Thursday, April 21, 2011

Notes from a small island | Opinion | The Engineer

Notes from a small island Opinion The Engineer

The Isle of Man is one of those places that many people in the UK know little about. Ask around, and most can dredge up a fact or two: cats without tails; a flag with three legs; a notoriously dangerous motorbike race; kippers. But other important details aren’t so well-known. When I told friends I was heading there, one person asked me if there was a time difference. I said I thought it was about 40 years.
And in some ways, I was right; it’s certainly a slower pace of life up on the little island in the middle of the Irish Sea. The capital, Douglas, has a horse-drawn tram service along its seafront promenade; there’s a flourishing steam railway, used by locals and holidaymakers alike. But in other ways, the Isle of Man is far ahead of the rest of the UK, and could teach it some valuable lessons.
.Back in the 1980s, the island’s government, like the rest of the UK, decided that the future of its economy lay in financial services and built up a large sector. However, some 20 years ago, it took another look and realised that the economy had become unbalanced.
‘It really was a matter of not putting all the eggs in one basket,’ explained Adrian Moore, head of the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster, a group of 17 aerospace companies now flourishing on the island.
The government took the decision to encourage the establishment of a high-tech manufacturing sector to bring some variety into its economy. Building on the presence of three large aerospace companies which had been established on the island for some 60 years — Ronaldsway Aircraft Company, whose roots are in ejector seat manufacture; valve specialist Swagelok; and GE Aerospace — it used a system of financial incentives to persuade companies to take root on the island. As a result, when the credit crunch hit three years ago, the Manx economy was more cushioned from its effects than the mainland’s.

Moore admits that some of the methods used by the Manx government would not be available to the UK; for example, the island’s corporate tax rate is zero, something which would not be possible here.
But asking around some of the companies, such as micro-turbine specialist Bladon Jets, laser optics producer CVI Melles Griot, component prototype maker Kiartys and body composition scanner manufacturer Bodystat, the key seems to be easy access to government and regulators.
‘We know who eveyone is, and we know that if we have a problem, we can talk to someone and get it sorted out,’ said Kiartys sales director Steve Riding.

Much of this is a function of the small size of the community. However, it’s undeniable that it’s working. The island has a growing reputation as a centre for innovative high-tech; a fledgling space sector is now taking shape, and is home to one of the entrants in the Lunar X-prize.
Moore is now looking at establishing a technical college and forming links with universities in the Northwest region, where the Manx economy already has many links, with a view to fostering the skills needed by the sector and to attract university spin-outs to the island.
Perhaps that famous motorbike race, the TT, has fostered a different attitude to risk among the Manx community. But there certainly seems to be something in the air on the UK’s tiny neighbour which the UK government should take notice of. The Manx economy is doing many of the things that the UK seems to be still only talking about, and we could do a lot worse than take a look.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Get BIC help with your delicious business idea

Business Incubation can help Innovative Food Producers

Image from "Sell Your Speciality Food", a book  with info on how to Market, Distribute, and Profit from Your Kitchen Creation
Food producers are becoming more innovative and in trend as communities favour locally sourced foods with a trusted story behind them. 

Kate Lord, Incubator Manager explains “ You don’t have to look far for inspirational examples of individuals who have brought innovative food products to market that have turned out to be high growth.   Look at Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae sauce or Kirsty Henshaw of Worthenshaws Freedom.  The young female entrepreneur with no prior business experience developed dairy free frozen desserts and won investment from Dragons Den.  Innocent Smoothies started very small and got investment of £30m from Coca-Cola in 2009. Locally, we have success stories too.   The Apple Orphanage, Cocoa Red and The Original Manx Fudge Factory are great examples.   

These inspirational stories of achievement show that people of all backgrounds can achieve success as food producers, with the right focus, support and drive.  We’d like to help more of our emerging local food producer businesses through the Isle of Man Business Incubator.” 

So what is business incubation?
Business incubation is a business development process designed to accelerate and support the successful growth of early stage ventures.  The Isle of Man Business Incubator (BIC) is supported by the Isle of Man Government Department of Economic Development to assist Isle of Man start ups research, set up and grow.
What sort of business does BIC assist?
BIC’s primary focus is to support ventures with high growth potential.  This means supporting entrepreneurs whose business aims to create jobs and aspires to serve markets beyond the Isle of Man (exporting).  Additionally, business incubation is used in small communities to promote local sourcing (import replacement), diversify the economy, drive regeneration and support innovation.  In short, BIC selects clients that are doing something innovative in one way or another, and have an appetite for growth.  Many of our clients are technology or knowledge based companies.

How does BIC help businesses?
Support is flexible and tailored, depending on needs. It can range from help with research, idea validation, product development, business planning and marketing to providing mentorship and a place to work from. A key benefit accessed by incubator clients is the wealth of contacts and experts the incubator can provide. For example, we work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and have good connections with many local service providers who are keen to help start ups.  BIC helps guide entrepreneurs through the range of help available.

What sort of food, agriculture or environmental industry business may be assisted by Isle of Man Business Incubator?
BIC looks to help pre-start up or early stage businesses (less than 18 months old) with its Get Going Programme, which is free upon successful application.
Support can be relevant to:
- people planning or researching a business idea, product or invention
- those starting a business
- existing businesses planning a spin-out operation
- existing businesses looking for a new entrepreneurial team to take the business forward (aiding with succession issues in family business)
- people looking to get involved in a new venture, but not sure where to start.

To find out more or apply online visit or call 01624 647065 

Article written for AgriNews published by Isle of Man Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture