Scotland's Economy

Scottish Business Buzz (10.12.15)

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.27.07Irvine telemarketing company, Voca Telemarketing, will be Britain’s first call centre to give all 66 employees the voluntary living wage. After accreditation from the Poverty Alliance in Scotland on behalf of the Living Wage Foundation, all employees, regardless of age, will see their hourly pay rise to £8.25 from £6.70 an hour from 1st of January.

Almost half of the company’s workforce are between 18 and 24 years old. Voca said the move to introduce the living wage will help it recruit for 45 posts in January and February. The company’s move being a considerably better deal than the government’s national living wage premium of £7.20 an hour for over 25’s to take effect in April.

Victoria Edwards, Voca’s managing director said:

“We are very pleased to be the first call centre in Britain to be offering all staff the voluntary living wage.

“It is the morally and socially right course for employers to follow and together with good training will deliver staff productivity, retention and recruitment benefits. We hope our latest pay initiative sets the trend for the call centre industry as a whole where a large proportion of workers are under 25.”

Sarah Vero, the director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the living wage. We hope the leadership shown by Voca Telemarketing will encourage other call centres to review their own pay and reward packages, and consider how they too could become living wage employers.”

A typical employee working 166.5 hours a month will see their gross monthly pay rise from £1,115 to £1,373 next month.

Read the full Guardian story here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.37.15Opportunity North East (ONE), a new private sector body led by high-profile business figures, is set to invest £25million in four key sectors to broaden and strengthen the region’s economy, ensuring a sustainable economic future for the north east. The group will invest in “projects of scale and impact” across the oil and gas; food, drink and agriculture; life sciences; and tourism sectors.

Is it anticipated that at least £50m will be available to invest in the four sectors over the next five years.

The economic leadership board will be chaired by Sir Ian Wood and is largely drawn from the private sector, but will also include representatives from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, the city’s two universities, and a senior Scottish Enterprise representative.

Sir Ian Wood said: “ONE is the private sector’s response to the challenge of transforming our economy. Significant under investment in infrastructure, both physical and digital, a high cost of living and an economy dominated by oil and gas have combined to present us with a major challenge. The current downturn in oil and gas has cast the issues we face into even sharper relief and there are essentially two routes ahead. A renaissance which sees us revitalise the region’s economy or a slow decline towards becoming a museum for the golden age of North Sea oil and gas.

“The business community is increasingly aware of the bleak prospect that could face us if we don’t get our act together now and take concerted action to secure a sustainable and balanced economy in the future. ONE will therefore target its actions on sector-specific projects of scale – leveraging additional resources from the public and private sectors – which will realise the greatest returns for the region in the future, in terms of economic growth and employment.”

Four Sector Boards are being established under the direction of the ONE economic leadership board. Each sector initiative will have its own board, business plan, objectives and budget.

More on this story.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.43.27Scotland’s rural coastal and fishing communities are being encouraged to apply for a share of €107million (£77million) to support sustainable economic growth in the marine sector and mitigate the impact of the discard ban.

Currently Scotland only gets 1.9% of the total European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), despite landing 8% of the EU catch. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, is encouraging Scotland’s fishers and communities to apply and maximise the benefits of the funding package.

Mr Lochhead said: “Our fishing industry is a crucial part of many rural and coastal communities and I am encouraging them to apply for a share of €107million funding to support fishermen, processors, fishing communities and aquaculture sector.

“This funding will also help the fleet adapt to the challenges of the discard ban, to manage our natural resources, conserve fish stocks, and play a meaningful role in improving global food security.

“The importance of the new EMFF package to Scotland is clear and with the introduction of the discard ban it is more important than ever that Scottish interests are represented fairly and we get the best deal possible for our fishermen.”

The scheme is one of the European Structural and Investment Funds administered by the European Commission aimed at promoting “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” across the continent.

The European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will also help to further develop sustainable aquaculture, support the onshore seafood sector, and contribute towards training and safety advice throughout the supply chain.

The programme will open to applications on 18 January and will run until 2020.

Full story on Scottish Business News.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.55.33A total of £1.2m has been awarded to Scotland’s most promising start-ups as the Scottish Edge fund awards top £5m, a competition to identify Scotland’s top, innovative, early stage and high growth potential entrepreneurs.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.28.38High-value research and development facility created at Livingston plant of Californian photonic circuits maker Kaiam over the next few years, as it builds what its creator says could become a “billion dollar company”.

Kaiam’s Iranian-born chief executive Dr Bardia Pezeshki has moved from Silicon Valley to Edinburgh to network with Scottish universities, with a view to moving the company’s research and development from the US to Scotland if possible.

Dr Pezeshki said the company’s revenues had multiplied fourfold in the past year as a demand for its Scottish-made optronics product exploded.

Giant datacentre operators use huge numbers of servers – Google’s are said to be in the millions – which need to be linked together using optical connections. Kaiam’s MEMS technology exploits the original eight-inch wafer fabrication plant built by Kymata 17 years ago to produce photonic integrated circuits.

In the 30 months since Kaiam acquired the plant through its acquisition of Gemfire in April 2013, Scottish employment from the company has rocketed from 65 to 380. The aim is to find high-calibre engineers to create a research team in Scotland and Kaiam is already taking on promising young graduates and sending them to California for mentoring and training.

Dr Pezeshki said:

“The challenge for me is can I get advanced research and development and create IP in Scotland versus California. There are advantages here, people tend to be less mobile, when you get them they stay, it is cheaper than California where salaries are crazy, and the manufacturing line is here.

“It is top-notch, the best fab in the world for making these plcs – photonic lightwave circuits. We would not have come here if that factory wasn’t there. Part of it also is Scotland is a great place to live – if this was Shanghai I would not have moved my family.”

But Kaiam has already transferred some production away from China, the chief executive said. “When we acquired Gemfire we had some manufacturing in China at the time, we shut down the facilities we had there and moved things over to Scotland. Most people tend to move things to China but we did the exact opposite.”

But by 2008, the plant was employing just six people and had to be kept afloat with support from US private equity and the Scottish Venture Fund, recovering to employ 65 when sold by Gemfire to Kaiam. Two years ago the plant attracted a Scottish government grant of £850,000 to expand the site.

Dr Pezeshki founded Kaiam in 2010 and says the acquisition was perfectly timed to take advantage of the new datacentre market.

Full article on Kaiam Scottish research base in The Herald.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 13.20.58Proposed plans for a £700m commercial and residential development on 90 acres of land near Edinburgh airport have been submitted.

This first phase of the International Business Gateway is expected to create around 2.25 million sq ft of built space, with 1.3m sq ft being commercial and is led by Edinburgh based companies Murray Estates and New Ingliston together with a joint venture by Frogmore and Salmon Harvester.

The development is aimed at attracting onshore and international investment over a 30 year period, increasing regeneration of the land around Edinburgh airport being made more attractive by the arrival of the tram lines.

Jestyn Davies, director of Murray Estates said:

“Everyone is aware of the diminishing levels of grad A space in the city centre, which in turn is leading to higher rents on Edinburgh Park. International Business Gateway should help to ‘balance’ rental levels for quality office accommodation in Edinburgh, which is essential to attracting both investors and tenants.”

Martin Dalziel, director at New Ingliston said on the development:

“It is extremely unusual, with a proposal of this type and of this scale, for high end transport infrastructure to be already in place and fully operational before the first turf is cut. The seamless link the trams provide to Edinburgh Park, the central business district and both main railway stations will in itself help generate investors and occupier interest.”

It is hoped that work can begin for the Gateway in the middle of 2017.

Story on Daily Business.

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About the author

Rhona Middler

Rhona was Business for Scotland's Engagement Executive and Events Manager.

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