30 September 2012

Kirklees Business Conference

Kirklees Business Conference is an exhibition and series of seminars that takes place at the Glapharm stadium in the last week of September. It is the highpoint of Kirklees Business Week.  The Conference is one of a series of events that are organized by Yorkshire Business Conferences throughout the year.  Others are held at various times in other towns and cities in the county.

I visited the exhibition and attended a question and answer session with Ajaz Ahmed, Dean Hoyle and Graham Leslie.

There were some interesting exhibitors bit the ones that caught my eye were the Nanofactory, the Design Council, Leeds City Region, Finance Yorkshire and Eaton Smith. Surprisingly there was nobody from the Intellectual Property Office, :Leeds Patent Information Unit or any of the local patent agencies.  That promoted me to ask Messrs. Ahmed, Hoyle and Leslie why Yorkshire businesses were so uninterested in innovation (see "If Yorkshire were a country ........" 8 Aug 2012).

The answer that I got from Mr Leslie are that Yorkshire folk are not good at shouting about their  achievements.  Really?   Most anecdotes about Yorkshire folk note a superfluity of self-confidence rather than a dearth.   The panel agreed that we need to do something about reviving manufacturing and particularly volume manufacturing.   I pointed out that Yorkshire folk are unlikely to work for the sort of wages available in Brazil, China or India.   Finally, Ajaz Ahmed revealed that he loves shopping.  "Quite unusual for a man" he admitted.   Earlier in the week he had driven all the way to Chester to look at a new retailer.   But then that's his business.

27 September 2012

Launch of Huddersfield University's 3M Buckley Innovation Centre

At last year's Kirklees Business Week, Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor of Huddersfield University, announced plans to set up an innovation centre. This year's Kirklees Business Week saw the centre's launch by the Calderdale and Kirklees Manufacturing Alliance and I was there to support it.

The centre is known as the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre.  According to its website it is a "3,600 square metre. purpose built specialist environment creating a business facing centre for collaboration and research" which is intended to "act as a catalyst to promote business to business and business to higher education collaborations."

The Centre is built around "Innovation Avenue" which appears to be the central corridor shown on the floor plan to the left. The spaces on either side of that corridor will be let to businesses.  Tenants will enjoy access to such facilities as
- design and modelling
- prototyping and manufacturing
- workshops and wet laboratories
- precision measurement, and
- virtual laboratories
at the Centre.   In addition they will be able to enjoy many of the University's resources such as its library.

In his welcome speech, Patrick Allen, the Centre's Managing Director, explained that the mission was to provide access to growth. This was to be achieved through access to finance, access to markets and access to technology.   The University proposes to introduce its tenants to financial institutions, investors and professionals of all kinds who can provide such access. There will be a virtual community of tenants, investors, professionals and prominent business leaders who will mentor the tenants.

Other speakers at the event included

  • Isobel Mills of the Leeds Office of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills who raised quite a guffaw when she mentioned Vince Cable's Industrial Strategy
  • Brian Aungiers from UKTI who spoke about export, 
  • a chap from MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service)    called Steve who spoke at length about his organization, its consortium members and how they divide the country and 
  • David Boath of PERA who gave the most entertaining presentation of the evening on how a good design for a dishwasher can come from designing the worst possible dishwasher not to mention poaching salmon in a dishwasher which is how a lady in Usk uses her appliance.
The whole of Yorkshire - nay the whole of .the whole of the North England and beyond - seem to have innovation centres where universities and businesses meet one another - yet, as I pointed out in my intervention to Mr. Allen, innovation in this region lags well behind South East England.   Will the 3M Buckley make a difference and, if so, why?

I for one will certainly do my best to help the Centre.  I have offered to help on behalf of my network of patent and trade mark attorneys, solicitors, product design consultants, angels, financial institutions and other contacts with talks, clinics and any other way I can.

14 September 2012

Northern Ballet's Ondine

Undine, a fairy tale by Friedrich de la Motte Fouquée has inspired several films including Neil Jordan's, a number of operas including Tchaikovsky's and at least three ballets of which the most famous is probably Sir Frederick Ashton's. Ashton created the ballet for Dame Margot Fonteyn.to a score by Hans Werner Henze in 1958. It is a major three act work and was one of the Royal Ballet's staples in its golden age.  No wonder the choreographer David Nixon felt "intimidated by the history of Ashton's interpretation and the beautiful and challenging score of Henze" when asked to stage the work for Ballet du Rhin  and Northern Ballet.

I drove to the West Yorkshire Playhouse yesterday with considerable apprehension last night because I have seen Fonteyn dance and admire greatly Ashton's work. As I have said in "Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing 'Beauty and the Beast'" 31 Dec 2011 and "Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography" IP North West 24 Nov 2011, Northern Ballet is a good company and Nixon is a good choreographer but could they really carry this off?   Well as a matter of fact they have - and spectacularly.   In my humble opinion this is Nixon's best work yet.  Indeed, it is probably Northern Ballet's best work to date.

Though he has kept Henze's score Nixon's Ondine is very different from Ashton's.  Instead of a sprite appearing in a waterfall, Nixon's story begins with a child on a beach teasing a fisherman by stepping in his nets. That child is Ondine and her appearance in the prologue sets the theme for the rest of the ballet.  Last night that role was performed delightfully by Caitlin Noonan of the Northern Ballet Academy.   The grown up Ondine (Martha Leebold), falls in love not with Palemon but with a knight called Brand (Tobias Batley). They marry to the distress of Beatrice, (not Berta) danced by Dreda Blow.  A sort of Giselle in reverse but instead of tragedy Ondine takes pity on Beatrice and allows her to live with her and her husband. The ménage à trois turns out not to be a good idea and Beatrice and Brand decide to take a boat trip.  Brand's eyes wander towards Beatrice, a storm erupts and Ondine jumps overboard. Thinking that Ondine is dead Brand and Beatrice decide to marry but just as they do another storm breaks out and the sprite Ondine reappears from the sea to reclaim her husband.

The ballet creates very powerful roles not only for the three principals, Leabolod, Batley and Blow but also for Sebastian Low who danced the priest and Kevin Poeung and Hironao Takahashi and indeed several soloists and coryphees in a spectacular wedding divertissement in the third act. All were good and it is perhaps unfair to name names but my eye was caught by Matthew Broadbent.   I am sure the public will see a lot of him in the next few years.

The final ingredient of the success of the work was Jerome Kaplan's set and costumes working skilfully projected with the lighting team. Surf, for example, was represented by the hems of the girls' skirts as they entered silently onto the stage in the prologue and left silently at the end. The waves and eddies of the sea by ingenious photography or lighting that suggested photography.

All very well but this is supposed to be an intellectual property blog not an arts paper I hear my readers say. Well so it is and here is my IP lesson. Before the show an announcer warned the audience not to take any photos or movies with phones or cameras. Why? Because this ballet was a performance falling within Part II of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and performers rights are infringed by any fixation (that is to say recording) without their consent.  Bootlegging - filming and taping on an industrial scale - is actually an offence under the Act as well as an infringement of the  dancers' economic and moral rights.

Northern Ballet's Ondine is at the Quarry Theatre in the West Yorkshire Playhouse until tomorrow.

12 September 2012

Leeds City Region Growing Places Fund: £26 million Loan Fund

Earlier today a conference and exhibition took place at Bradford University to launch Base Leeds City Region. I was unable to attend the event so I have to rely on the event website which states that it would  "promote the City Region as a low carbon location and highlight opportunities arising from initiatives that are under way." I noticed that there had been similar events in London and Glasgow that had involved many of the great and the good of our country. All very worthy stuff.

Looking through the programme the item that caught my eye was an announcement by Neil McLean (Chair of Leeds City Region LEP) of a £26 million fund  for projects that are ready, but have been delayed and now need support to proceed.  This is known as the "Growing Places Fund" and appears to be open to all businesses and organizations of any size based in or looking to invest in the Leeds City Region. The fund will provide loans of between £250,000 and £5 million for capital investment in infrastructure such as expansion of business premises or the development of new road junctions.  Full details of the scheme are set out in the prospectus. Expressions of interest have to be communicated on a form that can be downloaded from the LEP's website by 1 Nov 2012.

There is also an interesting article on the Growing Places Fund and the Base Leeds City event by Ian Briggs on the Business Desk Website ("Growing Places Fund offers development opportunities" 11 Sep 2012).