Initiatives Underway to Improve Diversity In Environmental Workforce In The UK
Steps are being taken in the UK’s sustainability and environment professions to address the lack of diversity, as it stands less than 5% of professionals in organisations within the sector identify as being from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The steps involve a data drive, asking the UK’s environmental NGOs and charities to annually report on the diversity of their workforce. The data is co-led by Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK), Nature Youth Connection and Education, South Asians For Sustainability and Hindu Climate Action. The aim of the data drive is to improve racial diversity within the organisations of the UK’s environmental profession.
Among the organisations providing support is IEMA, and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation will be funding all of the main initiative.
The US is already deploying a reporting initiative, called the Green 2.0 scheme, in which 40 US-based not-for-profits and foundations have signed up to, normalising the annual reporting of racial diversity statistics within the profession.
By annually reporting the racial diversity statistics within each sector it is hoped all aspects of the organisation, plus its funders can access and analyse information on how diverse their workforces and boards of trustees are. Having access to this information allows for dialogue to open up about how and what improvements can be made, and allows for peer-to-peer learning on best practices. This initiative is called the Racial Action For The Climate Emergency Report in the UK, or RACE for short.
There’re been more than 30 organisations already committed to submitting data to the RACE Report for its inaugural edition, including Ashden, ClientEarth, Global Action Plan, Greepeace, IEMA, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and The Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The data will be reported each year and there will be a league table element added in 2023 once the ‘benchmark’ inaugural report is published.
As well as the league table element, the following year will see anonymised staff surveys, allowing staff from participating organisations to share lived experiences, and report instances of best practice and poor practice.
The initiative is a long time coming.
In 2017 SOS-UK analysed data from the Office For National Statistics and found that environmental sustainability is the UK’s second-least diverse profession in terms of race and ethnicity, second only to farming.
On the 5th of April, SOS-UK published updated data that showed little had improved since then. Only 4.8% of environment professionals identify as Black, Asian, or from another minority ethnic background. This is well below the UK national average of 12.6% across all professions.
By revealing this data it shows that before people even enter the workforce there is a lack of diversity within universities and colleges, demonstrating a failure of these institutions in attracting and supporting racially diverse student cohorts for environmental courses. For example, it revealed that just 6% of students in biodiversity and nature conservation courses identified as Black, Asian or from another minority ethnic background, even though the average across all higher education courses is 26%.
RACE Report team member Manu Maunganidze said this evidence is “sobering at best”, showing “very modest” progress that “few would say is anywhere near good enough”.
“At the current rate, it would take the sector over 20 years to get to a point of representation matching the reality of racial diversity of other professions.”
“We urgently need transparency on the racial diversity of individual organisations’ trustee boards and staff teams, and we plan to deliver that through the RACE Report. Without comparative data and evidence, the improvements will continue to be incremental and the sector and its funders will continue to fall behind in their stated aims to fight for social and environmental justice.”
RACE Report team member Manu Maunganidze
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Billions To Be Raised By Health And Social Care Levy, Massive Reforms To Adult Social Care Underway
COVID backlogs and reforms to adult social care underway with the Health and Social Levy implemented to raise billions.
The Health and Social Care Levy has commenced from Wednesday 6th April in order to raise the billions needed for the COVID backlog, as well fund reforms to routine services.
In total, £39billion will be implemented over the next 3 years to put health and social care services back on an even, sustainable footing by funding it with the long-term resources it needs.
The NHS has not seen a catch up programme like this before, and in the wake of out of control care costs rising exponentially, the levy will see to the end of it.
The COVID-19 pandemic strained the NHS to its limits, with both capacity and resource used up to treat the unprecedented numbers of patients. As it stands, there are over 6 million people in England waiting for elective care – up from 4.4 million before the pandemic – and this number is expected to rise even higher as up to 10 million people did not come forward for treatment during the pandemic.
Not only is the levy due to end spiralling care costs, but the plan is also for it to reduce waiting times and deliver millions more scans, tests and operations, and innovating routine services and delivery so the NHS is future proofed against more unprecedented times.
As a result, there’ll be an increase to £160 billion for the NHS resource budget in 2024 to 2025, including £5.9 billion of capital investment to support diagnostics, technology, and elective recovery.
The social care system is due to benefit greatly from the levy, with a £5.4 billion backing, not only will it end the rising social care costs, it’ll limit the cost of care for everyone in the adult social care system for the first time, and significantly increase state support.
“We must be there for our NHS in the same way that it is there for us. COVID led to the longest waiting lists we’ve ever seen, so we will deliver millions more scans, checks and operations in the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’s history.
We know this will not be a quick fix, and we know that we cannot fix waiting lists without fixing social care. Our reforms will end the cruel lottery of spiralling and unpredictable care costs once and for all and bring the NHS and social care closer together. The levy is the necessary, fair and responsible next step, providing our health and care system with the long-term funding it needs as we recover from the pandemic.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“The pandemic put unprecedented pressure on the NHS and is causing the COVID backlogs. This investment will go into tackling those backlogs and will help make sure everyone can get the care and treatment they need.
We cannot have business as usual, which is why we are rolling out surgical hubs and community diagnostic centres up and down the country to deliver millions more scans, checks and operations.
This vital funding will ensure the NHS is equipped to not only reduce waiting times but also tackle the big challenges we face – from cancer to heart disease and dementia. We will also reform the adult social care system, invest in the workforce and protect people from catastrophic care costs.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid
“This government will not shy away from the difficult decisions we need to take to fix our social care system and slash NHS waiting times. The Health and Social Care Levy will fund a third more elective care, over 17 million extra diagnostic tests and a cap on the cost of care so people no longer live in fear of losing everything to pay for care.
The British people deserve the best health care in the world and delivering that is our top priority.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
What will the funding deliver?
- around 30% more elective activity in 3 years’ time than before the pandemic
- 17 million more diagnostic tests over the next 3 years
- the expansion of operating theatres and diagnostic centres for cancer and other conditions
- better control for patients over their care, with more information and access to specialist teams – for example, through the My Planned Care platform, now available to 5.5 million patients to find the average waiting time at their local hospital. In future the service will include advice on stopping smoking, diet and exercise, to help patients get ready for surgery and make sure they recover as quickly as possible. GPs and primary care teams will also be able to access the information, helping them to have more informed conversations with patients
- a fair cost of care, £1.36 billion will support local authorities in England to move towards paying a fair cost of care to adult social care providers, ensuring market sustainability and preparing markets for reform
- charging reform – an £86,000 cap on care costs will be put in place in October 2023 so people can have certainty over how much they will need to pay, a measure backed by a further £2.2 billion
Patients will have more information on wait times at the point of referral, should they ask for it. By the end of this year, patients who have been waiting for 18 months or more will have been contacted to discuss whether they would like to change their provider and reduce their wait time.
Patients will also be supported with travel costs, if required and feasible.
The, at the moment out of control, care costs will reformed to gain control over them again. Currently, anyone with assets over £23,250 pays their care costs in full. From October 2023, anyone with assets under £20,000 will have their care costs fully covered by the state.
Under the new system, the levy will put a cap on the cost of care at £86,000, which raises the point at which people meet the full cost of their care from £23,350 to £100,000 – almost 4 times higher than what we have without the levy.
The adult social care sector in England will receive at least £500 million to improve recruitment, retention, progression and staff wellbeing. To reduce the high turn over rate and improve working conditions overall, the funding will cover investment into continuous professional development budgets, social worker training, and wellbeing and mental health support.
The plan to increase the number of scans and tests being delivered is well underway, with the goal of 160 community diagnostic centres due to be up and running by 2025 – so far seventy-three centres are already providing more efficient and local care for patients, and there’s another 4 due to open in May.
New surgical hubs are to open alongside this delivery, adding to a network of hubs reducing wait times for procedures like cataract surgery or hip replacements.
Initially, national insurance contributions will be the base of the levy, although from 2023 this will be legislatively separate.
It’s means based, so those who earn more will pay more, with the highest 15% of earners paying over half the revenues.
Low earners will be shielded from the levy, as the level of which people pay National Insurance on their income will rise to £12, 570, saving on average around £330. This has no affect on the funding for health and social care.
What it means is, the COVID backlogs will not be cleared by those who need the services the most, it will be funded by those who can bear it and will further protect those who need it, while still providing the NHS with the vital funding it requires.
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NATO Identifies Emerging And Disruptive Technologies – UK To Headquarter The Defence Innovation Hub
NATO to implement the DIANA programme to maintain technological advantage: UK and Estonia to partner on the programme.
Critical technologies will be seeing transatlantic cooperation, as the UK is set to be the host of the European HQ of the Defence Innovation Accelerator (DIANA), a programme set for NATO allies to accelerate, test, evaluate and validate new technologies that address critical defence challenges and contribute to Alliance deterrence, as well as helping NATO work more closely with industry and academia.
The UK will be contributing an accelerator of its own and is to be twinned with a new accelerator in Tallinn, Estonia to open the channel for knowledge and expertise sharing, the use of virtual sites to trial vehicles, including autonomous ones and test cyber innovations.
Together, the UK and Estonia will:
- Support start-up companies with funding, guidance and business expertise through twinned accelerator networks.
- Offer the use of ‘deep tech’ test centres to assess technological solutions to military problems, utilising the Defence BattleLab.
- Work with NATO to develop a virtual marketplace to connect start-ups with trusted investors, as well as a rapid acquisition service to connect products to buyers at pace.
“The UK and Estonia are two of the most innovative countries in NATO and our hosting of DIANA will harness that innovation for the benefit of all Allies tackling future military threats.
The UK has a vibrant tech community, combining the academia, financiers, and high-tech start-ups that make it an ideal place to develop the next generation of military technologies.
Estonia was the natural partner for the UK given its international leadership in cyber, autonomy and AI, and our close partnership forged through the Enhanced Forward Presence.”
UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace
Academia, industry and government will be brought together by Imperial College London, a world ranked university for innovation, and play host to the headquarters of DIANA and a DIANA Accelerator at the Innovation Hub (IHUB) in White City Innovation District. They will share a space with the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), Major Defence Contractors and The US Department of Defence’s Tri-Service Office.
The plan is to be in full swing by July 2022, with DIANA ensuring that the Alliance is fully capable and developed to defend and deter against existing and future threats, which is essential to the NATO 2030 vision.
“The goal of DIANA is to support deep technologies companies that contribute to defence. It will bring together talented innovators with new technologies end-users in the area of defence. We are very glad to see that the good cooperation we have with the UK will expand even further and also encompass our universities and private sector more,
Cooperation between the UK and Estonia is working well on every level because we have a common understanding of defence policy. Good relations with Allies is a cornerstone of Estonian defence policy, and a successful start to this programme for us is a sign that this cornerstone is strong.”
Estonian Defence Minister, Kalle Laanet
“As one of the top STEM-B universities in the world, in one of the most diverse cities, Imperial College London is uniquely placed to power a progressive, responsible and holistic dual-use security and defence technology innovation program by hosting DIANA. Coordinated through our Institute for Security Science and Technology and Business School we’re committed to working on disruptive research and innovation to reduce insecurity and to deal with global threats and challenges.”
Co-Director, Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College London, Professor Deeph Chana
As part of the NATO 2030 vision, seven key emerging and disruptive technologies have been identified as the focus for DIANA’s support: artificial intelligence, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies, autonomy, biotechnology, hypersonics and space.
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New Bus Scheme Set To Increase Public Transport Use by 10%
20% to 40% ticket price reduction on Cornish buses backed by £23.5m government grant
A pilot of cut-fare prices has begun in Cornwall, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy cheaper prices around the far south-west of England.
The county has benefitted from a ticket price reduction of between 20% and 40% to incentivise more people to use public transport rather than their cars.
The scheme will run for four years, is government backed, and will measure what impact lower fares have on the number of cars on the road. By reducing fares it’s hoped it’ll make it easier for Cornish people to travel around and encourage tourism to the beaches, moors, towns and attractions by buses rather than by car.
“The bus fares pilot is a hugely positive step for the people of Cornwall. This will make it easier for young people to access jobs, education and training in towns such as Newquay.
“It’s important for rural communities to have access to affordable alternatives to the car. It will also benefit tourists this summer and could encourage them to use public transport, rather than going everywhere by car.”
Louis Gardner, the mayor of Newquay
Transport for Cornwall aims to increase bus usage by 10%, and is using a £23.5m grant from the Department for Transport to fund the drive.
The new fares will include:
£2.50 a day or £10 a week for adults within Cornish towns.
£5 a day or £20 a week for adults for travel across Cornwall.
Adult singles from £1.60, and returns from £2.40.
Family tickets for £10 a day (up to two adults and unlimited children under 16).
“The launch of this excellent scheme across Cornwall is a significant moment in our ambition to level up transport links across the country. We want to place Cornwall at the leading edge of a national bus revolution.”
Transport Minister, Charlotte Vere
Cornwall’s largest bus operator, Go-Ahead Group, is leading the scheme under an initiative called “any ticket, any bus” and the cheaper prices will include benefits for customers of all of the main companies.
Scheduled to run for four years, there’s no guarantee the process will stay at the levels set, and depending on how the services are used they can be changed.
“Cheaper fares are vital in winning passengers back and attracting new ones. Our research has shown that Cornwall’s bus passengers wanted better value for money fares. These plans should drive up passenger satisfaction and encourage more people to give bus a go. We will monitor the impact this has on passengers.”
David Sidebottom, Director of the watchdog Transport Focus
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Legal Proceedings Issued After National Lottery Licence Announcement
For the first time since The National Lottery started, Camelot will not be Preferred Applicant for the National Lottery licence.
A legal battle has been issued by National Lottery operator, Camelot, against the Gambling Commission after it was revealed that Allwyn Entertainment UK was its Preferred Applicant for the fourth National Lottery licence – announced on 15 March.
This has certainly shaken things up as it means Camelot will lose its licence after 28 years once Allwyn Entertainment UK takes over in 2024. However, since the announcement, the process has been drawn to a halt while all outcomes are considered and feedbacked before more action is taken.
It was during this legal standstill period that Camelot issued legal proceedings against the Gambling Commission in regard to how the competition was ran.
“We are launching a legal challenge in our capacity as an applicant for the Fourth Licence because we firmly believe that the Gambling Commission has got this decision badly wrong. When we received the result, we were shocked by aspects of the decision.
“Despite lengthy correspondence, the Commission has failed to provide a satisfactory response. We are therefore left with no choice but to ask the court to establish what happened.
“Irrespective of Camelot’s dual roles as current operator and applicant for the next National Lottery licence, the competition is one of the largest UK government-sponsored procurements and the process deserves independent scrutiny. Separately, more than 1,000 Camelot employees work tirelessly to successfully operate The National Lottery under the current licence and, at the very least, they are owed a proper explanation.”
Nigel Railton, Camelot CEO
The Gambling Commission had this to say in response:
“The competition and our evaluation have been carried out fairly and lawfully in accordance with our statutory duties, and we are confident that a court would come to that conclusion.
“We are confident that we have run a fair and robust competition. We have taken every step possible to ensure a level playing field for all interested parties, to enable us to appoint a licensee who will engage and protect players, run the National Lottery with integrity and ensure the National Lottery continues to support good causes and their contribution to society.
“Our priority is to continue to work to implement our decision and ensure a seamless and timely transition to the next licence, for the benefit of participants and good causes. These proceedings will not help that but we trust that Camelot will honour its obligations as the current licensee to cooperate in that transition, and we will continue to use the tools available to us to facilitate that process.”
The Gambling Commission
The significance of this decision is rooted in the fact that the National Lottery has always been operated by Camelot since its launch in 1994. In those 28 years, players have raised more than £45 billion for 660,000 good causes across the UK, including £1.88bn in the pandemic year of 2020-1.
The Gambling Commission ran a competition to find the next licensee as the current licence will expire in 2024. There were four applicants, comprising of Allwyn, Sisal Spa, Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd, and The New Lottery Company Ltd – incidentally, they marked the highest number of applicants since the first one in 1994. Camelot was named Reserve Applicant in the process.
During the announcement of the winner back in March, the Gambling Commission stated Allwyn’s commitment to invest in the National Lottery and deliver growth and innovation across all aspects of the National Lottery’s products and channels, which’ll overall increase contributions to charitable causes, subject to the protection of participants and proprietary.
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What Is Colocation And Why Are Datacentres Being Built On Sewage Plants?
Datacentres could be made more environmentally friendly if collocated with sewage treatment plants, suggests Tomorrow Water.
The idea is that heated water from a datacentre can be used to boost wastewater processing, and some of the treated water can then become the cooling water for the datacentre. The arrangement cuts the energy process required in the heating and cooling of the water as well as aiding in the treatment of wastewater.
In Korea, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between Samsung, Dohwa Engineering, BNZ Partners and Tomorrow Water to cooperatively develop the develop integrated datacentre and sanitation infrastructure solution, named ‘Co-Flow’ by the firm.
The Co-Flow process is also being evaluated in the US, as Tomorrow Water is partnered with sustainable design and engineering firm Arcadis, with the aim of developing similar colocation datacentres in the US.
The goal of colocation is to reduce the amount of energy required for both datacentres and sewage treatment, by resourcing the energy, heat, nutrient and water inputs and outputs to create renewable energy generation and a more sustainable and affordable way of reducing climate harm for the global population.
The firm has already implemented the solution at the Jungnang Water Recycling Centre in Seoul, in which the solution has reduced the plant’s total footprint by 60%, according to Tomorrow Water, and datacentres could be built on the freed-up spaces left behind if the process were to be repeated at other sites.
Co-Flow also solves the other issue plaguing datacentres – high demand and low real estate availability. By reducing the existing footprint of sewage treatment works and capitalising on that by constructing datacentres within them. It frees up development space and also saves water and energy.
Datacentre water cooling systems are not the only way this solution can be used, however. Microsoft has partnered with Finland’s largest energy provider to build a datacentre that heats homes as it cools servers. The waste heat given off by the datacentres can be moved via existing water pipe infrastructures to homes and businesses in Espoo Kauniainen, as well as the municipality of Kirkkonummi.
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39,000 Families To Receive Essential New Housing Services
1 April 2022 introduced five contracts that will provide essential accommodation services to 39,000 Armed Forces families across the UK.
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has awarded five contracts which comprise of a new national call centre and enhanced maintenance and repair services to military homes, worth in total £640 million.
The contracts, awarded last June, make up part of a £3 billion Future Defence Infrastructure Services (FDIS) programme, which replaced the previous National Housing Prime contract.
The new contracts will be turning the tide in how services are delivered to the numerous families who live in military accommodation in the UK and will be a positive change for them.
Their needs have been considered during the development of the new contracts, as the DIO worked closely with military personnel, their families and the Service Families Federations to achieve a full perspective of what would be required.
Operated by Pinnacle Group Ltd, the National Service Centre will be the single point of contact for Service families.
350 jobs are expected to be created or sustained under the £141 million contract which will use modern communications technology to provide more responsive and accessible accommodation services by making service requests trackable in real time and offering more choices when making appointments.
Four Regional Accommodation Maintenance Services (RAMS) contracts, worth almost £500 million together, have also commenced to provide repair and maintenance services to military homes, delivered by Amey in the Northern Region (including Scotland, Northern Ireland and North Wales, and the Central Region which includes Mid and South Wales; and VIVO will deliver services in the South East and South West of England.
As part of the contracts, suppliers must use recognised industry standards and meet the needs of the customers first. Poor performance will be addressed as part of these stipulations, as well as the introduction of incentives and targets such as ‘first time fixes’ for repairs, and quicker response times for most repairs, combined these should reduce disruption for service families.
Along with the customer-centric focus, targets for customer satisfaction will be introduced which will impact how much profit the suppliers make. Minimum standards will be set, and rewards for breaking the minimum standards will be given when appropriate to suppliers.
“These contracts are critical to the delivery of key services to our Armed Forces and Service Personnel.
They also support hundreds of jobs and community prosperity and will provide a crucial step towards modernising our Defence estates.”
Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin
“Our Armed Forces and their families have no real choice where they serve, no matter how remote, and when and how frequently they move, so it’s vital we ensure their homes are of the right quality and available for them wherever and whenever they are assigned.
Their needs must be at the heart of what we do.
These contracts are designed to be very different. They have been developed with Service Personnel and families firmly in mind to better meet their needs.
Enhancing customer service will be their focus, with clear customer satisfaction targets for suppliers to meet, financial consequences for falling short and incentives to exceed the minimum standards.”
Air Commodore James Savage, DIO Head of Accommodation
Each contract will last for seven years, with the option to extend it by 3 years or terminate it after three years, depending on how the contractor is performing.
Up to £855 million will go into refurbishment and improvement projects under the RAMS contracts.
The DIO has spent £350 million over the last two financial years on housing improvements, which will be carried on into this financial year with a planned £171 million worth of upgrades planning to be delivered.
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UK’s Investment Into Sustainability, Research & Development For The Arctic Region
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the new UK defence strategy to maintain stability in the Arctic Region, and a brief with those participating in COLD RESPONSE 22.
Plans to protect critical underwater infrastructure have been announced in Norway by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, as the UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North outlined, alongside plans to ensure freedom of navigation through international seas and Exclusive Economic Zones in the Arctic region.
The UK’s commitments to NATO involve a heightened presence of UK training and operations, with Allies as well as international partners. There’re also plans for the UK to invest in research and development in the area in the aims of future-proofing the Defence capability.
To achieve this there will be periodic Royal Navy presence in the High North – the goal is to also demonstrate support for the Arctic Allies and maintain the security of the Arctic region.
“The High North and the impact of climate change affects us all whether we like it or not. The North Atlantic will always be the UK’s ‘home beat’ and so it is vital that we strengthen both our interoperability and our force integration with NATO and non-NATO partners in the region.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP
During the time the Defence Secretary met Odd Roger Enoksen, he also met those involved with COLD RESPONSE 22, a Norwegian-led exercise with 35,000 troops from 28 participant nations.
From the UK, the exercise saw six Royal Navy ships and 2,000 UK personnel carrying out cold-weather training in northern Norway. An important part of training, of course, but it was also another display of the UK’s commitment to Allied forces which must be ready to be deployed and work effectively under any conditions in whatever environment they are needed.
Norway provides the perfect landscape for NATO Allies to refine their processes and operations in extreme weather and rough terrain. Around 900 Royal Marines have been deployed to the Arctic since January in advance of preparations for COLD RESPONSE 22, so they can fine-tune how to operate in arctic weather.
Among the personnel being trained, the Defence Secretary met with the crew on board one of the two UK aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales, which has been the prime contribution by the Royal Navy to exercise COLD RESPONSE 22. While there, he was briefed on what its role there was (NATO command platform) and how the ship is ready to respond in order to command and control Allied ships at sea.
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Breakthrough For Scalable Quantum Computing
Microsoft’s pursuit of a working, scalable quantum computer has hit a breakthrough, according to researchers.
Current working quantum computers of competitors include a small number of qubits (the current record of qubits is held at 200) and Microsoft, unlike IBM, Honeywell and Google, has researched more in-depth into topological qubits in the hope of improving scalability.
The possibility of scaling quantum computing has been an enormous task for researchers to develop due to the highly receptive nature of qubits and the fact they’re sensitive to any and all hardware faults. These faults cause decoherence of quantum entanglement and are quite the barrier for scaling up a quantum computer – it’s thought that you’d need a few thousand qubits for a general-purpose quantum computer to ensure long-term stability.
The current theory goes that topological qubits are more stable than traditional ones, such as those created by trapped ion technologies – and this stability is caused by symmetries in the supporting material. Microsoft is experimenting with superconducting wires of a variety of materials since it’s thought that devices with these qubits implemented will be more fault-tolerant. compact and users will see a reduction in loss of performance. Until now, no one had been able to bring these qubits into the real world.
However, it appears Microsoft has been able to crack open the required underlying physics.
According to a blog post, a team led by Dr Chetan Nayak at Microsoft, the researchers have demonstrated that the groundwork of physics behind topological qubits are sound and that they’ve observed a ‘topological gap’ large enough to prove their point.
What is a topological gap?
It is a measurement of the stability of a qubit while it is in its topological state and capable of being used for computation. While this sounds simple enough, it’s hard to identify the qubits that are in their topological state (using standard probes) so it’s a major breakthrough for Microsoft to have been able to achieve this identification with superconducting wires, and applying models that simulate common faults in the superconducting materials used to create the qubits.
The blog also says:
“Our team has measured topological gaps exceeding 30 μeV,”
“This is more than triple the noise level in the experiment and larger than the temperature by a similar factor. This shows that it is a robust feature. This is both a landmark scientific advance and a crucial step on the journey to topological quantum computation.”
Despite this being a simulated result, and no topological qubit has been produced, the researchers insist that the results remain valid and have been verified by independent consultants.
Phase one, the theoretical underpinnings of topological qubits, has been demonstrated so it’s time for researchers to move onto the next phase – creating them in the lab to verify thet do indeed have the stability and speed advantages that the maths predict.
the post concludes:
“We believe ultimately it will power a fully scalable quantum machine in the future, which will, in turn, enable us to realise the full promise of quantum to solve the most complex and pressing challenges our society faces,”
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RAF Completes First Drone Flight Powered By Synthetic Fuel
The Royal Air Force has successfully flown a four-metre drone with synthetic fuel, marking a milestone in the international collaboration between UK and US for alternative fuel.
The work was done under Project Vermeer and this flight marks a groundbreaking advancement in their work to develop synthetic kerosene: an entirely fossil fuel-free aviation fuel.
It is made by mixing raw materials with high sugar levels, such as food waste, with bacteria to create an oil substance that is then converted into aviation fuel using chemicals and heat.
Not only is synthetic kerosene entirely fossil fuel-free, it also doesn’t require large infrastructure to create, and the fact it can be made anywhere only adds to the military interest in its development.
Sustainability has been a commitment of the RAF and this development solidifies that promise to invest in a sustainable future, as the significantly reduced carbon footprint of synthetic kerosene can be used across all platforms from remotely piloted air systems to fighter jets.
“This is an exciting moment for the RAF and British industry as they continue to develop pioneering solutions to help address climate change. These new approaches will maintain our world-class fighting forces whilst reducing our carbon footprint.”
Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin
“The RAF needs to ensure that we are at the forefront of technology to safeguard our own resilience and operational capability, whilst minimising our damage to the environment. Fuel scarcity and cost will only ever increase in its impact on our operations and synthetic fuels for our aircraft are one potential solution to this situation as we look to secure the objectives of the next generation RAF of tomorrow.”
Air Vice Marshal Lincoln Taylor
Valuable data has been provided that shows the synthetic fuel performs to a high standard, following the creation of 15 litre of fuel in laboratory conditions and subsequent engine and flight testing, a ground-breaking discovery for British company C3 Biotechnologies and the US Navy.
“It is exciting and game-changing to work with our allies in the UK to develop a more efficient synthetic aviation fuel.
“The U.S. Navy is committed to finding innovative solutions to operational challenges, and the ability to manufacture this fuel without large infrastructure requirements would be ground-breaking for deployed forces.”
Chief of US Naval Research Rear Adm Lorin C. Selby
The testing isn’t over for the fossil fuel-free fuel, however, as the RAF and partners move on to the next phase of the project which will be to refine the process and develop deployable manufacturing facilities.
We can’t forget though that the real big win for the RAF was their title of Guinness World Record holder following a successful flight on synthetic fuel, won only 4 months ago.
Project Vermeer followed the Integrated Review and Defence command paper and since summer 2021 Project Vermeer has continued to demonstrate the RAF’s ongoing commitment to invest in emerging technology and sustainability.
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UK and Turkey Commit to Sustainability With New Electric Railway Deal
The clean transport deal marks the first UK-supported rail transaction in Turkey in over 160 years, bringing boost £1.7 billion boost to UK rail industry
Turkey’s high-speed electric railway line forms part of the UK Government’s largest sustainable civil infrastructure deal.
The boost comes in the form of a EUR2.1 billion loan from the UK Export Finance to aid in the construction of a 503km high-speed electric railway. In return for the UK support, nine-figure contracts are set to be awarded to UK rail suppliers.
Turkey has been striving to meet its COP26 commitments and the climate-friendly projects have been a result of that. The deal to fund the high-speed electric railway line was announced at the UK-Türkiye Green Finance Conference.
It’s expected that the new railway line will decarbonise travel, with major contracts being awarded to British and Turkish businesses.
The financing will be guaranteed by the UK Export Finance (UKEF) through its Buyer Credit Scheme, with Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered structuring and coordinating banks arranging the EUR2.1 billion transaction.
The railway will support its COP26 commitments by providing a faster, lower carbon alternative to current air and road routes between Ankara and Izmir, topping out at 503km.
“Turkey is a vital trading partner for the UK. Our shared global outlook on free trade and the environment is the driving force behind economic growth in our two nations.
It is fitting that UK Export Finance’s biggest ever civil infrastructure deal is strongly sustainable. This is a proud moment for the UK railway industry, using its industrial roots to reduce emissions in heavily polluted cities.”
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan
“Referring to the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement signed between the UK and Türkiye in 1999; we have successfully achieved the closing of the landmark financing of Ankara İzmir High Speed Railway Project under the green loan structure.
We have given utmost importance to the environmental and social procedures during this project and as the Ministry of Treasury and Finance we are closely following the improvements of such issues. We also desire to be among the active and important players of the rapidly growing green finance market.
We are very glad for the cooperation and strong longstanding relations with UK government and we hope to further strengthen our collaboration.”
Treasury and Finance Minister for Türkiye Dr. Nureddin Nebati
The trading relationship between Turkey and the UK is an important one for both nations, with the trading relationship having brought in £17.5 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2021, increasing by 1.4 billion from the same period in 2020.
Following the agreement, major contracts of UK companies of all sizes will be secured in order to deliver the major railway transformation project. ERG International group will be calling on its close ties with the UK supply chain to support construction – which will consist of British-made railway lines, turnouts, point machines, fasteners, material and equipment for signalling, telecommunication and electrification systems, as well as vital insurance and freight services.
To ensure the financing of the project is sustainable, the loan has been led by Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered Bank, and it has been ensured it’s been aligned to the Green Loan Principles. The risk to the UK taxpayer has been reduced as reinsurance is being provided by international export credit agencies such as SACE in Italy, SERV in Switzerland and OeKB in Austria
“We’re proud to further strengthen our relationship with the Turkish government, providing a loan structured with a clear focus on international social and environmental standards, and working closely with Credit Suisse and UKEF. This support is another in the line of Standard Chartered’s financing in Türkiye to help the government deliver its railway infrastructure plan.”
Yoshi Ichikawa, Head of Structured Export Finance for Europe, Standard Chartered Bank
“ERG is honored with the achievement and its historic milestone. ERG look forward strengthening ties with UKEF and the Turkish Government in the construction sector and adding value to the economies by making advance engineering and technological solutions available. Like in all our previous projects over the last 50 years, ERG is committed to create sustainable economic added value.
ERG’s Turkish and UK based Environmental & Social teams will bring many years of international experience to this important project, in order to ensure that IFC, Equator Principles, and national standards are at all times met. We would like to thank all our partners and stakeholders in the UK, Europe and Turkey to make this dream project come true, which will positively change and enhance the lives of millions of travellers and people living along the alignment.”
Murat Dedeoglu, ERG International UK, Group CEO
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Energy Bills Increase Could Devastate Households Financially – What’s Being Done To Help?
The results of a recent survey by the StepChange charity has shown that nearly half of 25-49 year olds will not be able to pay bills – or at least, they expect not to be able to.
More needs to be done to help the most vulnerable, and the debt charity is calling upon the chancellor to use this week’s Spring Statement to address those needs.
The debt charity is also calling upon Rishi Sunak to provide more assistance both with energy bills and with increasing welfare benefits.
Without these added safety nets in place, there is a risk of people falling into ‘problem debt’ as the charity states.
However, Mr Sunak has said that he cannot “fully protect” people from the growing cost of energy bills.
What’s to be done?
StepChange suggests an (at least) 7% in benefits in April to try coinciding with the rate of rising prices.
Additionally, it wants more funding to be allocated to local councils in order to better meet the needs of the community, especially those with vouchers, grants or discretionary payments to cover essential bills.
The leading debt charity is also aiming to block energy companies from attempting debt recovery from households who struggle to cover the cost of their bills, as well as calling for the Warm Home Discount to be expanded upon.
The calls come following results of StepChange’s survey, polled via YouGov, which showed a worrying one in five people believe they will fall into a debt that they can’t pay back this year.
42% of the 1,676 surveyed adults said they might struggle to cope with the rising costs of living in the coming months, including the rising energy bills and council tax.
Further modelling by the debt charity has shown that, if energy bills hit £3,000 per year – which isn’t impossible – the most vulnerable households could end up spending £1 In every £6 they earn just on energy costs alone.
“I wish government could solve absolutely every problem and that I could fully protect people against all the challenges that lie ahead.
I can’t do that, but what I would say is, I will stand by them in the same way that I have done in the past couple of years.”
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer
The government’s price cap is set to rise next month which is expected to throw millions of households into a sharp turmoil as the energy bills rise.
The typical household will be paying 54% more than what they pay now under the higher cap – and a further rise is expected in October.
It’s not just energy bills rising – the cost of petrol and diesel has skyrocketed in recent weeks too, resulting in more than 50 conservative MPs calling for a cut in fuel duty to bring the costs back down.
“I think household incomes are entering a storm and they are going to be battered from all sides, energy, food, interest rates rising and so there is a role from the Treasury now to try to smooth the effect of this shock.”
Robert Jenrick, Former Housing Minister
Carl Emmerson, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank said that cutting fuel duty would provide targeted help for individuals and businesses who buy a lot of motor fuel. He also said that the move was something that the chancellor could afford, however:
“I think the problem with cutting fuel duty is that it never turns out to be temporary”.
Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Think-Tank
Fuel duty has been frozen for more than 10 years, despite the fact that it is supposed to rise automatically each year.
Mr Emmerson added ways the chancellor will have to choose how to help. It could be between broader help, which offers some help to most households, or it could be that more targeted interventions are needed and thus most help will be given to the most vulnerable.
“If you go broad, you can only really shield people from a bit of the pain”
Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Think-Tank
“Government must pull every lever at its disposal in order to protect those on the lowest incomes from the scars of debt and destitution.
“While the initial raft of support announced in February was welcome, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated an already difficult situation and more action is clearly needed,”
Phil Andrew, StepChange Chief Executive
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UK And Japan To Collaborate On Research For Cutting-Edge Fighter-Jet Sensor
The UK and Japan have signed a Letter of Arrangement (LOA) to conduct a collaborative project on research and development for a world-leading fighter-jet sensor
Lethal threats will be detected by cutting-edge sensor technology used by partners.
New jobs to be created: 75 UK jobs, including 40 engineering jobs in Scotland.
£2 billion of funding to be given, as part of UK’s Combat Air Strategy.
The Armed Forces will be able to better detect future threats from air, land and sea, with the development of “JAGUAR” – universal radio frequency sensor technology, which works by quickly and accurately locating targets and denying surveillance technology operated by out adversaries.
The creation of 75 jobs across the UK is expected, with 40 highly skilled engineering jobs opening up at Leonardo’s Edinburgh site, once the project commences, scheduled April.
“We are proud to work ever closer with our partners in Japan to ensure both our Armed Forces remain at the forefront of military innovation.
This crucial relationship will see us acquire truly advanced technology to protect our nations for decades to come whilst creating significant investment and highly-skilled jobs in the UK and Japan.”
Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin
It will take around 5 years to design, build and evaluate the JAGUAR system, which will see input from both Leonardo UK and Japanese industry. National expertise will maximised and enhanced by the sharing of the learning and the work involved in the project, with each country building its own demonstrator, making two overall within the project.
“As the UK’s combat air electronics champion and a founding member of Tempest, we’re keen to work with our international allies where their industry has similarly advanced capabilities, bringing together the best of both partners.
Japan has a strong and growing combat air industry which is a natural fit for Leonardo. Under JAGUAR, our highly-skilled scientists and engineers based across the UK will work with their Japanese counterparts to advance technology that will benefit both of our nation’s future combat air endeavours.”
Chair and CEO Leonardo UK, Norman Bone
December last year the UK and Japan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC), to enable the pursuit of joint technologies. At the same time, the two countries also announced that they intend to develop the above-mentioned future fighter jet engine demonstrator as part of their partnership.
The UKs approach to combat air is international partnership, as set out in in the Combat Air Strategy published in 2018. Over the next four years the UK is investing more than £2 billion into its major national and international endeavour to design a world-leading Future Combat Air System. The collaboration with Japan is taking place alongside the UK’s growing work to partner with European nations.
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Improvements to Sainsbury’s Data Capability Means Your Substitutions Will Be Based on Customer History, Not Guesswork
AI and ML has ‘endless’ use cases, says retailer’s Group CIO.
Sainsbury’s is pushing for better more informed decision-making by re-building its data ecosystem, and also in an effort to better exploit Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
According to the retailer’s group CIO, Phil Jordan, data at the organisation was previously siloed.
“We’ve been on a journey for four years to rebuild our data ecosystem,” Jordan began. “We realised a long time ago that our data was very siloed and stuck in legacy areas or under individual brands. So we made big punt to use Snowflake as our enterprise cloud warehouse running on AWS, together with a heavy use of MicroStrategy.
“We’re now a long way into that journey, moving and closing legacy warehouses, rebuilding in the cloud, as part of a programme we call ‘Aspire’. One of the goals is the creation of a single version of truth. So all of our reporting is now revisualised and comes through MicroStrategy.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
The organisation is making a bigger dive into the cloud and will be retiring legacy systems as a part of that effort.
And, while the journey can never be said to be ‘completed’, it is at least had much of the work done, said Jordan.
“Lots of the heavy lifting is complete. We’re now exploiting the value of having a cloud-based enterprise analytics system. So we can now re-engineer our decisions, with many of them now being taken as automated machine-based decisions.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
The effects of this technical shift have been staggeringly positive.
Take, for example, online order substitutions which are now done by algorithm based on the buyer’s history.
“If you think about substituting items for online orders where the selected item isn’t available, previously the picker would just choose what they thought was relevant. Now we have algorithmic suggestions based on history and customer reaction. That’s so successful it’s actually driving sales.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
Another example of how ML and AI is helping the retailer is with stock replenishment, where staff restock shelves as customers empty them.
“When we do replenishment in stores, we have algorithms to tell colleagues the most efficient route to walk the store. And if we can get AI and ML to play in those spaces the use cases are endless.
“For instance we helped our store managers during the pandemic by running algorithms over our data to predict staff absences by area. That really helped managers with resource scheduling.
“We were also the first supermarket to use our data to infer whether someone is elderly, disabled or vulnerable. That allowed us to protect their delivery slots during the pandemic, so we didn’t allow all the slots to be consumed and leave them without options. That work was hugely valuable.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
Automated decision-making is perfect for the retail industry, in Jordan’s opinion, and he intends to utilise the full breadth of benefits that AI and ML has to offer.
“We will have the opportunity to automate every decision we make on a daily basis. That’s because it’s an intensely transactional business, so it’s perfect for analytics and re-engineered decisions. All of our pricing, the way we look at other retailers, the way we do picking, in all these areas if we can bring much richer data set to the decision-making process we will create massive value. That will work both for driving the business’ top line and taking cost out. It’s a very highly repetitive, highly intensive business, so it’s a strong use case.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
This doesn’t mean that every aspect of the business will be fully automated – recruitment and personalisation is still very much a job for humans.
“We’re very conscious of personalisation and of course of privacy and ethics, so anything needing ethical judgement we wouldn’t leave to a machine. It’s the same when it comes to people; there are lots of things we can do to help with great people management, and that’s still a human activity. What we’re trying to do is to put great tools in the hands of great people.
“We also largely keep automation out of recruitment. We’re still very much reliant, even when moving quickly as we are now, on the judgement of people. So we don’t tend to use AI in that regard.”
Phil Jordan, Sainsbury’s CIO
Previously, Jordan had stated it was harder than ever to recruit for IT.
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DWP At The Helm Of Massive Cross-Departmental Data Sharing Project
Massive cross-government data-sharing project includes DWP, Department for Education, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HMRC
The project is setting out to respond to changes in the labour market more easily, and more quickly.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has commenced a nine-month pilot project with the objective to create a cross-department data store for sharing crucial labour data across a variety of government departments.
Named the Labour Market Data Trust, the pilot is to create a deeper understanding within government departments of changes in the labour market and create a more responsive department in turn.
HM Treasury’s Shared Outcomes Fund, which encourages government departments to collaborate to tackle difficult policy issues, is funding the project.
The aim of the pilot is to make better decisions and evaluations when it comes to addressing various department’s labour market data demands. Additionally, it aims to make data accessible and discoverable in a way that allows for monitoring and data governance.
The work will be a collaboration with departments such as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Education (DfE), and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), meanwhile the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP will be leading. They will work together to improve evidence base and inform interventions that support economic recovery and levelling up.
It builds on data trust and data safe haven work carried out by the Open Data Institute and Alan Turing Institute.
“It’s also the case that other government departments need granular insights into everyday labour market developments, especially those affecting local areas, specific sectors and disadvantaged groups,”
Paul Lodge, chief data officer at DWP
Lodge also said that his department is committed to maximising employment across the country to support the economic recovery post-covid.
The need for data across other department’s include the DfE’s National Skills Fund and the BEIS’ UK Innovation Strategy, which aims to boost productivity across the economy.
The existing data sharing arrangements across departments are currently time consuming to implement and amend, and are resource intensive, Lodge believes.
In line with ‘unlocking the value of data’ as part of Mission 1 of the National Data Strategy, the DWP intends to move away from current batch file data sharing and towards in-place data shares. The purpose of this allows for data to be shared from a single source and reused several times without having to duplicate it.
The National Data Strategy was published by the UK Government in September, with an outlined mission and vision of unlocked power of data which will create new jobs, innovations, and improved public services across the country,
It aims to use data as the centre for covid recovery in the UK, so that government organisations and private companies can boost their performance.
500 data analysts are planned for hire as part of the Strategy, with the analysts planned to be hired by the end of next year. There’s also plans to recruit a new Chief Digital Officer to take charge of a whole-government scheme to transform data use, all to improve public services and drive efficiency.
There’s plans for the Government to launch a new £2.6million project which will innovate the revealing of online threats and address obstacles to data sharing.
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New A&E Opened By Health And Social Care Secretary On Tour Of Health Care Services
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, has visited North West and West Midlands health and care services to thank staff for their tireless work during the pandemic.
He also opened a £15 million A&E department at Leighton Hospital, Crewe.
These visits make up a week-long national tour which aims to reinforce government commitment to reform, integrate and fund the NHS and social care and level up health around the country.
On Wednesday 16th February, NHS staff at North West and West Midlands health services were thanked for their unshakeable efforts throughout the pandemic by the Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.
The visits make up his ‘Road To Recovery’ tour across England and by day 3 has visited:
- Deeplish Community Centre, Rochdale
- Leighton Hospital, Crewe
- Birmingham Heartlands hospital
While there, staff shared experiences of working with the pressure of the pandemic and discussed the government’s plans to reform, integrate and fund the NHS and social care, in a drive to build back better.
The tour has allowed the Health and Social Care Secretary to see first hand how improvements in key sites in the North West and West Midlands are being implemented to improve patient care and outline how a more connected health and care system will mean better care for all, and help tackle imbalances within care.
“It’s been fantastic to visit the health services in the North West and West Midlands to thank staff for their efforts throughout the pandemic and outline our commitment to reform, recovery and funding for our NHS and social care.
We are committed to tackling the COVID-19 backlog and building a health and social care system for the long term that works for everyone.
Our recent Elective Recovery Plan is a vital step in rethinking how our health and care services deliver operations, treatment and checks as we level up services up and down the country.”
Sajid Javid, Health And Social Care Secretary
Sajid Javid joined staff at Deeplish Community Centre in Rochdale for their quarterly equalities team coffee morning, in which they discussed issues facing ethnic minority communities in the area. The issues ranged from language skills, funding for pharmacies, nurse pay and hours and access to face-to-face GP appointments.
He urged the team to respond to the ongoing call for evidence to help shape the government’s 10-Year Cancer Plan for England, he also discussed the upcoming cancer awareness campaign at the centre and stressed its importance in building awareness of screening services to support early diagnosis within the community.
Leighton Hospital in Crewe was next on the list for the Health and Social Care Secretary, to meet staff and officially open their new £15 million A&E department.
The new A&E department began taking patients from Tuesday the 15th of February, with the trust securing the funding as part of the government’s commitment to investing in modern facilities.
Patients will be seen quicker, in a larger and safer environment with these new facilities, as staff will continue their world class care while enabling the hospital to better meet the needs of the people of Cheshire, with the addition of a dedicated paediatric unit, more resuscitation bays and more mental health assessment rooms, it means the community will benefit greatly.
The Health and Social Care Secretary then moved to the Birmingham Heartlands hospital to meet with participants in the cutting-edge PANORAMIC antivirals trial. As part of the trial, patients with pre-existing conditions can benefit from new antiviral treatments for COVID-19 to reduce the need for hospital admission and help them recover quickly.
The new Heartlands Treatment Centre is due to open later this year and Sajid Javid also visited the site on his tour. The Centre is backed by £97.1 million of government funding to provide a modern, spacious environment for patients to receive non-emergency procedures and treatments, including diagnostics, day surgery and outpatient appointments that will help tackle the COVID-19 backlog by treating 5,000,000 patients.
Staff across all the sites visited all stressed the same thing: the government needs to think beyond the pandemic and reform health and social care so the needs of the population can continue to be met.
Initiatives were discussed by the Health and Social Care Secretary, which included the delivery plan to tackle the COVID-19 backlog of elective care, integration white paper and his personal mission to eradicate health disparities, which will include the publication of a health disparities white paper later this year.
“We were delighted to welcome the Secretary of State to Leighton today, at a time when we are investing in enhanced hospital services for our local community. The purpose-built A&E ensures a bigger, better and safer environment for both patients and staff. A&E attendance has increased across the country in recent years, so this provides an excellent opportunity to meet the needs of our growing population of 300,000.”
James Sumner, Chief Executive of the Mid Cheshire Trust
“The NHS has been tested to the maximum by a combination of higher patient attendances, the coronavirus pandemic and the annual winter pressures.
This facility is really exciting for the trust – it has been carefully designed to allow for the clear separation of children and adults in a modern, welcoming environment that will greatly improve the patient experience.”
Dr David Matthews, Clinical Director of Emergency Care at Mid Cheshire Trust
“We’re proud to have the opportunity to highlight the progress made on the Heartlands Treatment Centre to the Health Secretary today. We are grateful that he also took the time to listen to the experiences of my tremendous colleagues who have been on the front line of the pandemic.
Heartlands Treatment Centre will provide a modern environment for our clinicians to give exceptional standards of care, state-of-the-art diagnostics, and more non-emergency day-case surgery for up to half a million people in our communities – vitally supporting our ability to get back on track and improve waiting lists for patients in the wake of COVID-19.
This new facility is on time and on budget, and it will also bring huge potential for staff development and excellent career opportunities for local people.”
University Hospitals Birmingham Chief Executive, Prof David Rosser, said:
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Jack’s Worried – His Website Is Losing Him Dues Paying Members
Jack’s a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at a membership organisation. His organisation offers services and training that members can purchase via a portal on their website.
Jack’s been having a hard time lately as the website and CRM system aren’t working together.
The website isn’t fully integrated with their CRM database platform which makes it difficult to display personal information to users already in the CRM.
Jack knows it was never set up to talk to front-end (or even back-end) users in a responsive way meaning it can’t personalise how information is displayed.
Jack says it feels like having two competitive business partners… each with their own set of data… with neither wanting to share what they’ve gathered.
On top of that (as if that wasn’t enough), Jack knows everyone finds the website itself inflexible, with things moving about or disappearing completely depending on what device is being used.
Jack always checks the website on his desktop, on the same browser, and what he sees is a lovely portal with all the boxes lined up where they should be.
What Jack’s having problems with is that even though a large majority of his members use the portal via mobile phone, the site isn’t mobile friendly.
The final nail in the coffin of his web portal is that there are ongoing complaints that the website crashes while loading and, overall, it’s providing a poor and underwhelming experience for His member’s journey.
Jack’s churning through members like a revolving door and paying a fortune in new member acquisition.
The frustration is chipping away at marketing morale too; the marketing department will be working a big campaign during a seasonal peak, and the website will crash. It’s become a roll of the dice as to whether they will achieve their desired results every time they run something.
They also can’t control what users have access to based on the type of membership they have, which is ruining the personalisation that users have come to expect from their online membership experience.
The website just isn’t working for them anymore… and that means it’s now working against them.
It doesn’t have to be like this though…
Jack needs to repair his site, pronto!
What Jack needs is an application that’ll respond to whichever device it’s being accessed on, and something that can be integrated seamlessly with his CRM system so that departments like marketing can finally target their outreach to users and improve the customer conversion rate.
Fortunately, cloudThing has just the thing…
Introducing One Of cloudThing’s Exclusive powerThings… Teleportal!
What’s going on with Jack’s website?
Well, firstly, the main sources of pain have been the portal.
You may be asking at this point, “what is the difference between a website and a web portal?” and the easiest way to sum it up is that the web portal is the gatekeeper that opens up certain, niche areas of your website.
It’s a communication tool that allows people to interact with the message you’re disseminating through your website.
What Is Teleportal?
Teleportal is what will solve all of Jack’s portal problems, by providing him, his staff and his members with a highly performant, cloud-based portal development framework based on cutting-edge Microsoft technology.
All in all, they’ll be left with a reactive, flexible and awesome user experience journey, enjoyable for staff and customers alike.
His marketing department will have better tools to work their magic, converting customers and providing amazing results for his organisation. Tools that enable the development of experiences completely customised to meet their requirements while leveraging integrations with Microsoft CRM and wider platform services.
Teleportal is mobile friendly… members will no longer be clicking away from a suboptimal mobile experience.
It’s highly flexible and customisable without vendor lock-in; we don’t lock you in with code that can never be modified.
When a Teleportal solution is deployed for you, it’s yours to extend upon and customise to meet your requirements, we’ll develop it for you, and you’ll only pay for the Microsoft Licensing and customisation effort.
Imagine a pile of Lego blocks.
The bricks click into place, but can be taken out, moved, replaced etc to the builder’s desire. This is component led design, and it means that you can take out one element and replace it with another without breaking the whole thing.
Teleportal is that flexible, and can be tailored to fit your requirements, like if you wanted a scrolling of your Twitter feed it’s easy to integrate it into the portal, and you’re not totally bound by the code. If you want something changing, it can happen.
How Do I Use Teleportal?
When you offer a subscription-based service or products, you’ll want to gate certain elements away for specific member tiers or security levels. Teleportal is that responsive and flexible niche tool that allows for third-party integration, so you can collect and analyse member data as they move through the cycle of membership.
Teleportal is a one-hat fits many cutting-edge application, and it’s deployed to provide customers with solutions to the following:
Membership Portals: Membership portals enable customers to access subscription-based services and products online. This could be anything from e-commerce sites, or professional membership associations that offer tiers and rewards with professional growth such as online CPDs.
Student Portals: Student portals enable students to register for online examinations and learning courses
National Services: When deployed by national services, Teleportal enables citizens to access online services from government organisations.
Bespoke Portals: Bespoke portals provide highly customised portal experiences integrated with multiple business applications
NonProfit Volunteer Portals: NonProfit volunteer portals enable volunteers to manage their contributions to charities online.
That was just a couple of examples of its use… the possibilities of the integratable plug-and-play nature of Teleportal means it’ll allow you to do so much more with your website and CRM system.
Teleportal is just one of many powerThings used in cloudThing’s Membership powerUp Solution, a complete cloud-based solution to empower your Membership or NonProfit organisation.
Sign up below to receive more information about our Membership powerUp and its benefits!
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From Paper Based To Cutting Edge… With Zero Downtime
The ideal of a paperless office is one which can seem overwhelming for an organisation to achieve. When faced with the task of acquiring all that new equipment and software and then learning new skills on top of that… it can make the idea of going paperless seem more of a hassle it’s worth.
The thing is though, despite these perceived roadblocks, the shift from paper-based to paper-FREE is always worth it.
What Does a Paperless Office Look Like?
Well to start with… there’ll be a lot less clutter!
Have you ever walked into an office and seen stacks of paper perched at the end of desks, ready to be manually processed? Don’t you find it stressful to have all that loose paper, no matter how neatly piled, just ready to have coffee spilled on it, or blown away by a strong breeze? It’s not only inefficient but it’s also a GDPR nightmare and your people will thank you if you make it so they don’t have to look at those overstuffed filing cabinets ever again.
It makes it easier to access important data!
Talking of stacks and stacks of paper – your people having to sift through each stack to find one invoice is unproductive, time-consuming and beyond frustrating for all involved. A digitised office allows for a seamless workflow where everything is backed up and easily retrievable in the cloud.
Why Bother Going Paperless?
Let’s start with the environmental impact…
You don’t really need us to tell you that a paperless office is less harmful to the environment than a paper-based office. It’s not just down to the lack of paper waste though – a cloud-based infrastructure means less waste in hardware and data centres, using less energy which ultimately means burning fewer fossil fuels… a win-win for everyone!
It offers HUGE automation benefits…
By removing the manual effort of endless spreadsheets and invoice reminders, automation frees up your peoples’ time by removing the disruption of invoice reminders.
Even keying information into a computer takes effort and introduces human errors – a typo here or mishearing someone over the phone, all kinds of things could get in the way of correct data input.
Leading on from that, if all your data is on paper then it can’t be analysed and sorted without massive amounts of manual effort, no one can respond in real time to anything, and transparency and knowledge sharing between departments is nigh on impossible, resulting in an organisation which can’t communicate with itself.
Paperless offices are more accessible…
You may not realise it but some of the people in your office are having to work twice as hard to complete a task because they have no fine motor skills, or they’re struggling to read handwriting because it’s too small. A digitised platform built with accessibility in mind will have considered the types of end users on the other end of the application and will be designed so the font can be enlarged, buttons made big enough so that there’s no mis-clicks and screen readers can easily relay the information on the screen.
The obvious (only) choice for security is passwords and encryption. When you have paper flying about everywhere, you don’t know what eyes are looking at what spreadsheet, leaving your organisation vulnerable to GDPR breaches and personal information becoming not-so-personal.
It offers improved resilience and future proofing.
In a paper-based office, there are countless ways those papers can get destroyed irretrievably. The worst doesn’t even need to happen to cause a catastrophic outcome for the business, you just need a slightly too humid climate to make those records unreadable.
However, organisations that store all their data in the cloud will have back-ups. Even if their hardware crashes, or everyone has to work from home, the business won’t have to come to a screeching halt.
It’s also a safe way to archive your data, meaning you always have an easily accessible audit trail.
Who Benefits From Implementation?
Your people benefit, first and foremost. They have the time to spend on other, more productive tasks in your organisation and focussing on the things that really matter.
Your members are also main beneficiaries, as most people expect a paperless experience these days and showing you’ve invested in creating a tailored, digital experience leads to higher member retention.
And don’t forget the priorities – who in the department needs to go digital first? Do you do digital all at once, or paper and portal and then all portal?
Implementing the Power Platform and the Cloud allows peace of mind that your data is being stored safely, and storage can be scaled up or down depending on the demands of the organisation.
cloudThing’s Teleportal is an accelerator that delivers bespoke user-portals which are tailored to the user who logs in and are rendered quickly. The portals are pre-integrated with Dataverse for a swiftly built and targeted experience.
Any organisation – membership, NonProfit, even an educational body, benefits from the Teleportal as it provides the ability to streamline the development of new portals and new functionality on existing portals and deliver Power Platform back-end solutions without the technical debt. It allows client-side rendering to reduce unacceptable back-end wait.
cloudThing makes the shift to digital a seamless and painless transition by taking your organisation along the journey every step of the way.
Step one involves gathering all the stakeholders to discuss the process. All future end-users are involved in this discussion, not just C-level executives and management – we consider the pain points of all people involved in the operations of the business.
Step two is more of a reminder to not go into the transformation process expecting to completely revolutionise all of the processes. You’ll run the risk of leaving staff members behind by doing a total over-haul of the workflows. Instead, cloudThing will help you map out existing paper-based processes and convert them to a paper-free digital workflow that ensures no one is left behind.
Step three, more mapping. This time it’s to lay out where all your data is currently stored. Do you have it all in one central location? Or is it all scattered to the wind over several office locations? In order migrate all your data into one system it’s important to map out exactly where all your data is.
Step four, quite an important one – digitising all of the files. This can be done either internally or outsourced and both have their pros and cons. Internally is cheaper, but by having staff members scan the documents themselves they will be pulled away from their tasks until all the documents are in. On the other hand, outsourcing has a higher upfront cost but will cause less disruption. It’s up to your organisation to decide which solution will work best for them!
Finally, step five is deciding who will be able to access what data and from where. Basically, once all the mapping and digitisation happens, individual users will be set up with logins based on their security credentials, from there they will be taken to a tailored dashboard with access to all the workflows they need.
cloudThing makes the shift to digital a seamless and painless transition. We do all the hard work before you press the switch over button, so all your people need to do is pick up where they left off – with less stress on their shoulders.
Interested in being paper-free? Email us and we’ll take you from paper based to cutting edge, seamlessly.
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Life at cloudThing as a UX Designer
I’ve been doing UX wizardry for the last 25 odd years and, at this point, I needed to think about where I have my career, not where I needed to go to build it. Where did I want to put my experience into making a positive social impact?
That’s where cloudThing appealed to me.
Let me take you back a bit…
When I first started out the internet was only just getting started and it was this new, wild west of exciting potential. People with money would throw all that they had into these .com start-ups.
So that’s where my UX career started, in the internet arm of an old school graphic and print design business. It was a cool workspace amongst the boring beige that was expected of offices at the time (we had a Cadillac in ours), but after a while, I just wasn’t making a difference. I was having fun and being creative and all that good stuff, but something was missing, and it was that satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives with technology.
That’s why I went away to work for the council for 15 years, and I truly loved it. In local government, there has always been a mandate to ensure the content is accessible and usable – even back in 2001.
I think that web design used to be very much about what it looks like, making the brand right and making it a funky place for people to want to come and see it. But it’s matured out of that now and has become so much more – it’s now about how it works, if it’s easy for the user, and if the user can immediately look at the webpage and know exactly what it is they have to do.
A lot of people do down web design now, saying every website looks the same – it’s all vanilla and corporate, but there’s a reason for that. The thing is that’s what works. Every designer needs to go through a journey from making beautiful user experiences, to making experiences that are so good the user doesn’t even notice.
It’s all very well and good creating some beautiful piece of art website, and occasionally it’s nice to stumble across one of those in the wild and take in the artistry behind it and just appreciate that it was created just for the sake of it. But if you’ve actually got to use it then you’ve also got to consider that it’s not just you who has to use it.
The user is most likely in a hurry, may be on a train or on a mobile with a weak signal – It’s only from talking to users, “watching them struggle” with the interface that you begin to realise that it’s not about what it looks like so much, it’s about how it works, how the user is empowered.
Once you get past the point of being a trusted brand well, it just doesn’t matter so much what it looks like as long as it works. What’s great about cloudThing is that, as a company, cloudThing realises this and makes it happen in a space where it’s not typically done.
A lot of CRM companies deliver websites that have been thought about database first, you know? You start with D365 or Salesforce or what have you and then provide a view on top of the data that makes no sense whatsoever to the user – because users don’t think like programmers, and they don’t think like database people. They think like people like you and me.
When they’re presented with a dashboard full of data it just results in bamboozling them, basically.
The thing is, when you’re in the business of trying to get people to donate money to a charity, the last thing you want to do is turn them away from the website because it doesn’t work. You want to tell a compelling story and get people to empathise with that and they can go, “I can be a part of this. I can help by pushing this button here – Look how easy that is.”
There’s a lot of psychology to UX. People know that there are things that make them feel good – You can give someone a little bit of joy in the feedback to their form they’ve got to complete, and it makes it less of a horrendous process, and just makes it that little bit easier.
But that’s enough about why I chose cloudThing. It’s time to talk about what I do at cloudThing.
Day to day is somewhat of a weird one for me because I don’t really consider myself a UX person. There’s a job out there called UX engineer which I relate to and started calling myself and it’s like, half designer and half developer, but it’s a title that isn’t widely used or understood.
Will Dorrington called me a UX Wizard on LinkedIn, and I’ve adopted that; it’s more friendly and equally as mysterious.
Anyway, my day to day as a UX Wizard might be designing something. It might be drawing something. It might be sitting in a workshop with users, listening to their requirements, looking at their existing systems, finding what the pain points are in their existing systems.
I absolutely love getting to talk to our clients, especially the customer service reps, because they’re the people who get it in the neck when a website’s rubbish and they have to be polite about it. They know pretty quickly if something’s wrong. They can tell you about the buggy buttons.
I like taking a rough diamond and polishing it into a functional piece of UI. Then, you polish it again, to make a functional piece of UI which is you know, semantically correct and is good code. Then you get the fine-grain sandpaper on it and fine-tune it to make it accessible and ensure everyone can use it; make it so a screen reader can parse it, or that buttons aren’t too small to click for users with less fine motor skills. You have to come from a place of empathy and think about all the types of people who will be coming to use this application. It’s certainly a craft.
cloudThing really understand the importance of this and it helps that we do so much work with the government. The GDS team are the best accessibility team in the world and one of the great things about the way they work is that they don’t keep any secrets.
Everything they do is published, and it’s not just the open-source software I’m talking about. I mean the publication of the thinking behind it so you can truly understand the principles of why it has been designed with this accessibility in mind.
If you’re a UX designer and you’re stuck in those conversations where you say, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” or, “Why is it that they don’t understand when I say X?” Well, I just want to say that that’s not the case here. They get it, and it makes a difference. I mean it, if you come forward and say you’ve got a great idea for the way you want to do something, you can do it here and you’ll be supported.
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Sarah is Sad – Her Staff Aren’t Finding New Members Or Engaging Existing Ones
Sarah is the director of a Membership Organisation. Her membership organisation requires a monthly subscription for some of its services.
Sarah has just found out her staff are struggling to spend time talking to their members. They can’t engage with them in a meaningful way to keep them happy.
And worse… they don’t have time to find new members.
Sarah’s staff have been really struggling as they’re really busy processing renewals, billings, manually updating membership information, creating new invoices, trying to check in with returning members, ensuring all information is GDPR compliant and somehow doing their daily tasks on top of all that!
All whilst having to switch between multiple systems and applications.
Now all of those little steps might not seem like much at the time, but they really bloat up the workday, turning simple tasks into time and effort-sucking endeavours.
Sarah knows things could be better…
That’s where cloudThing steps in.
What Sarah needs is a way to somehow automate all of these processes and free up that time spent generating revenue per time per agent.
By making the direct debit process an automatic, in-house function, she can reduce the cost of third-party processing and minimise the risk of human error.
Introducing One Of cloudThing’s Exclusive powerThings… dataMill!
dataMill is a cutting-edge application that bridges the gap between subscription taking, processing and refunding
It also provides a clear line of communication between an organisation and its members.
It does this by automating revenue collection and recurring billing of subscription-based membership services and planned giving for NonProfit organisations.
All this flitting back and forth between several systems can be massively frustrating for an employee, not to mention the member on the other end of it.
They have to wait while details are being updated in the system, whilst different screens are being loaded – how many times have you had to hear, “sorry, everything’s on a bit of a go slow today!” while the agent has to fire up an application here, there and everywhere?
On top of that, there’s a lack of data accuracy checks which could result in additional work after the fact to keep details up to date.
Just imagine… Your staff have to collect direct debit information for thousands of members. Someone then has to create all of the direct debit permission forms and post them, which takes many, many hours that could have been spent doing other things, only to find out a week later that the bank’s had to reject some of the direct debits because the account codes were wrong.
Sarah, her employees, and the organisations members will all be happier knowing Data Mill reduces manual effort involved with any business workflow that involves the processing of data by automatically executing tasks based on pre-defined business rules, events or customised systems integration.
Data Mill automates the checking of data before the data is processed and automatically applies corrections to any errors found, making additional changes automatically based on business rules, for example putting a space in postcodes if they’re missing.
Most of the time, the agent won’t even need to be in contact with a member for their details anyway, as the dataMill powerThing is designed to update member details in real-time, adhering to best GDPR practices to ensure member continuity.
By making this an easy task all around, dataMill encourages people to update their information following automated communications and it provides reports of any members who’ve been highlighted due to out-of-date details.
Basically, all of the manual, time-consuming work of maintaining the client relationship is removed from the shoulders of the agent and automated, so they no longer having to carry the burden of checking for due renewals and payments, issuing reminders and collection revenue through direct integrations with the bank.
In fact, that’s just one of many examples of its use… it’s capable of automating many more processes based upon customer data.
A good membership CRM can make or break the way an organisation retains their loyal members. You should consider it almost like the brain of the organisation (after removing the human entities out of the equation) capable of providing in-depth data insights into members, giving an organisation a unique view of its members, which informs future interactions, arming you with the best approach to outreach.
By speeding everything up through process automation and integration as part of a wider CRM system (with other powerThings) you’ll instil confidence in your members within the organisation – the fact that they can safely repeat business, you can keep them engaged and, most of all, they see the value your organisation holds for them.
dataMill is just one of many powerThings used in cloudThing’s Membership powerUp Solution, a complete cloud-based solution to empower your Membership or NonProfit organisation.
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Reducing Member Churn With AI and Machine Learning
Membership churn is a problem.
Did you know it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one?
To put in perspective: returning customers are more likely to spend roughly 67% more on the company’s products or services and with just a 5% increase in customer retention, it could generate a 25% increase in profit. With this increase in profit, it would mean that you would have to spend a lot less on the costs of acquiring new customers and in any organisation, the less you have to spend and the more profit you can obtain, the better!
Member churn is defined by whether a customer or a member unsubscribes or no longer purchases from, your organisation. There’s also the case of people who become ‘dormant’ that contribute to churn – dormancy, in this case, referring to people who remain signed up to your services but do not interact with your organisation or attend any events or open any emails from you. They haven’t succumbed to attrition, but they don’t generate any revenue either.
You want the member churn percentage to be as close to zero as possible.
The churn is not completely unavoidable; some people may have only wanted to make a one-time purchase, or they may have gotten the relevant qualifications they wanted to gain from your organisation and that was that.
There is a way you can predict if a member is at risk of churn… with AI and machine learning.
But Our CRM System Already Collects Data?
If you threw a bunch of Membership organisation CEOs into a room, what do you think they’d discuss?
Well, probably lots of things, but no doubt the topic of member churn will come up and the whole room will lament the fact that they have all these members but they’re just lying dormant, or they have people leaving after a month and they’re generally just struggling to retain those members.
Worst of all, they’re spending lots of money trying to gain new members.
How Does Machine Learning Work, Exactly?
A predictive churn model is a classification tool looks at past activity and uses that to identify the steps or stages when a member is falling away.
By adding this level of predictive analytics you’re better armed with the knowledge of the behaviours of your members and the moment they begin to lose sight of the value of your organisation – and what you can do to win them back around.
What kind of data does the Predictive Churn Model look at?
The data collated for analysis are:
- Customer profile
- Post code
- Average income
- How did they hear about your organisation?
- Do they interact with outreach (ie newsletters, emails, links on the website)?
- Products they interact with
- Purchase history
- Date of last purchase
- Have they asked questions? Were they answered?
- Complaint resolutions
- Where do they complain – email, phone, or Twitter?
This is a small snapshot of the breadth of information you can get to find out which event leads to them unsubscribing. Relevancy ensures accuracy and with machine learning, you can input and sort more data than is humanly possible.
But firstly, that analysis will only be as good as the data it’s given so the data needs to be categorised into three criteria:
Complete – Are all the dimensions (labels) filled out? Are there bits of data with missing values? If that’s the case, you will have to do some data exploration and fill in some of the missing values. For example, if there’re any values of ‘County’ missing you can fill in the value by checking the address.
Clean – Are there multiple values for the same dimension? For example, ‘Derbyshire/Derbys/Derbs’. If that’s the case, then you must cleanse the data to ensure uniformity.
Accurate – And, overall, is the data correct? Are the values are all in the right place, nothing answered ‘N/A’, negative revenue values for some transactions?
There’s one more step in predictive+diagnostic analytics that you need to do to prepare your data, and that’s creating the ‘target variable’. For churn analysis it can be something as binary as ‘Will churn?’ and you can fill in the values for this variable by analysing that all-important historical data. For example, you’d have a value of 1/TRUE for members who cancelled their subscription and 0/FALSE for those who renewed.
Machine Learning And The Future Of Membership Organisations
After you’ve exhausted all the information you can gather, and you’re going bonkers for data and segmentation and classification, you will see those trends.
And if you haven’t spotted at least three highly correlated attributes, then you simply haven’t asked the right questions.
It’s incredible stuff to be able to have all this customer data consolidated into one place and unlock all these trends that have been leading to all that churn!
From this model you can make smarter business decisions that have been wholly formed from behaviour analysis, giving you the confidence to ensure business growth and resilience.
I Need To Know More About Predictive Analysis
Machine learning launches organisations just that bit further. If you’re interested in making better informed, high-quality and risk-assessed decisions for your organisation then it’s time to contact the experts…
That’s us, by the way, so drop us an email!
21 Microsoft Employees In 2022 You Need To Follow… Now!
Microsoft is one of, if not the, leading tech companies in our world.
They’ve been at the forefront of discovery and a driver of innovation and cultural change since their earliest days. They’re leaders in the Cloud Computing sphere, with the Power Platform and Dynamics, they revolutionised both work and home computing and that’s before we even get into the specifics of the humanitarian work and the Tech for Social Impact teams.
The point is, Microsoft is big. Large. Huge. And that means it can sometimes be hard to keep up with those who know everything there is to know about Microsoft.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the top Microsoft employees you should be following to keep up to date with all the latest announcements, updates and user tips!**
**This list is in no particular order and is in no way comprehensive! Drop us a line if you think we’ve missed someone and we’ll add them on.
Tina Jones – Sr. Audience Evangelism Manager at Microsoft
Tina Jones is the Senior Audience Evangelism Manager at Microsoft and works globally with student developers. She has a passion for education and supporting the skilling and employability of students, so she is someone to follow if you’re looking for advice!
Nicola Hodson – VP Global Sales & Marketing, Transformation at Microsoft
Nicola Hodson loves driving results, making customers successful, spanning strategy and execution and building teams that drive growth. She has worked across commercial and consumer and all industry sectors including public sector.
Nicola posts insightful articles into the would of business transformation and latest Microsoft technology.
Michael Wignall – Azure Business Lead at Microsoft UK
Michael Wignall describes himself as an engineer, techy, consultant, and salesperson – empowering people and organisations to achieve more. If you’re interested in learning more about how the Cloud is making its mark across all sectors then definitely give him a follow.
Sam Bramwell – Solutions Director, Business Applications at Microsoft
There are three things that Sam Bramwell cares deeply about; her family, diversity and inclusion, and the positive impact tech can have on lives. A valuable resource if you’re conscious of how you can advocate for diversity and inclusivity!
Richard Ellis – General Manager: Microsoft’s Small, Medium & Corporate Customer Segment
Richard Ellis thrives on the energy he gets from talking with customers and partners, engaging with business leaders who are using Microsoft products and services to transform their businesses and with Microsoft Partners who are helping others do the same. He’s regularly speaking at digital events so be sure not to miss the next one…
David Howe – General Manager, Microsoft
David specialises in IT Strategy, organisational leadership, consulting service management, marketing, enterprise architecture, cloud computing, business development, branding and identity, product marketing, business strategy.
People development is central to David’s approach, ensuring people have an environment where they can do their best work and grow their careers. His posts centre mainly around tech companies such as Microsoft are leading the way for sustainability.
Orla McGrath – Global Partner Solutions Lead at Microsoft
Orla McGrath responsible for managing and developing Microsoft’s extensive partner network. Her LinkedIn is full of event reminders and updates from Microsoft so don’t stay out of the loop!
She’s worked with a broad range of clients to ready their businesses for the digital age and helped them transform their customer experience leveraging the latest cloud technologies and platforms to drive business growth.
Max Tchapeyou – UK Industry Solutions General Manager at Microsoft
Max Tchapeyou is relentless in building organisational capabilities, leveraging cross-collaboration and maximising business impact at scale. He nurtures people’s talents and diversity, coach, grow, empower teams, managers and leaders to fulfil their potential and together we deliver unprecedented results. His people-first mindset shines in his content, talking all about leadership, diversity and social justice.
Hugh Milward – General Manager, Corporate, External, Legal at Microsoft
Hugh Milward is a senior business figure with international experience, and current role is to lead Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs (CELA) team for Microsoft UK. If you follow Hugh you’ll be treated to a wide range of content relevant to ethics withing the tech industry.
Claire Logan – Human Resources Director at Microsoft
Claire Logan is a trusted person, who is able to provide straightforward advice and build long term relationships with clients who she can support to be successful. She really enjoys building diverse teams where all colleagues can authentically bring themselves to work and thrive – and her inspiration posts will speak for themselves!
Derrick McCourt – General Manager of Microsoft UK’s Customer Success Unit
Derrick McCourt’s drive is to empower people of all ages, skills and abilities in a technology-driven world, and is showing how technology can lead to sustainability.
Chris Perkins – General Manager, Public Sector, Microsoft UK
Chris Perkins’ focus lies in bringing a greater diversity of skills into the workforce. Follow him for event updates with important figures within Microsoft and tech!
Clare Barclay – Chief Executive Officer, CVP, Microsoft UK
Since October 1st 2020, Clare Barclay has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft UK where she is responsible for all of Microsoft’s product and service offerings in the UK for their commercial customers and partners. What else is there to say – who better to keep up to date with?
Soraya Scott – Chief Operating Officer, UK at Microsoft
Soraya Scott has extensive experience in building strong, high performing and multi-disciplined teams across a number of business lines – including Consulting and Support.
Her specialities are: Customer relationships, People Management, Sales Management, Team Transformations
Douglas Dawson – GM, Global Communications at Microsoft
Douglas Dawson is an energetic communications professional with more than 25 years of experience and a proven track record for developing internationally focused consumer and corporate communications campaigns. A well-rounded executive who mixes traditional communications strategies with social media programs to reach consumers, industry stakeholders and investors.
Ralf Groene – CVP Design Windows and Devices at Microsoft
If you’re geeky for all things hardware then Ralf Groene should be on your follow list. He leads Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Design Team. The team is responsible for designing Microsoft’s hardware products including Surface, Xbox and HoloLens and their Windows & Android OS experiences.
Yash Misra – Principal Design Manager at Microsoft
Yash Misra is a principal design manager at Microsoft, currently leading Signature Experiences Design team for Windows 11, so expect a lot of Windows 11 content!
Brandon LeBlanc – Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
Brandon LeBlanc is responsible for making sure Windows Insiders have all the necessary information about participating in the program and installing the new OS builds released to them; as you can imagine, he knows a lot about Windows 11.
Jacky Wright – Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at Microsoft US
Jacky Wright is a global technology leader who has made broad impact in business transformation and on social issues. She inspires and leads teams to help businesses leverage technology to drive innovation, adopt sustainable and accessible business models, and digitally transform.
Christopher Young – Executive Vice President Business Development, Strategy and Ventures at Microsoft
Christopher Young’s role as executive vice president of business development, strategy and ventures at Microsoft means he is responsible for growth across the company by establishing strategic partnerships, setting corporate strategy and identifying high impact investments through Microsoft’s corporate venture arm.
And of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without…
Satya Nadella – Chairman and CEO at Microsoft
Satya Nadella is on a self-described mission to ‘empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.’ His pages are chock full of all the awesome things Microsoft is doing to achieve that goal.
What Happens Once the Small Charities Coalition Closes Its Doors For Good?
A breakdown of what the closure of the membership body means for the more than 16,000 organisations it serves, and what the sector needs to consider following its impact.
Small Charities Coalition announced in December that lack of funds has meant it will close in spring.
[We have] exhausted all possibilities to secure funding that would have put the charity on a secure, sustainable financial footing
Statement made by Small Charities Coalition
The umbrella body was founded in 2008 by Directory of Social Change chief executive Debra Allcock Tyler.
There was nowhere for small charities to go, no one place that was just for them – up until that point, I think all of us genuinely cared about small charities and most organisations offered services for them, but it wasn’t dedicated
Debra Allcock Tyler, Chief Executive at Directory of Social Change
The SCC was small but mighty, much like the many charities it spent the last 14 years representing, and it will close with just three members of staff and more than 16,000 members on its books.
The work that the SCC has done, the support it has provided and the representation it has given, will leave a lasting imprint on the charity sector as a whole.
I think the SCC can certainly leave with its heads held high. It’s done two things: provided a service, particularly for smaller, volunteer-led charities, but more generally it has shone a spotlight on small charities.
A few years ago, the bigger infrastructure bodies didn’t really know what a small charity was and didn’t really have much interest in them, whereas now the infrastructure bodies all have much better understanding and are making sure they’re speaking up for them rather than defaulting to talking about large charities.
Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Communications and Research at the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
Small charities are on the agenda in a way they weren’t before and I don’t think you can undo that
Debra Allcock Tyler, Chief Executive at Directory of Social Change
She also goes on to say that a dedicated voice to amplify the message of small charities to the government and sector is necessary, and the SCC will be sorely missed.
Despite being an avenue for small charities to get funding where it cannot get it elsewhere, the SCC was no exception to financial pressures.
In order to serve some of the most hard-pressed organisations in the sector, the SCC kept its membership free of charge, as Shrubsole points out – membership fees are one of the key sources of funding that umbrella bodies can use in order to gain financial stability.
Trustees have taken the responsible decision when they look at the financial situation going forward, and should be praised for their foresight. It means that they can do an orderly wind-up, which is always to the good, rather than things coming to a head and then having to suddenly shut the doors, which has happened in the charity sector in the past.
Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Communications and Research at the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
So, what happens now? Once the SCC closes its doors, what will happen with the void it leaves behind?
The SCC, and other infrastructure bodies like the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, LBFEW, the DSC and others have been ruminating the very same question.
The organisation is starting work on a comprehensive evaluation and learning process.
In time we look forward to sharing what we’ve learned about supporting small charities since 2008 and working with other infrastructure groups, funders and civil society to support them to embed this learning and secure a thriving future for small charities for decades to come
The vital work that the SCC did was practical support through its helpline, on hand when charities needed them most – starting out, expanding or closing down.
Practically, it was a really important set of activities, support and resources they were building and were custodian of,” she says. “That work will need to be picked up elsewhere.
We’re thinking about how we can understand more who the SCC have been working with, and think about how we step into that space, what capacity and resources will be needed to do that.
There are many that will fall to Navca members because they’re the obvious point of call. But for some it will be the national bodies who can also step in and pick some of that up.
Maddy Desforges, Chief Executive of Navca
Following SCC’s closure, Shrubsole poses the question about why smaller organisations were looking to SCC for support.
Some of this is about content of help and some of it is about tone and culture
Some people from small charities are ringing SCC because they feel ‘They understand us – the clue’s in the name’, but is the help they are getting similar to what they could get from somewhere else?
It could be that some of the bigger organisations need to think about how to tailor their existing services to small charities, or simply make more of an effort to promote themselves to that market, so smaller organisations are more aware of them as a source of support
Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Communications and Research at the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
Regulatory organisations such as the Charity Commission may have a role in picking up some of the pieces that will be left behind.
So if people who are doing accounts are being told to call the SCC even though it’s the Charity Commission’s own rules and guidance that they need help with, there’s certainly something that needs pursuing about what the commission’s role and responsibility is,” Shrubsole says – although he adds that it’s not yet clear how prevalent this issue is.
It will be a few more weeks before the complete picture emerges and it becomes clear whether there are any gaps that cannot be filled
And, while the coronavirus may have forced the decision to close due to surmounting the financial pressures, like a double-edged sword it may have also created the best possible outcome for its closure.
The network between infrastructure bodies have been opened and strengthened to an unprecedented degree, and both Desforges and Shrubsole state that important conversations about the legacy of SCC have happened far more quickly and easily than they would have done pre-Covid.
But, as Shrubsole says, finding funding for infrastructure bodies is no easy feat and as such, those involved are nervous about taking on SCC’s full workload, on limited resources, without giving it a proper think.
There’s always pushback about how many infrastructure bodies we really need, but I think there is also a strength in the specialisms of those we have – they were set up for a reason, they have specific purposes and meet specific needs
We all need to step back and recognise the value of infrastructure support. It is the catalyst that allows other organisations to have their impact. If we lose these bodies, the impact won’t be immediate, it won’t be this month or the month after, but it will be incremental and it will be significant.
Maddy Desforges, Chief Executive of Navca
She also goes on to say that this coming financial year is key for the NonProfit sector as it needs to come up with a longer-term plan for recovery from the pandemic, which has been brutalising charity organisations for almost two years.
For infrastructure bodies, particularly, we need to think about what’s our plan, what’s our strategy – not as individuals, but as a sector
It’s about the [part] an organisation plays in society – you can’t call on civil society in a pandemic if it’s not there in the first place, so [you] can’t just fund it in a pandemic, you have to do it long term
Maddy Desforges, Chief Executive of Navca
IBM Cloud Suffers Global Scale “Provisioning Issues” One Week Into 2022
IBM Cloud’s services went down in the early hours – bad omen or bad luck?
IBM Cloud’s start to 2022 wasn’t all Prosecco and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – a prolonged duration of “provisioning issues” hit IBM Cloud on a global scale in the wee hours of Thursday 6th of January 2022.
The company’s status page shows that the troubles began at 0546 UTC and continued throughout the morning, until the issues were marked as resolved at 1212 UTC.
Users may experience issues with provisioning and other resource management actions in IBM Cloud services.
Affected locations were Washington DC, Osaka, São Paulo, London, Dallas, Seoul, Sydney, Chennai, Toronto, Tokyo, and Frankfurt.
Big Blue’s “provisioning issues” followed after two days of other IBM issues, with the Load Balancer component for the Virtual Private Cloud and the Virtual Private Cloud itself, which spent an hour of the 4th of January 2022 in a state of difficulty. Dallas’ infrastructure had some woes of its own on the 3rd of January 2022 with multiple SAN virtual servers going read-only as well as the Code Engine and Block Storage for the Virtual Private Cloud struggling.
IBM Cloud’s Twitter profile states it is “Hybrid. Open. Resilient,” so the struggling servers is not a great look for a company trying to compete with industry giants.
Although, IBM Cloud is not the only cloud service provider to have run into issues – Amazon Web Services has struggled in recent months.
Japan and Europe’s New Submarine Cable Planned to Take Traffic by 2025
Network latency between Europe and Asia will hopefully be a thing of the past
European traders seeking Asia in the 15th century faced numerous obstacles: first of all, the journey took years by land or sea, and there were lethal perils. So, the dream of the “Northwest Passage” – a route that goes across the Atlantic, then over the top of North America, before trailing down to Japan.
Unfortunately, it remained a dream as the Northwest Passage saw ice, ice in Canada, and… ice. Navigating the passage was impossible for hundreds of years, and the route was not commercially viable due to, well, all the perilous ice.
The problems of the long, in some places impossible to navigate journey from Europe to Asia have followed Europeans into the 21st century, in the form of an uncomfortably long network latency between northern Europe and Asia.
And in the spirit of 1920 intrepid explorers, Finnish company Cinia and US telco infrastructure company Far North Digital have united to build a submarine cable named the Far North Fiber which will traverse the route.
At one of the cable, there’ll be Japan. It’ll go on to touch Alaska and the Canadian Arctic before ending in Norway, Finland and Ireland. The route is as follows:
Pan-Arctic Fibre Cable Route
One of the factors for the latency is the fact there is complexity within the existing cables. Europe and Asia are already connected via the FLAG and SEA-ME-WE3 cables, which pass through the Suez Canal and other finicky areas which are vulnerable to sabotage if someone were to be determined enough (and, you know, there are lots of determined people out there.) The other routes require cross-connection and thus, we’ve ended up with a complicated connection which has slowed down the network significantly.
Far North Fiber will solve that problem by being a shorter trip and an alternative route – kind of like a slip road.
We can see (thanks to submarinecablemap.com) that while cables are already operating in Arctic climes, some further north than this one would need to pass, they are rare. It is therefore super exciting to see this feat of engineering, should the memorandum of understanding signed by Cinia and Far North Digital come to fruition.
There plan would see the cable taking network traffic from as soon as 2025, which is achieved, would beat Russia’s Polar Express cable to market by a year. However, the Polar Express will only land in Russia after using northern waters to travel from Asia to Europe.
It is worth noting that the sea ice that once plagued the Northern Passage has dwindled over the years, opening up the route to more frequent shipping routes. Cinia and Far North Digital hope that the conditions will make their construction efforts easier.
09th Jun 2022
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22nd Apr 2022