Somerset Buzz

By Martyn Shiner | March 7, 2019

If people have heard of Somerset at all it’s usually in the context of one of the following:

  1. Glastonbury Festival;
  2. Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station;
  3. Cider!
  4. Somewhere they drive through on the way to Devon & Cornwall, maybe stopping at Sedgemoor services….
  5. ”…sort of south of Bristol, isn’t it?“.

But maybe this is a changing. I’ve recently been involved with a couple of organisations that are seeking to transform the way Somerset is perceived as a place to do business.

Somerset Manufacturers Group

As an ERP supplier focused on Manufacturing, we’ve long known about the vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector in Somerset. Indeed our three case studies are all Somerset businesses and are an example of the range of manufacturers that are based here.

Recently, though, a number of entrepreneurs and executives from manufacturing companies in the county, facilitated by SWMAS (South West Manufacturing Advisory Service), have formed the Somerset Manufacturers Group. From their summary page:

Network, collaborate and share best practices with your peers through the Somerset Manufacturers Group. As a source of knowledge and ideas to drive the growth of your business, get involved and identify opportunities for funding and other business support. SMG also works with other organisations to ensure Somerset manufacturers across all sectors are represented regionally and nationally.

Simon Howes, MD of SWMAS, said:

We have a wealth of manufacturing expertise right here in Somerset, from global businesses like Leonardo to smaller companies who are growing fast and making a name for themselves.

I attended the first two ‘steering’ meetings where the group fleshed out the aims and objectives and it was a really rewarding experience. There was a real enthusiasm to promote the County as a great place for business among the leaders of a diverse range of manufacturing sectors from Advanced Aerospace through Precision Engineering to Food and Drink.

As Simon notes, there are some great things happening in many of these companies, and the factory visit organised by SMG and hosted by Numatic (the makers of the famous ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner) at the end of January, showcased the use of advanced ‘Co-botics’ manufacturing techniques that they have been implementing in the last few years. This is being followed up with an Introduction to Robotics workshop on 26th March at Bristol Robotics Laboratory to allow interested companies to evaluate the potential adoption of robotic technology having had first hand experience.

To sum up - I’m really enthusiastic about SMG and believe that anyone already manufacturing in Somerset, or thinking of doing so, should get involved.

Digital Taunton

Working together on improving the digital economy & culture for people based in Taunton and the surrounding areas.

This is the mission of the (relatively) newly formed Digital Taunton organisation. Even though there were established Facebook and Slack groups, Ben and Shane of The Idea Bureau have long felt that there was a need to find a way to energise the ‘digital creatives’ in the Taunton and larger Somerset areas.

With a low key start last year they decided to ramp things up with a major event at the end of February hosted by Company Spaces in Taunton. Keynote speakers included Dave Alexander from Bridgwater and Taunton College who outlined their developments in digital training and Tamsin Hodge of the UK Hydrographic Office on how they use their digital and data skills to support the marine environment.

Shane and Ben provided the Beer and Pizza, which aided the networking no end and added to the buzz the event generated, greatly helped by the venue which was perfect for such a gathering.

During his intro to the session Shane put up a slide highlighting the perceived ‘gap’ between Bristol in the north and Exeter to the South West “where nothing happens” and made an eloquent and impassioned case as to why a digital/creative community is important for the local economy. Given that the turnout for this first event of 2019 was absolutely fantastic, he’s obviously on the right track - if this is anything to go by it shows Digital Taunton has got legs and will provide a valuable focus for the community in the area.

In summary

Somerset is a great place to holiday, it’s a wonderful place to live, and I hope this post has flagged up that it’s also a fantastic place to do business, with vibrant and supportive communities in many different sectors of the economy.

If you would like a little more information, Somerset County Council has a useful site where they publish information, facts and figures about Somerset. Although somewhat out of date, we think this is a useful summary for anyone thinking about doing business in the County or larger region.

Somerset Manufacturing Group can be contacted on:

    0845 608 3838

    smg@swmas.co.uk

To get in touch with Digital Taunton:

    @DigitalTaunton Twitter feed

    Digital Taunton Facebook Group

And finally…. if you want to know more about how we can help you improve your business through better systems and improved information then do please get in touch via the Contacts Page.