29 April 2011

Right Funds 4U Hull 13 April 2011

Having a bright idea is one thing. Taking it to market is quite another. In most cases a road to market requires money and unless you are rich you have to seek it from someone else.

For many would-be tycoons, this is an insuperable obstacle largely because they do not understand basic concepts such as the difference between lending and investment or long term assets and working capital.

This is why the Connect Yorkshire seminar "Right Funds 4U" which took place at the Hull Office of Rollits LLP on 13 April 2011 was so useful. Four speakers:
  • Paul Forth of NatWest Bank
  • Barrie Hensby from Finance Yorkshire
  • Steve McEwen from Beer & Partners, and
  • Andy Jewitt from Sadofskys
spoke about bank lending, venture capital, angel investment and grant funding respectively. Also present were Susanne Gilbert from YABA and Alan Clegg from Business Link Yorkshire.

Paul Forth started by asserting that banks are still in the business of lending, In his presentation he introduced the audience to the difference between debt and equity. He then outlined the sources of finance such as friends and family, business angels, private equity, the stock market and commercial banks. He talked about leasing and asset finance, factoring and invoice discounting and the enterprise guarantee scheme. He then discussed what financiers are looking for namely management and staff, products and services, markets and marketing and vision and strategy. He also flagged up what financiers are particularly wary of such as forecasts based on published as opposed to primary research and wildly optimistic sales figures. Finally, he told us what makes his bank stand out from the crowd.

For my money, the most interesting speaker was Barrie Hensby, one of the investment
direcctors of Finance Yorkshire. Finance Yorkshire offers a variety of financial products: seed corn, loans and equity. Barrie outlined those services and Finance Yorkshire's portfolio. He then introduced the audience to the concept of venture capital and how to get it. He explained what a suitable
investment would look like and gave us a couple of case studies. You can call Barrie on 01226 323737 or email him on barrieh@finance-yorkshire.com.

Barrie was followed by Steve McEwan of Beer & Partners and he was very entertaining. He made us hold hands for no particular reason and then asked us to raise our hands if we wanted to make loadsamoney. But there was a lot of substance in his talk. He explained what was me ant by angel finance, who business angels are, what they want, where to find them and how to attract them. Finally, Steve introduced Andrew Wilson, the network's regional development for Yorkshire.

The last speaker was Andy Jewitt and he had the most difficult slot partly because it was about grant funding which is in short supply but also because it stood in the way of the refreshments. Strangely enough, Andy omitted to mention J4B which is a great database of grant funding.

Connect Yorkshire, which is a not-for-profit company that helps businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber get the funding that they need, has advertised another Right Funds 4U event in Knaresborough on 21 June 2011. Also worth exploring is The Investment Readiness Bootcamp in Sheffield on 19 and 26 May 2011. According to my mate, Steve Knowles, who teaches the course, its real value lies in the the tips on business plan writing and coaching in pitching to investors.

Finally, those who didn't attend the session can find an introduction to funding, an overview and info on grants, loans, community development finance institutions, angel funding and private equity funding on my Inventors Club website. Anyone who wants to discuss any of these topics further should call me on 0800 862 0055 or through our contact form.

12 April 2011

Sheffield LEP: NAMTEC Questions and Answers

Earlier today I attended a Question and Answer Session on the Sheffield Local Enterprise Partnership at the Rotherham Holiday Inn organized by NAMTEC (the National Metal Technologies Centre). The speakers were LEP Board Members, David Grey, managing director of OSL Group Ltd. and Philip Bartey, Group Chief Executive of the Adsetts Partnership.
I counted 40 names on the delegate list which included representatives from industry, the universities, the law and other professions and local government. Judging by the number of name tags, when I arrived there were very few no shows. The meeting was quite unstructured. Save for a glossy about NAMTEC there were no delegate materials.

As soon as I had settled in I asked the speakers what exactly was the legal status of the Sheffield local enterprise partnership. Unlike the regional development agencies they were not established by statute. Their membership seemed quite fluid in that one local authority, Barnsley, managed to belong to both Leeds and Sheffield City Region LEPs. They apparently needed the approbation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for the Communities, but why? Why did the LEPs have to be in adjacent authorities. Surely there was more synergy in function and economic interest than geography. The answer that I got was that there really was no formal legal structure. There was no provision for LEPs in the Localism Bill. The board members were unpaid and exceedingly worthy but also unelected. In that regard, I could not help comparing them to the Senate of the Venetian Republic.

The next question concerned the Regional Growth Fund. That elicited the answer that the criteria for awards under the scheme were jobs. Jobs now to soak up public sector redundancies. Not jobs in the future, to quote Lord Heseltine. That seems to be confirmed by the latest press release on the first round of awards.

Someone else asked about enterprise zones. The speakers said that the LEP had been tasked with drawing up criteria for the enterprise zones. David Grey invited our suggestions. A lady behind me suggested start-ups. Grey replied that start-up businesses are the ones most likely to fail. I suggested that Meadowhall which has been built on an old steel mill a few miles away were a good example of what could be done. The speakers' responded that Meadowhall had devastated Sheffield and Rotherham City Centres. I replied that they were missing the point. The idea was to match jobs to skill sets and Meadowhall did that spectacularly well. There was more to the site than retailing. There was demolition, earthworks, construction, distribution, entertainment, culture and leisure. Redundant steel workers were much more likely to find a job in a project like that than a biotech start-up.

Finally there was some discussion on British competitiveness. The speakers said that we Brits excelled in talking ourselves down and we should celebrate our achievements occasionally. I did not contribute to that debate but I couldn't help thinking that complacency was a greater danger than self denigration.

There were a few minutes for networking after the talk when I met patent librarian Lynne Hinchcliff and Joyce Gray from Sheffield City Libraries, Andy Curtis from Global Innovation Partners, Jayne Mezulis from Export & Import Consultancy Services and, of course, the speakers themselves.

6 April 2011

Patent Ownership Co-Ownership and Corporate Ownership

This was the title of Roger Lowe's talk to Sheffield Inventors Group on Monday. Roger is proprietor of ip4all, an intellectual property consultancy in Huddersfield.

He began his talk by quoting Mark Getty:
"Intellectual property is the oil of the 21 century. Look at the richest men a hundred years ago; they all made their money extracting natural resources or moving them around. All today’s richest men have made their money out of intellectual property."
Roger then discussed patents as property rights, something that can be bought, sold or charged. He considered ownership and warned that:
"The mere suggestion of co-ownership of patents makes the blood of IP practitioners run cold."
Co-ownership must be adopted only as a last resort.
Too true. He then explained why. Having told us why co-ownership is a bad thing he considered some of the alternatives such as licensing and corporate ownership. The best time to consider these issues is before the application for a patent but not every patent agent tells you that.

There will be no Inventors' Group meeting for May because the first Monday falls on the Mayday Bank Holiday but there will be an exhibition at Central Library to celebrate World IP Day on 26 April 2011. If you want to join the club or set up an inventors' club in your own area call us on 0800 862 0055 or complete our contact form.

4 April 2011

Forthcoming Events: Right Funds 4 U, Hull 13 April 2011

My friend John Coulter of Business Link sent me this flyer for a free seminar on attracting investment for a new business. Speakers include a banker, business angel, venture capitalist and grant advisor. The event takes place at Rollitts in Hull on 13 April 2011 at 17:30 and you can book through Connect Yorkshire's website.

Daffodils at Farndale

This post has nothing to do with intellectual property but everything to do with our beautiful county of Yorkshire.

Every year the banks of the Rover Dove in Farndale are carpeted with a magnificent display of daffodils. Here is a snap that I took with my BleckBerry yesterday afternoon. If you want to learn more about Farndale and its daffodils visit Farndale Online.


3 April 2011

Forthcoming Evens: Sheffield Inventors Group and Open Coffee

Two interesting events coming up this week.

Tomorrow at 18:00 Dr Roger Lowe, an independent IP consultant who practises as IP 4 All, will be guest speaker at Sheffield Inventors Group. Roger writes:
"one issue which is often overlooked by many patent attorney’s is the provision of advice with regard to the identification of the most appropriate person/body in whose name the patent application should be filed. Many inventors simply file applications in their own name or names, but should they be thinking about establishing a company and filing the patent in the name of the company. I was planning to address the issues of ownership, co-ownership and corporate ownership and the pros and cons of the various options."

The meeting will take place at Sheffield Central Library, Surrey Street, Sheffield, S1 1XZ.

The next day at 10:00 Open Coffee Leeds will hold its monthly meeting at

Old Broadcasting House,
148 Woodhouse Lane,

This is an informal gathering of creatives, entrepreneurs, geeks, investors and others which takes place on the second Tuesday of every month. Tickets are free and can be ordered for any Open Coffee gathering through Eventbrite.

2 April 2011

The Huddersfield Choral Society Rose

On page 31 of the programme for yesterday's concert by the Huddersfield Choral Society in Huddersfield town hall there is a picture of a beautiful rose. I've scoured the internet for an image of it but the best I can do is direct you to page 2 of the January 2011 issue of the Choral's newsletter which you can find on issuu.

The advertisement describes the rose as "floribunda in a deep mauve with a silver underside." It has been bred specially for the Society by a Mr. R Rawlins of Fixby to celebrate its 175th anniversary. The first 60 shrubs should be delivered from October of this year and will retail at £10 and there will be a second growing next year. After 2013 the rose will be available commercially from R V Roger Ltd. of Pickering. If you want one of those roses you should contact Jenny Lockwood on 01484 666827.

New plant varieties can be protected in the United Kingdom by registering the species with the Plant Variety and Seeds Office under the Plant Varieties Act 1997. Registration with the Office confers an intellectual property right known as "plant breeder's right". Registration confers the right on the holder to prevent:
  • production or reproduction (multiplication),
  • conditioning for the purpose of propagation,
  • offering for sale, selling or other marketing, exporting, importing, stocking for any of the above purposes, or
  • any other act prescribed for the purposes of that provision without his authority.
Alternatively, plant breeders in the UK can seek protection in all member states of the European Union by registering with the Community Plant Variety Office under Regulation 2100/04. The British government is party to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants which has established UPOV (The Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) in Geneva. If you want more information on plant breeders rights you can read my article on Plant Varieties on my IP/IT Update website. If you have a specific issue relating to plant varieties you can contact me on 0800 862 0055 or by filling in my contact form.

Returning to the concert itself, I can only say that it was the best performance of the Choral that I have ever attended. Three works were performed yesterday:
Being a balletomane I was already familiar with such works as Firebird and the Rite of Spring. The Symphony of Psalms was exquisite, especially the setting of Psalm 150. On being told at the pre-concert talk that Harvey's Messages consisted entirely of the names of angels, I was somewhat apprehensive about that work. All I can say was that it worked and that it was eminently suitable for what I call the Huddersfield sound. If you want to know what I mean compare the Choral's Dies Irae in Verdi's Requiem with that of any other choir. It was. incidentally, the first time I had ever heard a cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument that can best be described as a sort of manual piano. However, for me the best part of the programme was the Bruckner mass at the end.

The concert was to have been conducted by Martyn Brabbins but owing to Brabbins's indisposition the Chorus Master Joseph Cullen took his place. From my perspective, Cullen did a very good job indeed.

Huddersfield Choral Society is one of our great institutions. If you want to follow the Society they are on Facebook, Linkedin and twitter. Now in their 175th season, they are certainly worth following.

1 April 2011

Creative Networks: Lizzie Mary Cullen - Off the Wall!

Creative Networks is a networking group for professionals in the creative industries which meets at Leeds College of Art on the last Thursday of every month. In the three years that I have been coming to its meetings I have heard talks by Jimmy Choo, David Parrish and many others in the arts and creative industries establishment.

This month it was the turn of Lizzie Mary Cullen. Cullen is an illustrator and designer who has done a great deal in a very short time. Still only 25 she has worked for such household names as Zizzi restaurants, MTV and Harvey Nichols.

Totally charming and unassuming she won her audience over from the start by telling a really terrible joke but in a way that was really funny. She followed up with a brief auto-biography and then three short videos of some of her recent work. She finished her short presentation with another joke - this one even worse than the first and yet even funnier.

The films that she showed us are on her website at http://www.lizziemarycullen.com. There is also a gallery of her work on that site which I really like. You can also follow her on twitter.

Creative Networks was until recently funded by Business Link Yorkshire. The loss of the regional Business Link cannot have been easy for Creative Networks and it is good to see that the network is still here. But it needs support and, if possible, money. Before the talk Bridget March asked for ideas for raising money that do not imperil its independence. If you can help or just want information about the network and its events you can email Bridget on bridgetm@leeds-art.ac.uk.