October’s top 10 engineering business stories

Each month, we pick 10 of the most notable news stories from The Engineer’s Business Briefs archive.

This month it was revealed that nearly nine out of 10 manufacturing businesses have been affected by fraud in the past 12 months — more than any other industry sector. According to the Kroll Advisory Services Global Fraud Report, companies in the sector have seen a substantial increase in the incidence of fraud, with eight out of 10 categories of fraud tracked for the survey becoming more common this year.

Compared with other sectors, manufacturers experienced the highest levels of theft of physical assets (50 per cent), corruption and bribery (29 per cent), management conflict of interest (27 per cent), vendor or procurement fraud (23 per cent) and IP theft (13 per cent). The manufacturing sector also experienced the highest average loss owing to fraud, with businesses that suffered from fraud losing an average of 1.9 per cent of their annual revenue.

In a separate survey, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed that steep energy prices continue to be consumers’ main concern. The tracking survey — which monitors the public’s understanding and response to the energy retail market — came at a time of widespread confusion over prime minister David Cameron’s announcement that energy companies will be made to give customers the lowest available tariff.

The survey also showed a high level of concern regarding energy bills among customers, with 15 per cent of the 2,100 households questioned saying that they had been ‘very worried’ about their household bills during the three months to the end of June 2012. Nine per cent of the 15 per cent said they were more concerned about their energy bills than both transportation and food costs. Despite the concern, however, only five per cent said they planned to switch to another supplier in the coming year.

The subject of energy is a huge and important one, and stories centred around it make up a significant proportion of the The Engineer’s content. One story (a positive one) that appeared on the site this month revealed that the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has been recognised for its infrastructure and economic impact at regional and national level at two recent award ceremonies.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) President’s Award for Energy Infrastructure was presented to EMEC at the British Construction Industry Awards in London on 10 October. The prize recognises excellence in a chosen theme, which this year ICE president Richard Coackley set as the generation, storage and delivery of energy. The centre was commended for its test-site facilities based in Orkney, which enable 14 full-scale marine energy technologies to test simultaneously in some of the harshest wave and tidal conditions, as well as its test sites situated in less challenging real sea conditions for smaller-scale device testing.

EMEC also scooped the accolade of Best Renewable Energy (Offshore) at the Energy North Awards in Inverness on 12 October for its role in the development of the burgeoning marine renewables industry in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

This month, we also reported that the UK government has given its consent for the construction of a 60MW energy-from-waste generating station at Lostock, Northwich, in Cheshire. The proposed development will reportedly generate enough power to supply 80,000 homes. It is expected to create a total of 500 jobs during the construction period and a further 50 permanent operating posts.

In a separate story, the government’s DECC has given the go-ahead for a 19-turbine, 57MW wind farm situated near Frodsham, Cheshire. The development — which will be built by Peel Energy — is estimated to create 50 construction jobs and will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by around 50,000 tonnes per year.

The government has also awarded £13m of funding to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to help boost overseas trade opportunities for 10,000 British companies. Up to £9m will be used to help small and medium-sized businesses, while £2.5m will be invested to help companies access and win high-value opportunities identified by UKTI. A further £1.5m will be used for projects, including support for UKTI’s work attracting inward investment into the UK economy.

Small and medium-sized companies and start-ups are also set to benefit from a £2.25m business support programme that was launched earlier this month by Cambridge University’s IfM Education and Consultancy Services (ECS). The ‘Practical and Innovative Solutions for Manufacturing Sustainability’ programme has two key aims: to create more than 140 new jobs and to safeguard many more; and to help companies take a sustainable approach to all aspects of their businesses.

IfM ECS received funding from the European Regional Development Fund to set up the programme, which will run until 30 June 2015. It will reportedly provide fully funded support for 50 start-ups and 70 small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the east of England to help them increase their profits, reduce their costs and minimise their environmental impacts.

Another key area for The Engineer is aerospace and defence, and this month we reported that Raytheon UK has been contracted for the logistic support of NATS en-route surveillance infrastructure, covering 23 radar sites throughout the UK, including those at London’s three major airports. The contract, which will run for the next 15 years, covers the provision of technical assistance, full radar repairs, maintenance materials and obsolescence management. The customer support team at Raytheon’s Harlow facility will manage the contract, assisted by mission support from Raytheon Canada.

We also reported that aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace has received firm orders for a total of six Global 6000 business jets from an undisclosed customer. The transaction is valued at approximately $350m (£217m) based on the 2012 list price for typically equipped aircraft.

Finally, Airbus, also an aircraft manufacturer, revealed this month that orders for its A330 and A320 jetliners were the main focus of its new business in September 2012, with 10 widebody and 12 single-aisle models sold during the month. According to the company, deliveries remained strong at 41, bringing the January-September timeframe delivery to 405. The A330 order came from Philippine Airlines, while the single-aisle bookings for September were ordered by an undisclosed client. With September’s activity taken into account, Airbus net orders logged so far this year totalled 382, while the overall backlog stood at 4,414 aircraft.