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UK Labour party wants to tackle rogue American candy stores

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A shelf of a candy store in Oxford Street, London
Council is investigating unpaid business rates of around £9 million from over 20 candy shops in London | Photo: Perry Merrity II

The UK Labour has urged the government to tackle the rogue American candy stores in Britain.

Just at Oxford Street, in the West End of London, Europe’s busiest shopping street with around half a million daily visitors, the number of candy outlets grew steadily during Covid and now takes over premises previously occupied by shops such as Next, The Body Shop, Forever 21, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. However, these stores are often run out of shell companies and avoid paying full business rates, ripping off taxpayers in the process.

Labour wants a “new shops bonus” for any such legitimate business that opens a new location on a shopping street, with an initial focus on the West End of London.

It aims for a three-month business rates ‘holiday’ in the first year of a company moving to new premises. It would be funded using money that currently goes to landlords to alleviate the issue of empty properties.

“However, the sharp rise in dodgy candy stores has been blighting high streets and ripping off the taxpayer.

“We are calling on the Government to work with councils, including Westminster City Council, to incentivise legitimate businesses to open-up on the high street – rather than these shell companies that avoid paying their bills and commit other offences,”, said Shadow Treasury minister James Murray.

Westminster City Council is currently investigating unpaid business rates of around £9 million from 26 shops in Oxford street. Around £1 million of counterfeit and illegal goods has been seized by the council over the past 18 months, including dodgy and unsafe vapes.

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Startups seeking funding will pitch on Leap Day in freezing temperatures

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A competitor training in a ice role ahead of the Polar Bear Pitching event
Aura Pyykönen, from Natal Mind: cold enthusiast will be pitching her startup in Oulu this week

Whatever you are doing with your extra day this leap year probably isn’t as cold as the challenge some startups from around the world are facing in Finland: participating in a competition by pitching from an ice hole this February 29th.

The Polar Bear Pitching, hosted in Oulu, a city 600Km from Helsinki, has attracted startups from as far as Japan and Kazakhstan to pitch for a chance to secure investors and win a €10,000 prize. Finnish startups and businesses from Norway and Iceland will also be joining the contest today.

“We are currently raising our first seed round and entered the Polar Bear Pitching contest as an impactful way to express the vision and mission of our venture to potential investors in Europe,” says Sajjad Kamal Shuvro, a Bangladeshi who has been living in Japan for 7 years now. He is the co-founder of Floatmeal, a He is the co-founder of Floatmeal, a company that uses technology to produce the next-generation plant-based superfoods.

Oulu is one of the world’s leading concentrations in the health and wellness industry. Obstetrician and gynaecologist Aura Pyykönen will be competing at the Polar Bear Pitching for the first time on behalf of her own startup, an AI-powered birth coaching program based on the Nordic method designed for pregnant women and their partners.

“We thought pitching at the Polar Bear Pitching will be absolutely cool and great way to get visibility for Natal Mind, a redesigned perinatal journey for a calmer mind  and improved birth outcomes,” says Pyykönen who is a cold enthusiast and has been training ahead of the event.

The last time Polar Bear Pitching took place as an in-person event, in Oulu, was in 2019. For 2024 the program includes an IceTech Summit exploring topics such as artificial intelligence and printed electronics.

For those who are not in Finland or didn’t manage to secure a ticket to watch the Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu, the event will be broadcast from 6 PM  Eastern European Time (EET) on www.polarbearpitching.com.

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Birmingham joins global network of design and digital consultancies

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Representatives of the Design Factory Birmingham
Based at Aston University, expertise in areas such as 3D printing will be shared to boost the local economy

Birmingham has become the latest city to join a global network of design and digital consultancies set up to solve real world challenges through effective problem-solving.

Design Factory Birmingham will be based at Aston University, one of just two hubs in the UK outside of London.

The city has officially joined the Design Factory Global Network earlier this month. As a result, businesses, industry partners, entrepreneurs, staff and students will be able to collaborate on projects that will involve technologies such as 3D printers and design software.

The University will be sharing its expertise in artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, data science and web, app and graphic design to boost the local economy.

Currently there are 39 innovation hubs in 25 countries across five continents based in universities and research organisations.

The Design Factory will include a space named after the late Dame Margaret Weston, former director of the Science Museum. Dame Margaret had studied electrical engineering at one of Aston University’s predecessor institutions and went on to be the first woman appointed to lead a national museum. She left a generous gift to Aston University in her will, which will be commemorated in the Birmingham Design Factory in honour of her engineering background.

“The Design Factory Birmingham is another key milestone in our ambition to be a leader in science, technology, and innovation, driving socio-economic transformation in our city and region.  It is important to the Midlands because it will make a direct contribution to innovation led growth in partnership with industry and businesses.  However, this is not only a local launch but also a global launch as Design Factory Birmingham is a global innovation hub, and an integral part of the Design Factory Global Network involving 39 innovation hubs around the world,” says The Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, Professor Aleks Subic. 

“Shared understanding and common ways of working enable Design Factories in the network to collaborate efficiently across cultures, time zones and organisational boundaries fostering radical innovations,” says the head of the Design Factory Global Network Felipe Gárate from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland who attended the official launch in Birmingham, UK.

There are 39 Design Factory hubs around the world with three of them being based in the UK.

As a member of the global network the Birmingham Design Factory at Aston University will participate in two global design challenges – one run by McDonalds and the other run by the Ford Motor Company.

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Energy Storage Summit gathers global experts in London

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Energy Storage Summit gathers global experts in London
UK minister of state for climate change and energy Graham Stuart was one of the key speakers at the Energy Storage Summit | Photo: David Stanley-Tate

Nearly 1,000 experts and leaders in the global energy storage industry gathered in Hammersmith,  London this week to attend the 9th Energy Storage Summit 2024.

The event, one of Europe’s largest networking events for the energy storage sector, hosted over a thousand delegates from across the globe.

The line up of speakers included Nick Winser,  commissioner at the National Infrastructure Commission; Doriana Forleo Executive Director at Energy Storage Coalition, and UK minister of state for climate change and energy Graham Stuart.

According to analysts, by 2030 the global cumulative installed capacity for energy storage will have reached 1,420 GWh, with large-scale development of storage power stations from 0.1 GWh to 1 GWh and then to 10 GWh becoming an inevitable trend. However, such expansion will bring with it challenges in cost efficiency, safety and operation and maintenance complexity, making the need for advanced storage technology and design more urgent.

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