PUBLISHED 2ND AUGUST 2012
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City A.M.’s Innovation of the Year category seeks out businesses that are frontrunners in their field, whether finance, marketing or product development. Our shortlist includes green technology, new media, manufacturing, a finance provider and a new approach to financial restructuring.
The winner will need to show a genuinely innovative approach and demonstrate significant milestones achieved in the past year. Their company or product should be capable of having real impact on consumers, society or the business world.
The category is sponsored by Lexus, which is itself a pioneer of hybrid technology and committed to creating efficient and environmentally responsible technology.
Lexus is behind the introduction of affordable hybrid technology into the luxury car market and is committed to continuing to create efficient and environmentally responsible technology. Says Paul Marshall of Lexus: “In these hard times people are having to become far more innovative in their thinking about business and business solutions.”
“There’s a good mixture here of companies, some that are environmentally friendly and others that focus on providing innovative finance solutions.”
Founded in Sweden in 2006 and now headquartered in London with 300 employees, Spotify is helping to reduce music piracy, offering customers the ability to stream from its catalogue of over 15m tracks without locking users into a particular hardware platform. The service has 13m users, 3m of whom use the paid-for service. The ease of use and immense choice have drawn special praise.
A recent deal with Yahoo, the internet search engine, showed how far Spotify has come, with plaudits suggesting the deal was crucial for Yahoo in its search to hang on to users.
The service has had a busy year. In 2011, Spotify launched its own apps platform, enabling media partners to build apps to run within Spotify’s desktop application and followed that with mobile apps.
And Spotify’s star is in the ascendancy to the extent that in a recent tie up with Yahoo, the ability to stream music while using Yahoo has been seen as a bigger deal for the established search company than it is for Spotify.
Although the managers of some artists boycott the service, Spotify continues to add some 20,000 tracks to its catalogue each day and aims to become as ubiquitous as the CD.
Bremont has achieved a very British balance of innovation and tradition since launching its first collection of high-specification timepieces in 2007. This March it announced a watch containing oak and copper from HMS Victory, while another watch uses parts from a Spitfire. Not content to incorporate Britain’s engineering heritage in new ways, Bremont is at the centre of a British revival in watchmaking, with all assembly UK-based by this autumn and its B-1 Marine clock wholly UK-made. With the launch of its flagship store in Mayfair this July, Bremont looks designed to endure.
As emerging economies rush to put up skyscrapers and older economies regroup and restore, the emissions from construction continue to trouble environmentalists.
Novacem, a spin-out business from Imperial College London, has developed cement that could turn cement manufacturing from a harmful emitter to an absorber of CO2.
Conventional cement manufacturing accounts for 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions. For every tonne of Novacem cement produced, 0.75 of a tonne of CO2 is captured and absorbed.
In 2010 Novacem attracted Lafarge as the first subscriber to its Green Cement Bond, an innovative commercial and financial approach to engaging with major manufacturers of cement and in 2011 the company completed a £1.6m funding round, which included Laing O’Rourke as a key investor.
The restructuring of Fitness First via a company voluntary arrangement took an interesting turn when landlords were persuaded to become shareholders in the company – a measure never agreed before.
The deal, negotiated by KPMG, sees landlords commit themselves to the long-term rescue of the company in a novel way. As part of the agreement, landlords will be paid monthly instead of quarterly, some of them accepting a reduction in rent.
Some 62 of the company’s UK clubs are part of the CVA. The total portfolio in the UK is 79 clubs.
With access to finance a huge area of contention, particularly in the small and medium-sized enterprise sector, new approaches to raising funds are much sought after.
MarketInvoice, founded by Anil Stocker and Charles Delingpole, is an online marketplace for invoices – offering companies a more flexible way to finance their business. Small companies can put individual invoices up for online auction and sell invoices due in 30 to 120 days from large corporate customers to a network of global investors. The innovation has made waves in the lucrative but somewhat hidebound invoice finance sector and to date MarketInvoice’s online auctions have made £20m in advances to over 100 businesses.