News in brief: pensions, innovation, fuel hikes, economy, IoT

News in brief
News in brief

Six million people auto-enrolled for pensions

The number of people that have been auto-enrolled for their workplace pension has passed the six million milestone.

MD for business solutions at Aviva, the largest provider of workplace pensions in the UK, Andy Beswick, claims that this is a huge achievement in just three and a half years.

“The majority of that 6m are employed by large companies, so now the focus turns to those small and micro employers who have exactly the same responsibilities when it comes to workplace pensions,” he said.

Around 480,000 small businesses are going through auto-enrolment this year alone and it will be vital that the journey is as smooth and as simple as possible. These types of businesses don’t have the advantages of large payroll and HR departments so its key that the industry helps them along the way.

New innovation resource centres for SMEs

Businesses are being invited to build their digital and business skills at Eagle Labs, which will provide access to resources including expert mentoring, event space, 3D printers and laser cutters - giving the UK’s start-up and scale-up communities a crucial boost.

Barclays bank has invested in the labs in the hope that they will encourage innovation in the future of fast growth sectors, in addition to UK manufacturing and production.

The spaces will be specifically designed around the needs of local entrepreneurs, businesses and communities and tailored to suit regional economic strength in specific industries.

Barclays UK CEO Ashok Vaswani said: “Technology is transforming the speed at which start-ups can grow and scale. Simply having access to a 3D printer can now help people turn a clever idea into a business success overnight, and by providing practical resources alongside our financial expertise we intend to help people succeed.”

FSB urges Chancellor to ditch fuel hikes

Following reports of a potential increase to fuel duty in Budget 2016, the Federation of Small Businesses has urged the chancellor George Osborne to refrain. The FSB has highlighted that 93% of its members said cars are important to their businesses and such a measure could be very damaging.

Policy director Mike Cherry said: “Small firms across the country are heavily reliant on roads for customers, staff, and suppliers, and affordable fuel has been a lifeline to those in rural areas.

“Businesses want to play their part in meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets, including those in the transport sector. But for many, the routes to low carbon alternatives and fuel reduction simply aren’t available yet.”

Cherry argues that a fuel duty will add pressure to small businesses at a time when they face rising costs from business rates, the National Living Wage, pensions auto-enrolment and changes to the taxing of dividend payments.

A positive outlook in the face of economic uncertainty

Around 37% of UK entrepreneurs have turned their hobbies and passion projects into successful businesses and nearly 90% of entrepreneurs think Britain is a good place to start a business.

This is according to a survey by Weebly, a platform that allows users to design their own websites, which also found that EU uncertainties and fears of a new global recession are not worrying the UK’s new generation of entrepreneurs, with almost 80% of those interviewed feeling optimistic about the future of small businesses in the UK over the next five years.

The survey also found that women now make up more than 45% of the UK’s new breed of entrepreneurs. Although Millennials and Generation X are the largest demographic of the UK’s entrepreneurial community, at 31% and 38% respectively, a growing number of Baby Boomers (19%) are giving up retirement and opting for a second career, starting up their own business. A contagious entrepreneurial fever has hit teens too, with a staggering 11% of 13 to 17 year-olds claiming to have launched a hobby or business site in the UK.

‘Internet of Things’ officer roles on the rise

Half of UK businesses (54%) plan to employ a chief IoT (internet of things) officer in the next year, especially in the education (63%), retail (63%) and telecomms (64%) industries.

This is according to new research commissioned by cybersecurity specialist Webroot and data centre organisation IO which also reported that 60% of UK businesses are increasing their investments in IoT projects, by an average of 42%.

Crucially, they’re doing it because they expect real, tangible results; not just pilot project data but increased revenues and greater competitive advantage. Around 68% of business leaders are expecting to reap actual benefits from their IoT investments in 2016; a huge progression from the one in five who are seeing benefits today.