News story: Business Secretary and Ministers hold meeting with leading retailers

Business Secretary Greg Clark chaired a roundtable today (22 February 2017) with the country’s top retailers and trade bodies to discuss the sector’s priorities and how the government’s Industrial Strategy can help the industry respond to future opportunities and challenges.

At the meeting, Greg Clark stressed the vital role the UK retail sector has as a driving force in our economy, and the critical part it has to play in delivering the government’s vision of an economy which works for everyone. The Business Secretary was joined by Small Business and Consumer Minister Margot James and Jane Ellison, Financial Secretary to the Treasury. They met chief executives from the UK’s top retailers including ASOS, Boots, Shop Direct, Co-op Group, Dixons Carphone, Sainsbury’s-Argos and Superdrug as well as key industry trade bodies, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Federation of Small Businesses and British Independent Retailers Association.

Following the meeting, Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“The retail sector makes an invaluable contribution to our economy, delivering £340 billion of sales in 2015 alone. It is vitally important that government and industry work closely together to help the sector create high skilled and high paying jobs across the UK, improve productivity and shape the future of retail in the UK.

“The retail roundtable was a great opportunity to discuss the sector’s priorities and how the government can support it through our Industrial Strategy, helping it build on its existing strengths, address challenges and seize new opportunities.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said:

“We are committed to ensuring that the retail industry is able to maximise its future contribution to the UK’s success. There is a strong partnership role for the retail industry to play in assisting in the development of the government’s Industrial Strategy, to contribute to a strong British economy in the future.

“The Industrial Strategy is an opportunity to collaborate to shape the implications of the industry’s transformation for the benefit of our customers, the workforce and the government’s productivity agenda.”

During the meeting the retail sector presented their initial thinking on a potential sector deal with government, including how skills, trade and place based activity could help drive up the productivity, growth and sustainability of the sector.

As well as getting feedback from retailers on how the government can support the sector through its Industrial Strategy, other topics that were discussed included the future direction of the sector and how it can help improve UK productivity.

A full list of participants:

  • Amazon
  • Asda
  • ASOS
  • Associated British Foods (Primark)
  • Association of Convenience Stores
  • British Independent Retailers Association
  • British Retail Consortium
  • Co-op
  • Dixons Carphone
  • Federation of Small Businesses
  • GFirst LEP
  • John Lewis Partnership
  • Kingfisher
  • Lloyds Pharmacy
  • Marks and Spencer
  • WM Morrisons
  • National Federation of Retail Newsagents
  • Sainsbury’s-Argos
  • Shop Direct
  • Superdrug (Hutchison Whampoa Europe Ltd)
  • Tesco
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance

Are you affected by the recent energy price increase?

GAS2017 is off to an expensive start for consumers, with 3 of the UK biggest energy suppliers announcing price increases.

There was some good news for customers of British Gas. The supplier announced earlier this month that it's keeping its current gas and electricity prices the same until August 2017. The "Big Six" Energy Supplier claims it is able to freeze energy bills in the face of higher wholesale prices by cutting costs.

So far, British Gas is the only supplier to announce a price freeze that will take customers through until the summer with SSE and E.ON saying that prices will remain the same for customers until April 1st 2017.

Price Hikes

Customers with Scottish Power, Npower and EDF Energy can all expect higher than normal bills from March:

• Scottish Power's standard electricity prices will increase by an average of 10.8% and gas prices by 4.7%. About one third of its customers - 1.1 million people - will be affected by the change.
• Npower is raising its standard tariff electricity prices by 15% from 16 March, and gas prices by 4.8%.
• EDF Energy cut its gas prices by 5.2% in January, but its electricity prices are due to rise by 8.4% on 1 March.

Announcing the price increases, Colin McNeill, UK retail director for Scottish Power said: "This price change follows months of cost increases that have already led to significant rises in fixed price products that now unfortunately have to be reflected in standard prices."

In a statement, energy regulator Ofgem said: "We would urge consumers to take advantage of the deals available from the many different suppliers and to shop around for a better deal if their supplier puts up their prices. This will put pressure on all suppliers to ensure they run their businesses efficiently to keep any impact on bills as low as possible."

When Npower announced its price rises, Ofgem told the supplier to "justify" to its customers why it was introducing one of the largest increases for years.

Energy price rises are likely to fuel inflation concerns.

Rising air fares and food prices helped to push up UK inflation to 1.6% in December, its highest rate since July 2014.

The only way to stop the price hike is to shop around, see what you could save by comparing energy suppliers today. Energylinx offer a free and impartial online comparison and switching service. If you would rather speak to one of our advisors, our call centre is open Monday to Friday 09:00 - 08:00, Saturday 09:00 - 17:00 and Sunday 10:00 - 17:00.

Ferrari looks to piston innovation and 3D printing for F1 2017

209. Ferrari looks to piston innovation and 3D printing for F1 2017

Ferrari looks to implement 3D printing technology for an innovative piston design that could deliver a major boost for its 2017 Formula 1 engine.

Failing to match its bold pre-season expectations in 2016, this year Ferrari’s efforts are taking place under a strict code of silence as of orders from president Sergio Marchionne. A lot of work has been progressing in Maranello to make a much-needed step forward.

The development of the 668 project is well developed and should make its public debut at Fiorano for a filming day later this week (February 24) – with the Formula 1 car set to be revealed as has been the case in previous years.

Engine department chief designer Sassi Lorenzo and Enrico Gualteri, responsible for assembly, hope to complete these crucial changes that technical director Mattia Binotto anticipates to be a major breakthrough.

It is tipped that the main focus of change will be in combustion, with the chamber set for a considerable increase in pressure thanks to the latest work on the Turbulent Jet Ignition System that has been used in recent years.

It’s proposed that a new micro-injector design from Magneti Marelli will help create the perfect flame for the ignition chamber to increase performance, and reduce fuel use.

The changes will put the engine under intense forces, with the possibility of 400 bar pressure – plus a big increase in temperature that can be a threat to reliability.

Focusing on innovation, Ferrari is revolutionising its approach to engine design in order to meet its targets. Tests are now ongoing about a new piston design concept that uses a new steel alloy.

Although the FIA rules limit the materials manufacturers can use, Ferrari is looking to move away from aluminium that is commonly used. Aluminium alloys are lighter than steel and also have less ability to resist deformation and not break in extreme temperatures.

The extra weight in moving car parts such as the pistons is a major issue – thus the focus on finding a solution that performs better and has more reliability. In the hopes of finding the right alloy, Maranello engineers are evaluating the latest 3D printing technologies (known in the industry as Additive Manufacturing).

By using this technique, engineers can build up thin layers on material one at a time, making it possible to create complex shapes that would have been impossible to create using traditional casting and machining methods.

3D printing allows a degree of freedom, allied to the speed of production – this has opened up a new frontier of design development that for something that was once restricted to prototyping plastic parts for wind tunnel models.

Materials such as steel alloys can now be considered because you no longer have to manufacture full surfaces. Honeycomb designs are possible, and bring the advantage of strength without the disadvantage of weight.

It’s unlikely that Ferrari is alone in looking at this new technology, and Binotto is hoping to get the performance improvements on track sooner rather than later. This could be as early as the start of the season.


Image Credit: XPB Images

Policy paper: Draft Spaceflight Bill

This document contains:

  • a joint ministerial forward from the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • draft Spaceflight Bill
  • explanatory notes to the draft Bill

The draft Bill is part of a wider government programme to stimulate the market for space activities (primarily small satellite launch) and sub-orbital spaceflight activities in the United Kingdom from 2020.