31 October 2010

Manchester Inventors Group: 2 Nov 2010 18:00

The next Meeting of Manchester Inventors Group will take place at the Becker Room on the 1st floor of the City Library, Elliot House, 151 Deansgate at 18:00 on Tuesday 2 November 2010.

There will be a talk by David Martin titled "Want Business funding?" Mr. Martin is business development manager at Business Finance Solutions which is a community development finance institution ("CDFI"). He will talk about the funding solutions his CDFI offers for innovation, invention and technology, as well as normal businesses that
cannot obtain funding from traditional banks. A not-for-profit, Government-backed initiative, CDFI provide alternative finance for existing and start up businesses in the region, with £950,000 of European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) available to lend to new and existing businesses,
specifically in the technology sector.

As ever this is an opportunity to network with other inventors and talk to support agencies in a safe and confidential environment. If you need any further information about this meeting, do not hesitate to contact Chris Brown on 0161 234 1991.

30 October 2010

Government's Strategy on Growth published at last

The Coalition's long awaited white paper on local growth has now been published and can be downloaded here. It is intended to implement part of the government's strategy to stimulate growth set out in its green paper "A Strategy for Sustainable Growth" published last July.

The Coalition's strategy is very different from that of the outgoing Labour government's which was based on funnelling funds through the Regional Development Agencies and Business Link networks. The new strategy focuses on creating conditions for growth and promises very little money apart from infrastructure improvements and the Regional Growth Fund.

As most of us are used to a more corporatist model, the government's thinking is hard to follow. Those who want to understand the thinking behind it should read the Department for Business Innovation and Skills economic paper "Understanding Local Growth" also published this month. Without an economics background, this paper is hard going, but the important bit is the table on page 10. That shows that productivity per person has actually fallen during the years in which the RDAs existed in every region except London and the South-East and that growth has been appreciably slower outside those regions. That paper taken as a whole has convinced me of the need to try something else.

For most readers of this blog the most important things to mention are local enterprise partnerships ("LEPs") and the Regional Growth Fund ("RGF"): -

  • LEPs I discussed local enterprise partnerships in my article of 21 Oct "Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take Shape". In its white paper the government announced that it had accepted 24 of the 62 proposals to establish local enterprise partnerships. These include the proposals from "city regions" like Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield as well as those from predominately rural areas like Cornwall, Cumbria and the Marches. It will be from those local enterprise partnerships and any business support services that they may sponsor that the private inventors, who now look to Business Link and the RDAs, will obtain advice and help on commercializing their inventions in future.
  • RGF: The money that used to be channelled through the RDAs will now come through the RGF which is now accepting bids (see "Information for Applicants" and the application form guidance). It should be noted that there will be a lot less money about than before and that it will be targeted.
I shall keep readers of this blog informed of developments.

29 October 2010

Sheffield Inventors Group

The next meeting of Sheffield Inventors' Group is on Monday 1 Nov, 18:00 to 19:45.

The guest speaker will be Gail Cherry of Torchlight Coaching, who will be running an interactive session entitled ' Make a commercial opportunity happen'.

Her theme will be: "How the process of business planning helps balance the strong attachment to your invention, to gain focus on the business of getting it to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, for the right price."

As always, the venue for the meeting is

Reference and Information Library
Central Library
Surrey Street
S1 1XZ

Contact Pat Weston on 0114 2734736
Email: information.library@sheffield.gov.uk

26 October 2010

Resources for Inventors in North East England

On 9 September 2010 Mark Prisk, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, announced a new collaboration between the British Library, NESTA, Newcastle City Library and Northumberland University for a new Business and IP Centre in the City along the lines of the British Library's Business and IP Centre in London (see "Mark Prisk announces new business advisory service" on the Real Business website).

What's There Now?
That announcement prompted me to look at what is available for private inventors in the North East and indeed the rest of the country. As I want to provide a resource for inventors in the North East I should be very grateful if folk from the region could let me know if I have missed anything. They can get in touch with me either through our contact form or on our local number 0191 580 8090.

Inventors' Clubs
First up is that there does not seem to be a local inventors' club in North-East England. I could not find one either through googling, the excellent WRTI's directory of inventors' clubs or any other source. Now there are patent attorneys and patent clinics in the region so there must be inventors, As inventors like to get together there are almost certainly informal gatherings of inventors. But that is not the same thing as a club with regular meeting, networking and mutual assistance. Having helped set up the inventors clubs in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield and having supported the ones in Blackburn and Manchester we'd like to help. Again, if any local inventor, patent librarian, business angel, local government officer or entrepreneur would like our help, please let us know.

According to the City library website intellectual property advice is available at the City Library in the Charles Avison Building, 33 New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AX on Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons. Appointments can be booked through information@newcastle.gov.uk or 0191 227 4100. According to the CIPA website this advice is provided by local patent agents.

The City Library at 33 New Bridge Street is a member of the PatLib network and offers lots of printed and on-line resources on all aspects of business law including patent, trade mark and registered design searches for which it charges a fee.

In addition to national banking, angel and VC networks there are several strong local financial institutions. These include the Entrust business angel network and 4 local community development finance institutions, namely Five Lamps, Northern Pinetree Trust, PNE Group and Street North East.

Regional Development
The Regional Development Agency ("RDA") for the North East England is One North East which, of course, will go the way of the other RDAs very shortly (see "Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take shape" 21 Oct 2010). There is a regional Business Link based at Spectrum 6, Spectrum Business Park, Seaham, SR7 7TT, Tel: 0845 600 9 006. The RDAs will be replaced by local enterprise partnerships ("LEPs") and proposals have been submitted for County Durham, Northumberland, North Tyneside and the whole North East. Some of these can be accessed from the BIS website.

Professional Advice
There are lots of patent and trade mark agents and some law firms that belong to the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association in Newcastle and other towns and cities in the region. We don't yet know any of them well enough to recommend for private inventors who will have limited budgets and would advise such clients to ask around and shop around and let us know what they find. The same goes for accountants, business advisers, marketing consultants, product designers. We have a page on Inventors Resources for North East England on the Inventors Club website which we will update as and when we can.

Further Information
We have an Inventors Club group on Linkedin which covers developments affecting inventors throughout the UK which you can join. You can of course also join the Inventors Club if you want. The Membership Rules are here. There is no subscription but we may charge for special services such as showcasing inventions and access to professional services.

23 October 2010

IP Insurance Five Years On

Exasperated by the absence of British companies among the top 10 companies that had been granted UK patents between 2004 and 2005 I wrote in September 2005 the article “Why are there no British Names in the Patent Office's Top Ten?” The reason then as now was that the cost of obtaining and enforcing a patent in the UK was beyond the means of most small and medium enterprises. In the article I discussed the ways in which intellectual property infringement litigation could be funded and came to the conclusion that before the event insurance was probably the best option. The very next day I wrote the article “IP Insurance: Does it Work?” and mentioned one instance where it seemed to do so. The next day in this blog I wrote an article especially on “IP Insurance”.

Since 2005 the following developments have taken place:

· S.74A and s.74B of the Patents Act 1977 (providing for advisory opinions by the Intellectual Property Office on patent infringement and validity) have come into force;

· Sir Rupert Jackson has reviewed and reported on Civil Litigation Costs; and

· the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Directions have been amended to limit costs in Patents County Court actions at £50,000 on liability and £25,000 on quantum which theoretically makes litigation in the Patents County Court only marginally more expensive than in Germany.

The cheapest intellectual property insurance service that I could find in 2005, Intellectual Property Insurance Consultants, is no longer with us but its prime mover Ian Macleod seems to be working now for Alfa Insurance Facilities. Ian Lewis who made Miller into what appeared to be the market leader in this sector in 2005 has founded Samian Underwriting Agency. David Freer, who used to be with HSBC Insurance Consultants, is now a director of Marsh. However, I have also found several new entrants to the market.

Below are the intellectual property insurance services that I have been able to identify. If anyone knows of any broker, underwriter or other intellectual property insurance service provider that I should add to this list, please let me know.

Service Provider


Abbey Legal Protection

0870 600 1480

Alfa Insurance Facilities

Ian Macleod 01903 23 22 86

Camberford Law

020 8315 5066

Charles Milnes & Co.

020 7923 4655

Marsh Brokers Ltd.

David Freer 07770 740237

McParland Finn Ltd.

Mark Philimore 0113 366 2369

Miller Insurance

020 7031 2819

Professional Insurance Agents Ltd.

01323 648000

Samian Underwriting Agency

Ian Lewis 020 7954 4430

Temple Legal Protection

01483 577877

21 October 2010

Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take Shape

At their meeting at Bradford on 29 June 2010. the Cabinet resolved to abolish the Regional Development Agencies ("RDAs") and replace them with Local Enterprise Partnerships ("LEPs").

The Ministers' Letter
That same day Dr. Vince Cable, the President of the Board of Trade etc, and Mr. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities, sent a letter to local government and business leaders inviting them to arrange for local groups of councils and business leaders to come together to develop proposals for such LEPs.

LEPs' Powers
It is clear from the ministers' letter that these new LEPs can be nothing like as powerful as the RDAs they are intended to replace. For a start, attracting inward investment, sector leadership, business support and innovation and access to funds are to be handled nationally while regional strategy is to be abandoned altogether. The new partnerships will be left with such weighty matters as planning, housing, local infrastructure and business startups. The letter envisaged equal representation for local government and business on the governing bodies and that those organs would usually be chaired by a prominent local businessman.

Deadlines Missed and Kept
Dr. Cable and Mr. Pickles promised a white paper on "sub-national" (the adjective "sub-national" apparently being Newspeak for "regional") growth by the summer. As it is now October that has clearly not happened Even though the government has missed its own deadline it insisted on submissions from local authority and business syndicates by 6 September. This was a very tight deadline slightly over 2 months from the original letter that appears to have taken no account of annual holidays.

Proposals Received So Far
Remarkably, nearly 60 proposals were received by that deadline. Some of these have been published on the grandiloquently named Department for Business, Innovation and Skills's ("BIS") website. If the ministers had seriously hoped that groups of local authorities and businesses would get together, they must be disappointed. For the Greater Newcastle conurbation there have been no less than 4 separate proposals from Northumberland and North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland and County Durham. Several proposals cover the same area: the Greater Manchester metropolitan authorities and the Peel Group have both submitted proposals for Manchester and there are separate proposals for the Gatwick Diamond and the "Brighton and Hove, Croydon, the Gatwick Diamond and West Sussex - Coast to Capital" project. Instead of local collaboration the proposals appear to show a revival of local rivalries.

Some clues as to funding that may be available after the dismantling of the RDAs come from two consultation papers which BIS did get round to publishing over the summer:
  • a green paper on a £1 billion regional growth fund announced by the Cabinet in Bradford "to encourage private sector enterprise, including social enterprise, and capacity, and in doing so create opportunities for people and places to adjust to reductions in public spending"; and
  • "Financing a Private Sector Recovery" (Cm 7923) a consultation on access to funding in the private sector.
It is clear from those consultation documents that only money that could be available to the LEPs will be the regional growth fund. My initial view is that £1 billion spread over 8 of the 9 regions of England is not very much. Such a sum is unlikely to create much opportunity in places where there are likely to be massive public expenditure cuts.

Local Business Advice
One of the first casualties of the abolition of the RDAs are likely to be local and regionalBusiness Link services. In an interview with Jason Hesse on the Real Business website, Mark Prisk, the Business Minister, announced:
“We’re going to wind down the Regional Development Agencies, and as part of those, we’ll be winding down the regional Business Link contracts.”
These will be replaced by a state funded online service - presumably the existing Business Link website possibly under the "Solutions for Business" brand - and greater use of existing service providers such as chambers of commerce and local authorities. The proposal for a new business information service to be provided by thee British Library, NESTA, Newcastle City Council and Northumbria University is probably something like the model Mr. Prisk had in mind (see "Mark Prisk announces new business advisory service" on the Real Business website).