge of Rotherham town centre has been recognised, for the eighth year running, by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the very best in the world.

The Green Flag Award scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

In the scheme's 22nd year, a record-breaking 1,883 Green Flags have been awarded to green spaces large and small across the UK. They are a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

This year, for the first time, Clifton Park has also received the much coveted additional Green Heritage Site Accreditation for the management of the historic features.

Between 1783 and 1784, Joshua Walker, of the Walker Iron & Steel Works of Masborough, and local architect John Carr, built Clifton House which included stables, outbuildings, dovecotes, fishponds, an icehouse, and wells. Clifton Park was originally laid out as the private grounds of the house, which is now Clifton Park Museum.

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When the estate was put up for sale for building plots, Rotherham Council recognised the need for green space in the expanding town and bought 54 acres (22.5ha) for £25,000 in 1891. £5,000 was spent on improvements and the park was opened to the public by the Prince and Princess of Wales on the June 25 1891.

Investment in recent years includes £7.5m in 2009 to bring the walled garden back into use and updating the paddling pool with an innovative splash park. In addition, a play park was designed in consultation with young people with eight separate areas including a skate plaza, sand area, chill out area and an enchanted wood.

Cllr. Sarah Allen, cabinet member for Cleaner, Greener Communities at Rotherham Council, said: "We are really delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for the eighth time and also win the Green Heritage Accreditation. We know how much quality green spaces matter to residents and visitors, and this award celebrates the dedication that goes into maintaining Clifton Park to such a high standard.

"Clifton Park is very popular with families from across the county and they can enjoy a fantastic day out. The award is a tribute to all those working hard to keep everything looking beautiful for its visitors and to all of the visitors who take care of the park when they use it."

In August it will be the public's turn to vote for their favourite Green Flag park in the Green Flag People's Choice Awards. Clifton Park won this award in 2016 and 2017 and is now officially recognised as one of Britain's 10 favourite parks. Staff at Clifton Park are hoping that with the help and votes of all of those who love the park, the People's Choice Award can be repeated at Clifton Park in 2018.

Clifton Park website

Images: RMBC

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

News: Xeros signs with Chinese washing machine manufacturer

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The Rotherham-based Xeros Technology Group plc has confirmed that its first "Symphony Project" licensing deal is with a subsidiary of the market-leading Chinese commercial washing machine manufacturer.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), Xeros is a Leeds University spin-out that has developed a patented system using a unique method of special polymer beads rather than the usual large amounts of fresh water to clean clothes.

The Symphony Project involves a simple retrofit pedestal that integrates the polymer bead cleaning system into conventional machinery, enabling its revolution in laundry to be brought to market by leading manufacturers.

Described as a major milestone, the ten year licensing contract was signed with Jiangsu SeaLion Technology Development Co., Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the market-leading Chinese commercial washing machine manufacturer Jiangsu SeaLion Machinery Co., Ltd (also known as "Sea-Lion") at the annual China International Laundry Industry Exhibition.

Sea-Lion has worked closely with Xeros as the manufacturer of the commercial washing machines since 2013. In 2015, Sea-Lion opened a 300,000 sq ft facility, in Zhangjiagang City which uses state-of-the-art equipment and manufacturing processes to manufacture the machines to support Xeros' growing commercial laundry footprint in the US.

Now Sea-Lion will integrate Xeros' proprietary technologies into its own commercial washing machines and sell them through its extensive distribution network in China, on an exclusive basis. The first sales are expected in 2019. Sales targets have been agreed and Xeros will receive a royalty on both machine sales and on the multi-year service contracts signed between Sea-Lion and the customer.

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In April 2017, Xeros launched its Symphony Project, providing open source access to its innovative polymer technology to manufacturers of commercial washing machines. At the Clean Show in Las Vegas in June 2017, Xeros demonstrated its first fully working prototype.

China is a large and attractive market for Xeros' commercial laundry technology. Xeros' research indicates that approximately 27,000 commercial washing machines are sold in China every year and water rates are increasing significantly for industrial users across large parts of China. Sea-Lion has sales and service offices in each of China's 30 provinces and in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen, serving customers in the hotel, industrial laundry, hospital and dry cleaning markets.

Mark Nichols, chief executive of Xeros, said: "This is a major milestone for Xeros in the commercialisation of our technologies and the first contract signed under our "Symphony Project" licensing model. It provides us with access to one of the world's largest and fastest growing markets.

"This contract provides a significant competitive advantage for Sea-Lion whilst enabling us to generate a return on our intellectual property. We selected Sea-Lion given their market-leading position, extensive distribution network and our successful working relationship since 2013.

"We see significant opportunity in China across our portfolio of technologies, given both the scale of the marketplace and the central government's plans to improve sustainability and reduce water consumption."

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Hong Chen, chairman of Jiangsu Sea-Lion Machinery, added: "This licensing agreement brings Xeros' new cleaning technology to our customers throughout China, the world's fastest growing market for laundry equipment. They are demanding laundry equipment which saves them money, delivers better quality washing, is reliable and is easy to maintain - our machines using Xeros' world-leading cleaning technology will deliver this.

"The Chinese Government's latest actions to conserve water and reduce water pollution are leading to rising prices for water and more demanding specifications for washing machines.

"Sea-Lion's machines using Xeros' technology will be the leader in offering both better cleaning to our customers and delivering laundry solutions which can radically reduce water consumption in support of the Government's sustainability objectives and green agenda."

Xeros website

Images: Xeros

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News: More challenging times for SCR businesses

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The results of the Quarterly Economic Survey for the Sheffield City Region (SCR) in the second quarter of 2018 indicate that these are more challenging times for businesses across the City Region, reflecting wider testing macroeconomic conditions.

Key business challenges for manufacturing and service sector firms include competition, inflation, business rates and exchange rates.

The results, published by the region's four Chambers of Commerce, show that over the last three months sales balances for manufacturing firms across the SCR have remained solid, but have declined for service sector firms. Looking forward, firms' order books follow a similar pattern, with overall positive balances reported in both sectors, but at a declining level compared to the previous quarter amongst service firms. Business confidence figures are down from the previous quarter for both sectors, but particularly amongst service sectors firms with historically low sentiment in relation to expected profitability in the next twelve months.

A lower percentage of firms also indicate that they are operating at full capacity, whilst balances relating to investment in training are down for both sectors.

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Dr. David Littlewood, lecturer in Strategic Management at Sheffield University Management School, said: "These difficulties seem to be particularly afflicting service sector firms, who identify key challenges of growing competition, inflation, as well as high business rates. Key challenges identified by manufacturers are exchange rates, and again competition.

"However, the situation is not entirely downbeat. It must be noted that overall most balances remain positive. There is also some indication that price rises may be slowing, whilst firms in both sectors on balance report quite robust cash flows.

"Interestingly when businesses were questioned, in early June, about key business challenges, Brexit and political uncertainty did not feature highly; the Q3 survey will show if this continues to be the case."

The results for exporting firms largely align with those for all firms in the Sheffield City Region. The sales balance for exporting service sector firms for the quarter was negative, indicating declining sales. The key challenges identified by exporters are also largely similar to those reported by all firms, albeit exchange rate issues are identified more strongly.

The hot topic for this quarter is workforce health and wellbeing. The results of the survey questions on this topic indicate that firms in general have not identified any change in employee sickness levels during the last three years, but less than half of them have any formalised staff wellness programmes. There is some recognition of the link between staff wellness and productivity, and also willingness to invest in future employee wellness activities.

The Quarterly Economic Survey, run by the British Chambers, is the country's biggest and longest- running private sector survey. It acts as an economic indicator and often highlights underlying trends in the economy long before other surveys or other official statistics pick them up.

SCR Economy website

Images: SCR Economy

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