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Broker spotlight: Growth Hub Halton

We're shining a light of on each of our Local Growth Hub brokers to provide a glimpse into what they do and what makes them different. In this spotlight, we talk to Rachael Owen, Growth Hub Broker at Halton Borough Council...

LGH: What distinguishes your area from others in the Liverpool City Region?

RO: Halton consists of the towns of Runcorn and Widnes and includes Hale, Daresbury, Moore, Preston Brook, Halebank and Sandymoor. The borough borders Merseyside, Warrington, Cheshire West and Chester and straddles the River Mersey over which a new crossing is currently being constructed – the very impressive, cable-stayed Mersey Gateway.

The unique position of Halton allows easy access to a market comprising one-third of the UK’s population and half of all manufacturing industry, all within a two-hour drive. There is also great connectivity with 98% super-fast broadband coverage and 72% ultra-fast broadband coverage (homes and businesses), while Liverpool and Manchester Airports are both less than a 25-minute drive.

The borough also benefits from a network of advanced manufacturing, engineering and logistics businesses as well as Sci-Tech Daresbury – an Enterprise Zone and a joint venture between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Halton Borough Council and Langtree property developers. Sci-Tech Daresbury enables even the smallest start-ups to work side-by-side with successful and influential international companies, home as it is to over 120 science/research organisations and high-tech businesses. The campus has already developed strong clusters in several fields, including:

  • Advanced engineering & materials
  • Biomedicine
  • Digital/ICT
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Security

Much of the strength of Sci-Tech Daresbury is rooted in the facilities and capabilities based at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory – a key component of the campus. These include:

  • The Hartree Centre: A world-class centre of excellence in high performance computing developed as a Joint Venture with IBM. The centre works at the leading edge of emerging technologies and provides substantial benefits to many industrial and research organisations. It enables businesses, large and small, to make the best use of supercomputing and Big Data to develop better products and services that boost productivity and drive growth.

Recently, industry-leading digital services company Atos UK&I, has announced a major collaboration with the STFC Hartree Centre, which includes the purchase of the first Bull Sequana X1000 supercomputer system in the UK – one of the most powerful in the world.

  • Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC) and the Cockcroft Institute: At the leading edge of particle accelerator development and application.
     
  • Innovations Technology Access Centre (I-TAC): STFC’s multiple award-winning business incubation facility.
     
  • STFC CERN Business Incubation Centre: Turning high-energy physics into innovative products and services.
     
  • Campus Technology Hub: Offering innovators a shortcut to the market by exploiting the latest advanced engineering facilities.
     
  • SuperSTEM: One of the world’s highest-resolution electron microscopes and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
     
  • The Engineering Technology Centre: Offers expertise in project management and multi-disciplinary engineering solutions as well as the Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), a UK centre leading in the integration and exploitation of Virtual Engineering technologies, such as advanced modelling and simulation and immersive visualisation for industrial and commercial applications.

The VEC helps to support organisations to deliver their digital strategies, with a key aim to enhance capability and transform business performance and competitiveness through the evaluation, application and adoption of digital tools and techniques.

What type of businesses do you work with in particular in your area?

We support a breadth of businesses across all sectors as Halton has both a retail base and an expanding service sector, however, given the long established and extensive manufacturing and engineering industrial base we do support many in this sector. That said, with close ties with Daresbury Sci-Tech and The Heath we are seeing a steady increase in the number of hi-tech and Advanced Manufacturing organisations as well as those involved in Life Sciences. As a result – and to further support these sectors – there are active Advanced Manufacture and Science and Manufacturing Sector Groups flourishing in the area.

How do you go about connecting businesses to support?

Growth Hub Halton benefits from an impressive network of contacts covering all areas of business support, specialist expertise, training and development and funding. We help businesses access both publicly-funded and privately-delivered support covering local, regional and national initiatives. As a result, the service is very much tailored to the needs of the individuals and businesses we are working with to ensure that everyone is helped to access to the best of the support available.

Following a holistic review to identify the key issues, as well as areas for development and any barriers to growth, an action plan is formulated and agreed. This diagnostic process may be performed over the phone or through a face to face meeting – whichever is most appropriate.

The agreed next steps are then initiated with Growth Hub Halton facilitating the plan by making contact with the support providers identified. This ensures all clients benefit from a co-ordinated approach and consistency of service. Growth Hub Halton continues to work with the business throughout so as the business needs change we are always on hand to provide further help and continued support.

What distinguishes you by the support you provide to businesses?

Growth Hub Halton is delivered by Halton Council and Halton Chamber of Commerce and, as such, is uniquely placed to provide seamless access to local, regional and national support across both the public and private sectors. As a result, businesses can tap into a diverse range of skills and breadth of knowledge across all key areas of business support including local development and inward investment.

Businesses benefit from on site, diagnostic meetings as well as ongoing account management. There is a dedicated Growth Hub Halton telephone number which allows organisations to tap into a wealth of experience and an impressive network of valuable business contacts.

Can you provide some success story examples of connecting businesses to support?

When Clovemead was in the process of moving into new, Halton-based, business premises, it was supported by a visit from Growth Hub Halton. As a result of this meeting, they were connected to ‘Halton People into Jobs’ - a service which helps organisation with their recruitment needs. Clovemead has now recruited a number of local people through Halton People into Jobs, benefitting from the roles being advertised and help throughout, making the whole recruitment process successful and hassle free.

Michael Perks Makeup Studio has also worked with Growth Hub Halton and was made aware of the Skills for Growth support for training and development – a service which Michael has subsequently accessed. He was so impressed with the service that he recommended the Growth Hub Halton to a number of his contacts who have also successfully received help as a result.

How do you expect to see the business make-up of your area develop over time?

Over the past 25 years Halton has been transformed from an economic base of heavy manufacturing to the more mixed economy of today. While Halton still has a significant engineering and manufacturing base, it is now home to a diverse range of businesses across a number of key sectors, including hi-tech, advanced manufacturing, pharma and life sciences.

With the exceptional facilities available at Daresbury Sci-Tech, alongside the support available through the initiatives based there, including the VEC providing virtual engineering solutions, the Hartree Centre in transforming UK industry through high performance computing, big data and cognitive technologies and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council – one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisations supporting scientists and engineers world-wide – further growth in these key sectors is expected.

Halton has also experienced growth in retail and the service sector with professional services increasingly recognising the many advantages that Halton has to offer including high value, quality premises, free parking, easy access to Manchester and Liverpool and a skilled workforce.