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GPSJ - Autumn 2023

December 2023


Wellbeing Economy Secretary comments on latest GDP figures

Commenting on Scottish GDP estimates, which show the economy grew by 0.4% in the three months to September, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said:

“These figures show the robustness of the Scottish economy, despite the stiff headwinds faced by countries around the world. We don’t under-estimate the seriousness of a cost-of-living crisis which continues to hamper household and businesses’ ability to spend, to the detriment of the wider economy.

“We are doing all we can with the limited powers available to us, including supporting business exports to produce increased international sales. As part of the Autumn Statement, Scotland needed a fair deal on investment for businesses, infrastructure and public services – the UK Government has failed to deliver on every count.

“Scottish businesses also continue to suffer due to Brexit’s effect on supply chains, trade and the free movement of people. I am not content with minimal growth levels for Scotland as part of the UK. 

“By focusing on developing equality, opportunity and community, an independent Scotland can build a fair, green and growing economy and match the performance of our European neighbours.”

APN Group acquires Trace Enforcement Group and announces further heavyweight hires

Recently launched APN Group has acquired Trace Enforcement Group, the fastest growing provider of debt recovery and enforcement services to the private and public parking sectors. In support it has simultaneously announced the appointment of three more industry-leading figures to its senior ranks.

Colin Arthur, Paul Kyte and John Mason

APN Group has fully acquired Trace Enforcement Group – comprising Trace Enforcement Services, Trace Debt Recovery and Trace Managed Services – and appointed John Mason as its Managing Director. Formerly John served as a Director and Board Member of CDER Group, having previously worked asDirector of Traffic Enforcement and Congestion Charging for Transport for London and as Head of Off-Street Parking for City of Westminster Council.

Colin Arthur, previously Operations Director at Debt Recovery Plus, takes up the newly created role of Transformation Director, and Paul Kyte, a former Head of Parking at Worcester Council and consultant with RTA Associates, joins from Bristow and Sutor as Client Director.

The three founding directors of Trace Enforcement Group – Chloe Barnes, Louis Ellis and David Jarvis – remain shareholders, and have taken up active roles within the newly established APN Group.

News of this acquisition follows last week’s announcement that RingGo founder Harry Clarke has joined APN Group as Chair.

John Mason, Managing Director, Trace Enforcement Group: “After nearly 30 years in the parking enforcement and debt recovery sector I am delighted to have the opportunity to build upon the robust success that the TRACE Group has already achieved.” 

Eddie Harrison, Chief Operating Officer of APN Group: “APN Group is bringing together real expertise in both private and public parking sectors with a genuine understanding of data, process and technology to create something new and meaningful. We’re delighted to bring Trace Enforcement Group into our newly established structure, and we can’t wait to share more news on our further growth and diversification as soon as we are able.”

Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service Selects Motorola Solutions’ Command Centre Technology

New solution unifies real-time data to inform incident response and improve frontline and community safety 

Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) has selected Motorola Solutions’ (NYSE: MSI) command centre technology, including Control Room Solution (CRS), to strengthen the service’s call handling and emergency dispatch. The solution will help to increase the speed, effectiveness and resilience of Leicestershire FRS’s incident response to support frontline and community safety. Ongoing software maintenance will help ensure the critical system remains current.

Serving a population of over one million people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, Leicestershire FRS manages around 15,000 calls and attends 8,000 emergency incidents on average per year. The service responds to a wide range of emergency situations, from fires, to road traffic collisions and search and rescue missions, whilst also providing community safety and fire prevention services.

“Our control room is integral to our emergency response capabilities. It is the first point of contact in any emergency situation and acts as the ‘eyes and ears’ for our teams,” said Callum Faint, chief fire and rescue officer, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. “Emergency call handlers operate in fast moving and uncertain environments. They need to be able to gather vital information from emergency calls and quickly relay the details to response teams to help ensure the safety of frontline personnel as they work to protect communities.” 

Motorola Solutions’ CRS integrates the control room’s communications into a single intuitive system, accelerating response times and improving operational efficiency. The hosted solution enables the control room to build a clear picture of events from multiple data sources, including real-time data from devices in the field, and provides secure bulk storage for media assets. It supports collaboration and mutual aid between fire services during spate conditions, where a large number of calls are received simultaneously across multiple locations.  

“We have developed a solution that enhances the tools available to the control room, whilst simplifying workflows,” said Fergus Mayne, U.K. and Ireland country manager, Motorola Solutions. “Our objective is always to enable control room operators to focus on the call at hand, allowing them to dispatch the appropriate resource as efficiently as possible.” 

About Motorola Solutions
Motorola Solutions is a global leader in public safety and enterprise security. Their solutions in land mobile radio communications, video security and the command center, bolstered by managed & support services, create an integrated technology ecosystem to help make communities safer and businesses stay productive and secure. Motorola Solutions, are ushering in a new era in public safety and security. Learn more at

How to know your citizens (KYC) and prevent fraud

Autumn 2023 Cover story – by Barley Laing, UK Managing Director at Melissa

Barley Laing

The public sector has long been considered a soft target by fraudsters. This is backed up by data from the Cabinet Office which highlights that fraud and error in public spending are estimated to cost taxpayers up to £51.8 billion every year, which is greater than the UK’s annual defence budget.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is a case in point. Of the £47 billion worth of Bounce Back Loans, £17 billion is already expected to be lost with £4.9 billion of that figure attributed to fraud.

In the future, cybercrime is set to increase as the cost of living crisis continues and more public sector services head online.

The answer to prevent fraud is to know your citizens (KYC), to make certain they are who they say they are, and are legitimately entitled to the services offered. The processes put in place to deliver KYC have the added benefit of helping to deliver a single citizen view (SCV). This will enable the personalisation of communications, improvement to the delivery of services and overall user experience, and greater operational efficiency – all vital during a period of high inflation and reduced budgets.

How to effectively deliver KYC

The best place to start is to access verified user contact data. This means have processes in place to cleanse and standardise user data held in batch, as well as the moment new data is collected.

The ideal approach to confirm proof of address is to undertake address validation. Matching a name to an address is vital to the data hygiene process. Doing so highlights inaccurate addresses, whether because of a typo or a malformed address, which can be easily corrected. Also, it flags instances in which someone has provided an address that they are not associated with, potentially for fraudulent purposes.

KYC match rates will be significantly improvedby first correcting input contact data. Also, undertaking data quality activity prior to running KYC checks is financially beneficial and more efficient.

Data decays rapidly

Contact data decays quickly for a number of reasons, for example people moving home, death and divorce, and is the main reason why user contact data lacking regular intervention degrades at 25 per cent a year. Also, 20 per cent of addresses entered online contain errors; these include spelling mistakes, wrong house numbers, and incorrect postcodes, which are primarily caused by people mistyping their details into small keyboards on their mobile devices. It’s a key reason why 91 per cent of organisations have common data quality problems. 

The good news is that incorrect contact data can be avoided by having verification processes in place at the point of data capture. This usually involves simple and cost-effective changes to the data quality process that also help to deliver KYC and a SCV.

Prevent errors with autocomplete

Authentication by facial recognition concept. Biometric. Security system.

One of the most valuable pieces of technology to deliver clean data, ID verification and KYC, is an address autocomplete or lookup service. It delivers accurate address data in real-time at the onboarding stage by providing a properly formatted, correct address when the user starts to input theirs. It also enables convenience by reducing the number of keystrokes required, by up to 81 per cent, when typing an address. This speeds up the onboarding process and reduces the probability of the user not completing an application to access a service.

First point of contact verification can be extended to email and phone, so that these important contact data channels can also be verified in real-time. This ensures those in the public sector communicate effectively with users, not just on the first occasion, but on an ongoing basis. 

Match and dedupe

With the average database containing 8-10 per cent duplicate records data deduplication is important. Duplication occurs for a variety of reasons, such as when two departments merge their data and mistakes in contact data collection occur at different touchpoints. Not only does duplication add cost in terms of time and money, particularly with printed communications, but it can adversely impact on the sender’s reputation.

Preventing such waste necessitates the use of an advanced fuzzy matching tool to deduplicate data. By merging and purging the most challenging records it’s possible to create a ‘single user record’ and obtain an optimum SCV. Organising contact data this way will also maximise efficiency and reduce costs, because multiple outreach efforts will not be made to the same person. Also, the potential for fraud is reduced by establishing a unified record for each citizen.

Data suppression / cleaning

Data suppression, or cleaning, using the appropriate technology that highlights people who have moved or are no longer at the address on file, is a vital part of the KYC process. As well as removing incorrect addresses, these services can include deceased flagging to prevent the sending of mail and other communications to those who have passed away, which can cause distress to their friends and relatives. The answer is to implement suppression strategies that help public bodies to save money, protect their reputations, and avoid fraud.

SaaS drives data quality

Today, it’s never been easier or more cost-effective to manage data quality in real-time. It’s possible to source a scalable data cleaning software as a service (SaaS) platform that requires no coding, integration, or training. Simply switch on and benefit instantly – which is something we offer via our Unison platform. This technology cleanses and corrects names, addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers worldwide. It matches records in real-time, ensuring no duplication, and provides data profiling to help source issues for further action. A single, intuitive interface provides the opportunity for data standardisation, validation, and enrichment, resulting in high-quality contact information across multiple databases.

SaaS electronic ID verification (eIDV)

Data hygiene practices on their own aren’t enough to deliver KYC and prevent fraud. Forward-thinking public sector organisations are already using identity verification services, such as SaaS electronic ID verification (eIDV). SaaS eIDV platforms are leading the way because they are easy to deploy, automated, scalable and support cross-checks against an individual’s contact data in real-time as they complete an application online, thereby ensuring the user experience isn’t negatively impacted.

The public sector must embrace automated eIDV in lieu of the manual ID checks that many still have in place, despite being more expensive, time-consuming, and subject to human error.

To work effectively, and for best practice, the eIDV service must have access to a worldwide dataset of billions of consumer records, including reputable third-party, sanctions, and politically exposed person (PEP) data, and offer adverse media checks to provide a full ID verification service. This data must come from reputable global streams, including government agencies, credit agencies, and utility records. Ideally, the service should, at the same time, enrich the data of those held on databases, highlighting and correcting any existing inaccuracies. Such an approach maintains effective governance by facilitating compliance with KYC and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

KYC in tandem with KYB

Along with KYC it’s important that the eIDV platform is able to deliver know your business (KYB) checks, to enable organisations to fully understand the risks posed by new and existing business customers and suppliers. Fraud is frequently committed by those using shell companies or umbrella structures that just don’t exist in reality, so undertaking KYB to validate an organisation can greatly diminish that type of fraud from occurring. Also, delivering KYB will help to prevent financial crime, such as money laundering and terror financing, which could result in significant reputational damage, quite apart from the monetary cost of the relationship. KYC and KYB is something we offer via our full service eIDV offering, available as SaaS or cloud API.

In summary

While undertaking KYC might not be a legal requirement for the public sector, delivering practices that support its provision, along with KYB, is vital. This involves sourcing and using relevant technology to safeguard contact data quality and ID verification.

Once those in the public sector put in place procedures to deliver KYC, they will not only have the ability to prevent fraud, but have access to insight that will deliver a better experience for users, as well as improve efficiencies at a very challenging time for their budgets.

For more information about Melissa and how our data quality and identity verification services can help you, please visit:, email: or call: 020 7718 0070.

UK Tech Firm Bridgeworks Showcases AI WAN Acceleration at British Embassy in Washington DC

The British Embassy in Washington DC recently hosted a Thought Leadership event and reception and invited a select number of British companies to showcase artificial intelligence (AI) and zero trust architecture (ZTA) solutions.

Left to right: David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks and Jamie Eykyn, Chairman of Bridgeworks, outside the British Embassy in Washington DC

The welcoming speech was delivered by Jamie Eykyn, Chairman of Bridgeworks, a British-based technology firm. This was the second time Eykyn gave a presentation at a British Embassy. The first time was in Paris, France, 50 years ago. He presented a new electronic ticket machine, which was designed for operation on trams and buses. He also founded Shuttle Technology Ltd that was sold SCM Microsystems in 1999. Following the sale, he concentrated on building a portfolio of transformational technology companies. It included award-winning company, Bridgeworks.

In his speech in Washington, he said: “The world of technology has advanced immeasurably in the 50 years since I was involved developing digital ticketing systems. From point solutions to specific problems, to integrated management systems. Nowadays, there’s also the deployment of advanced AI and cloud-based high-speed communications and compute, and the ability to co-ordinate a multitude of activities from a bewildering number of data collection points in virtual real-time across, for example, a battlefield.”

His company of the time, the electronic ticketing machine firm, was the first to use a microprocessor and solid state memory in the machines. While it may sound old hat today. However, in the 1970s they were cutting-edge.

His record of innovation shows why he backs Bridgeworks – personally and as Chairman. Bridgeworks’ products use WAN Acceleration, and like his ticketing machine in the 1970s, it is both innovative and unique at a point when most of the focus is on SD-WANs and WAN Optimisation.

Exclusive embassy invitation

Bridgeworks, based in Lymington, Hampshire, UK, was invited last month to present their award-winning A.I. technologies to U.S. government and industry leaders to highlight the best in British technology.

A key aim was to spotlight the support of the U.K. Government’s Department of Defence and Security Exports, (Department for International Trade), and share insights as an Export Champion.

British Ambassador to the United States, Dame Karen Pierce was present to facilitate valuable engagement with the U.S. Federal agencies and U.K. technology partners.

David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks, explains: “We invited our customers, OEM Partners, such as Dell Technology and IBM, Spectra Logic and our North American Resellers and System Integrators to share their successes implementing our systems.”

Trossell explains: “We were able to present solutions and deliverables and translate those to future business benefits for end users. “

Eykyn commends Trossell: “I am not a technical man, but I have always been interested in new technology. With Bridgeworks our WAN and data acceleration products, our CEO and CTO David Trossell, brought all his extensive skills in the storage world to bear, strongly supported by the IBM R&D Storage Establishment at Hursley, who confirmed the need for the AI and machine learning based products David developed and which we now know as PortRockIT and WANRockIT.”

Visit the Bridgeworks website for more information:

Surrey and Sussex collaborative extends Sectra imaging technology to sixth NHS trust

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has signed a new agreement to deploy Sectra’s enterprise imaging solution in bid to further improve patient care.

Following a contract signing in September, the Trust will now share a common picture archiving and communication system (PACS), with five other trusts in the region that have already deployed the system. This includes Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, and University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust.  

The move will connect radiologists and other healthcare professionals with seamless access to x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and other radiology imaging that has been captured for patients at different hospitals across Surrey and Sussex.

Additional resilience provided by the new PACS is expected to bring patient safety benefits, with important imaging always available for acute and emergency patients.

Networked PACS based reporting of imaging will also be an important feature, creating the potential for shared review and reporting of imaging by in-demand specialists located in different hospitals.

Dr Tony Newman-Sanders, chief of cancer and diagnostics at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “This is an important step in the strategic future of our diagnostic services that will equip our professionals with 21st century technology that is fit for the future. It will allow us to align with fellow providers in Surrey and Sussex, and provide the means to develop imaging services that are better able to meet the needs of our patients.”

The development will allow the trust to meet important recommendations in Sir Mike Richards’ review of diagnostic imaging in the NHS, also enabling the trust to become an equal partner in the South East 2 Imaging Network.

The new cloud-based PACS service provided by Sectra is expected to reduce infrastructure burdens, enhance security, and allow the flexibility to add more trusts in the future. Ambitions to connect the regional initiative with networks in London, Kent and Wessex are also being explored as part of a wider roadmap.

Jane Rendall, UK and Ireland managing director for Sectra, said: “The addition of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust to a forward-thinking group of trusts in the region, will extend benefits to many more clinical teams and their patients.

“Sharing a common connected imaging system opens the potential for regional workforce transformation in radiology, in ways that can improve equity and access for patients to important diagnostic expertise.  

“More immediately, diagnosticians in sites across Surrey and Sussex have told us they are excited about being able to better support patients as they move around the region – whether that’s cancer patients, trauma cases or a whole range of pathways where imaging is vital to effective diagnosis and decisions.”

Tarian Technology Announces Partnership with Ploughshare to Bring Revolutionary Cybersecurity Products to the Market

Tarian Technology, a Wales-based provider of cybersecurity solutions and commercial spin-out of Exsel Electronics, announces today a ground-breaking licensing agreement with Ploughshare, the commercial face of the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Labs (Dstl), for the use of game-changing cybersecurity products.  

The partnership brings together years of work between Exsel Electronics and Dstl and demonstrates both organisations’ ambitious desire to bring Defence R&D into the wider market.

Under the new agreement, Tarian Technology gains rights to bring to market data-centric security (DCS) models, developed in collaboration with Dstl. It represents a significant leap in cybersecurity, focusing on ensuring that data and information remain secure at rest, in transit and in use across all domains.

The first to market with this approach is Bastion, a software that intrinsically protects data and is self-subscribing. Bastion works to fortify the protection of data beyond the network protection level. It adds an additional layer of encrypted security written into each document, meaning that if the network is penetrated, sensitive files remain secure. It works as an additional armour to protect valuable information and a business’s intellectual property from theft or cyber espionage.

Marie Thirlwall, Digital & Data Commercialisation at Ploughshare said: “The underpinning DCS architecture to which Bastion has been built, is the result of extensive research and development efforts; carried out in conjunction with Dstl and Tarian’s parent company, Exsel Electronics.

“DCS systems, as the core enabler of multi-domain information management, will revolutionise how organisations protect sensitive data and information in an ever-evolving digital landscape – and we’re excited that Bastion will be the first of many developments we bring to market together for this purpose and beyond.”

Key features of the Bastion DCS system include:

  1. Comprehensive Data Security: Bastion provides comprehensive protection for data and information at every stage of its lifecycle, ensuring it remains secure regardless of its location or usage.
  2. Next-Generation Technology: Leveraging cutting-edge cybersecurity technology, Bastion DCS sets new standards for data protection, guaranteeing peace of mind for organisations handling sensitive information. Secure, often multi-layer, information objects are bespoke built for each business use case, which is unique to this system.
  3. Collaborative Development: The collaboration between Exsel Electronics and Dstl demonstrates a unique synergy between private industry and government research, emphasising the importance of public-private partnerships in advancing cybersecurity.

Tarian Technology is excited to bring the Bastion system, that has been evolving behind the scenes with Dstl, to the wider market. The established licensing agreement with Ploughshare signifies Tarian’s dedication to providing state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions to businesses, government agencies, and organisations worldwide.

Commenting on the partnership, Tarian MD, Keith Hughes said: “We are proud to be at the forefront of cybersecurity innovation, and this agreement with Ploughshare allows us to introduce game-changing products to the world.  Data Centric Security is the future of information protection, and we are committed to helping organisations secure their most valuable assets.

“With the Bastion launch, we are poised to change the face of encryption software. This isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package like traditional DCS offerings but a tailor-made solution for enterprise and government.”

For further information about Tarian Technology and its cybersecurity solutions, please visit


RE-100 electrification solution extends the life of the vehicle  

Fleet managers concerned about the cost and availability of buying a new electric van when there is still life in their existing vehicle now have an alternative: an advanced retrofit solution using innovative in-wheel motor (IWM) technology which fits to existing diesel vans to make them both electric and/or diesel at the touch of a button. 

Launched by BEDEO, an electric vehicle supplier and manufacturer based in Farnham, the new RE-100 Range Extender, part of its Reborn Electric range, enables organisations to retain those vehicles for longer while still transitioning to an electric future. 

A vehicle fitted with a RE-100 Range Extender is electric first, with 117km of electric range, making it ideal for ‘Last Mile’ deliveries. Its existing diesel mode can be used when needed for longer trips, switching to electric when entering a low-emission zone and densely populated areas to eliminate emissions and accelerate decarbonisation. 

At the heart of RE-100 are two in-wheel motors fitted to the rear axle of the vehicle. The motors are more compact, lighter, efficient and easier to install than an equivalent e-axle and powered by a 37kWh battery. No suspension modifications are required to the front or rear, which means there is no loss of ground clearance and no loss of load space or height.  

BEDEO works for businesses such as OCADO, DHL and TNT. Founder Osman Boyner says that with the concept of Reborn Electric he is providing a new business model for an industry caught between the twin goals of cost and sustainability.  

“Electric vans today don’t meet the needs of the market and even Euro VI diesel vans are still responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions. With the RE-100 we have created a new category of hybrid that not only meets the needs of the market but also accelerates transport decarbonisation.” 

The RE-100 is a hybrid in as much as it can have two modes of power – electric and diesel – but with the BEDEO technology the vehicle cannot be operated as diesel within controlled low emissions zones, unless in an emergency. Outside of controlled zones the driver is in control and can determine when to stay in electric for a more pleasant driving experience, or switch to diesel for longer distances.  

The ability to retrofit BEDEO’s IWM into an existing vehicle is an entirely new proposition: “BEDEO has leveraged this advanced IWM technology to develop the next generation of retrofit vehicles, unlimited by the constraints of a standard e-axle,” Osman adds. 

Osman believes that while switching to an all-electric fleet is desirable, it is also very expensive and wasteful, requiring investment not only in the vehicles themselves, but also the infrastructure to support them: “While sustainability is, of course, a key driver, the end-to-end sustainability (whole lifecycle) of the vehicle also needs to be taken into account,” he continues.  

“It cannot be sustainable to replace a vehicle that has not reached the end of its useful working life, neither is it sustainable to replace not only the vehicle, but also the refrigeration units or bespoke fit-out that many of these vehicles have.  

“Retrofitting with electric overcomes these challenges and more, satisfying the need to reduce emissions in our city centres where the majority of the ‘Last Mile’ journeys are required, breathing new life into older vehicles.” 

UK must close skills gaps if it’s to become an AI superpower

By Sascha Giese, Tech Evangelist, SolarWinds

Sascha Giese, Tech Evangelist, SolarWinds

The UK Government has made no secret of its ambitions to become an artificial intelligence (AI) superpower. Introducing a pro-innovation approach in the recent AI regulation policy paper, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, outlined a technology-led future leading to better public services and high-quality jobs. 

“Most of us are only now beginning to understand the transformative potential of AI as the technology rapidly improves,” wrote Ms Donelan

“Recent advances in things like generative AI give us a glimpse into the enormous opportunities that await us in the near future if we are prepared to lead the world in the AI sector with our values of transparency, accountability and innovation,” she said.

But the UK — or any other nation — cannot lead the world in AI unless it can muster enough people with the right skills to make it happen. 

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on digital transformation published earlier this year warned the “existing skills gap is getting worse” with the public sector lagging behind the private sector. 

Addressing the AI skills shortage

The report also said only 4% of civil servants are digital professionals, compared with an industry average of between 8% and 12% — a situation made worse because there is already a major digital skills shortage in the UK. 

Coupled with the fact that skilled digital professionals command a premium in the market — along with the spike in demand for people with AI skills —it’s clear the recruitment challenge has become even more acute. 

Clearly, education is key. Research commissioned by Amazon from Capital Economics found jobs requiring computer science, AI, or Machine Learning skills are expected to increase by 40% in the next five years. Recognising the urgency of the situation, last year the digital giant unveiled a schools-based programme, designed to inspire young people about the potential of AI.  

While such schemes are to be applauded, they are a long-term solution that will not deliver results overnight. So, how does the public sector address the skills market? 

One idea would be for the Government to tap into resources held by the private sector to recruit the necessary skills. 

Looking to the private sector — and beyond — for recruits

It was a point made by Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin during the summer in a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank. He said the Government planned to create “a pathway for them [private sector AI specialists] to join the Civil Service” via secondment programmes.  

When pressed on the issue of the disparity in pay between the public and private sectors, he suggested  more lucrative remuneration packages could be offered. But he also suggested some people may want to be part of the government’s ambitious plans out of a sense of duty. He may well have a point. 

In fact, I would go further. If the government is considering parachuting in AI experts from private companies, it must also consider attracting them from abroad as well. 

After all, not everyone wants to work for a big tech company. In some global regions, the public sector has a much better reputation than the private sector. 

And it goes without saying increasing the number of women in tech could benefit the sector. It was a point made recently in a report published by the Alan Turing Institute. 

“There is a troubling and persistent absence of women employed in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science fields. Over three-quarters of professionals in these fields globally are male (78%); less than a quarter are women (22%) (World Economic Forum, 2018). 

“In the UK, this drops to 20% of women. This stark male dominance results in a feedback loop shaping gender bias in AI and machine learning systems. It is also fundamentally an ethical issue of social and economic justice and one of value-in-diversity,” it said.

Of course, not every new role in the world of AI will be a tech job. Not everyone needs to be a programmer. However, I would expect people who join the sector to have some basic understanding of coding to give them a better understanding of how AI works. 

But perhaps the biggest skill we need, though, is the ability to adapt. After all, there’s little doubt that AI will fundamentally impact the workplace. And that means we will all have to embrace AI — regardless of our jobs as technology plays an ever-greater role in our lives.

Driving efficiency, saving time, and saving money – how automation can benefit the public sector

The 2023 Spring Budget depicted a further £21.6 billion in unannounced cuts to public services by 2027/28*. In line with this, we’ve seen technology budgets slashed across the sector, with NHS tech funding falling below the £1 billion mark**. As such, the public sector must find new and innovative ways to maintain the supply and quality of technology services despite cuts to funding.

The question begs, how can public sector entities strive to maintain the level of public services, with less overall resource? Automated testing could help address this problem by maximising resources and driving efficiencies without compromising on the quality of service. Investing in automated testing is a strategic move that can revolutionise software development processes, increase efficiency, provide time and monetary savings and improve software quality. For public sector organisations like the NHS, automation has been used to accelerate digital transformation projects that improve the delivery of care and patient outcomes.

What is automation?

Automation is the process of using software tools to execute tests on a website, application, system, or technology to test functionality, performance, or security. Automation allows for faster and more efficient testing processes; enabling businesses to identify defects quickly and accurately.

Automation can carry out repetitive and time-consuming tasks automatically and accurately, 24/7. Without manual intervention, you can reallocate your team’s resources, allowing them to dedicate their time and expertise to other tasks that require human creativity and judgment.

Automation benefits for the public sector

Speed: Automated tests can be executed simultaneously on multiple configurations, around the clock. Public entities often need to test and release updates and new features quickly to keep up with changing requirements. With automation, you can thoroughly and accurately test your software in a fraction of the time it would take compared to manual testing, enabling faster releases.

Compliance: Government agencies and public bodies often handle large and complex systems and databases. Many public systems and applications must adhere to strict regulatory and security requirements. Automated testing can help ensure that these systems remain in compliance with the necessary standards and regulations, reducing the risk of non-compliance issues, and fostering public trust. What’s more, automated testing tools can generate detailed reports and logs, which can be valuable for audit and compliance purposes and demonstrate due diligence in adhering to regulations.

Consistency: Automated tests remove the element of human error by performing consistent and precise tests. Automation will execute the same test cases with the same data and parameters every time, reducing the chances of errors.

Cost Saving: While there is an initial investment in setting up automated testing frameworks and creating test scripts, the long-term cost savings are substantial compared to manual testing, which often requires a larger workforce and more time. Automated tests can be reused for regression testing, reducing the need for extensive manual testing with each release.

Around-the-clock testing: Automated tests can be scheduled to run at any time around the clock, even when your team is not actively working. This rapid feedback ensures that issues are identified and addressed quickly, much earlier in the lifecycle, preventing costly downtime or emergency fixes later in the development cycle.

Enhanced Security: Government systems often deal with sensitive information and must be secure. Automated testing can help identify vulnerabilities and security weaknesses early in the development process, reducing the risk of security breaches.

Better quality assurance: Ensuring the quality of public software and systems is crucial, as they often serve critical functions for the public. Automated testing can help maintain a high level of quality by systematically identifying and addressing issues, providing a higher level of confidence in the quality of the software. If you are releasing high quality, reliable software, it can lead to improvements in the provision of services to the public.

Nowadays, we live in a world where innovation and speed are paramount, meaning automated testing isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity. In the face of budget cuts and reduced resource the public sector must adapt and find new and innovative ways to boost productivity and efficiency.

The intelligent implementation of automation can help tackle these challenges and improve efficiency, accuracy, compliance, and security, whilst reducing costs and increasing transparency. It is a vital tool for ensuring that government software and systems meet the high standards required of the public sector.

Please visit:



UK’s Bakers Launch National Poster Campaign Urging Councils and Waste Management Companies to Address Environmental Impact of Misplaced Grocery Delivery Equipment

Paul Empson

Bakers Basco the industry-leading membership scheme created by Allied Bakeries, Fine Lady Bakeries, Frank Roberts & Sons, Hovis, and Warburtons, is calling upon local authorities and waste management managers to prioritise the environmental consequences of misused grocery delivery equipment. The scheme, which provides and manages an industry-wide bakery equipment solution, aims to raise awareness about the issue of misplaced bread baskets and dollies that often end up discarded in local areas or dumped in landfills.

The campaign initiated by Bakers Basco emphasises the importance of vigilance among local council managers and waste management professionals in safeguarding bread baskets and dolly equipment, which are unintentionally or intentionally taken out of the bakery logistics supply chain. By actively addressing this concern, local councils and waste management organisations can contribute positively to the environment.

As part of the campaign, Bakers Basco has developed a series of posters to increase awareness and understanding of this ongoing issue. A dedicated investigation team has been assigned to tackle the problem, ensuring the distribution of these posters throughout the UK.

Bread basket theft, or conversion, has long been a challenge faced by the baking industry. With reported losses exceeding 60% and, in extreme cases, reaching up to 100%, this issue has been a persistent concern. Since its establishment in 2006, Bakers Basco has been committed to combating abuse and misuse of its pool of five million bread baskets and associated wheeled dollies. This equipment is designed specifically to transport bread safely, cost-effectively, and in an environmentally friendly manner from bakeries to grocery retailers nationwide.

The value of this equipment extends beyond its functional purpose. Misplaced bread baskets often end up in landfills, detrimentally impacting the environment and undermining the green credentials of the retail and related industries.

In a recent incident, a substantial quantity of bread baskets was discovered scattered across multiple locations in a Scottish city, having been irresponsibly discarded. Thankfully, the Commercial Waste Enforcement team promptly took action upon learning about this issue. They reached out to the Bakers Basco team to arrange for the collection of these discarded items. Emphasising the timeliness of their response, this serves as a reminder for other local authorities to consider the convenience of the repatriation process and to get in touch with the recovery team at Bakers Basco to address similar problems within their respective areas.

To help repatriate its equipment, Bakers Basco has made substantial investments in GPS technology to track the whereabouts of bread baskets and dollies. Additionally, the scheme has established a dedicated national investigations team responsible for identifying and reclaiming any equipment that has been delayed, lost, or stolen.

Paul Empson, General Manager at Bakers Basco, stated, “Our investigations team has revealed that a significant amount of our equipment is being left unattended in town and city centres and so to address this issue, we have launched a national campaign in collaboration with local authorities. If people only realised the true value of our equipment, the cost it incurs on the industry when lost, and the potential consequences of its misuse, I believe we would witness a reduction in such incidents. Through joint efforts with local authorities, we can protect the environment by ensuring the equipment returns to the supply chain, reducing the need for additional plastic production.”

Anyone who comes across misplaced bread baskets is encouraged to contact the Bakers Basco team, who will arrange collections free of charge. Reports can be made via the recovery helpline: 08000 327323 or by email at

Tarian Technology Launches Cutting-edge Software to Safeguard Multi-level File Protection

Cybersecurity solutions firm, Tarian Technology, part of the Exsel Electronics Group, has launched a new market leading, multi-level file protection software to fully safeguard secret, sensitive or personal information contained in a document before it is shared with pre-approved intended audiences.

The new Need2Know software, has been developed for government departments handling sensitive information as well as military, enterprise and other organisations that want to protect its assets – enabling individuals and organisations to share sensitive data without sacrificing security, control, or privacy.

The software is a superior layer of encryption security, bedded into documents that works off data-centric security (DCS) architecture principles – acting as an additional layer of armour to protect data and intellectual property from theft or cyber espionage. By using a DCS approach to cybersecurity, the software prioritises control and secure access to the data at a granular level, rather than prioritising the systems and networks that store and transmit it.

And, compared to current redaction software already available on the market, which is more easily reversed, this approach acts as a double layer of defence, fortifying overall network protection.

Need2Know enables security levels within a document to be significantly enhanced – if the document is not being read or edited, then it does not exist. Documents are brought together when needed and broken into encrypted pieces when stored on a company’s server by the Need2Know server application. This removed the need for expensive duplication of secure encrypted files, applying security classification at the level of paragraphs, pictures or even individual words to ONE original single file source.

Keith Hughes, Managing Director at Tarian Technology says: “Need2Know is revolutionary in its ability to safeguard top secret, sensitive information. It’s more than just painting over words typically done through redaction tools.

“Our software makes content visible only to the eyes that it is intended for. Need2Know removes the need for expensive duplication of secure and encrypted files. The advantage our new software offers is that it’s a single source of truth, every time.”

Need2Know provides confidence in safeguarding secret, sensitive and confidential information and is a solution to multi-classification security across domains, which will be valuable for sectors including; government, medical and pharmaceutical, national security, military and businesses world over.

Data handlers can mark multiple sections of information within an original document with differing levels of audience and redaction mark-up. A publication is then generated for each audience before being shared. Documents are brought together when needed and broken into encrypted pieces when stored on a secure server by Tarian Technology Need2Know server application.

The software has been created for Microsoft Word documents on Windows PCs and will apply security classification at the level of words, figures, paragraphs and images (tifs). The company is working on developments across multiple applications including PowerPoint and Excel for roll out in the near future.

Tarian Technology is a software-centric systems integrator with a specialised focus on information and cyber security. Central to its expertise lies a deep understanding of data-centric security and its multifaceted applications. Through close collaboration with Governments, the business has consistently pioneered interoperable systems of information security that set new benchmarks in the industry.

Its core domain of expertise revolves around multi-domain communications, data, and system management – ensuring that users and operators have continuous security and accessibility of information across all domains, at all times. Tarian Technology holistic approach encompasses a comprehensive range of security measures, making certain that a company’s data and information remains shielded against ever-evolving threats. Its approach aligns with the UK National Cyber Security strategy.

Tarian Technology is offering a free trial of the Need2Know software. To find out more, visit the website at

By Futureproofing Outdoor Lighting, Zhaga Promotes a Circular Economy

A circular economy is an economic system that aims to limit the consumption of resources and materials and avoid landfilling waste. At Zhaga, the global lighting-industry consortium with the mission of standardising the interfaces of components of LED luminaires, we call this market framework ‘circularity lighting’.

“Circularity lighting encompasses products and systems that support the aims of the circular economy through enhanced serviceability,” says Armin Konrad, Senior Director at LEDVANCE GmbH.

According to Konrad, serviceability means LED luminaires and light management systems that are repairable, upgradable, replaceable and durable. “To be serviceable, these products and systems must be designed in a modular way and use component interfaces that are based on standardised and widely recognised specifications,” he adds.

This is where Zhaga comes in.

Since 2010, Zhaga has been developing and standardising specifications for LED modules, intelligent sensors, communication modules and control gear for lighting manufacturers, specifiers and operators to apply in LED luminaires. Zhaga’s specifications, called Books, are book defining the interface of one or more components of an LED luminaire.

Together, interface specifications established by Zhaga Books enable an interoperable ecosystem of luminaires and components. Zhaga and its members contribute to ‘closing the loop’ as outlined by the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s butterfly diagram.

The Ellen McArthur butterfly diagram visualises the circular economy by showing the continuous flow of materials within a circular economy. The right-hand side of the diagram represents the technical cycle, which is relevant for products that are used rather than consumed, such as lighting products and components.

By specifying the interface properties of serviceable luminaires, all 26 Zhaga Books contribute to the ‘maintaining’ and ‘remanufacturing’ categories of the butterfly diagram, thus helping keep products in use and out of the landfill.

Simplifying Maintenance, Expanding the Lifecycle

While all Zhaga Books are directly tied to ‘closing the loop’, not every Book is needed all the time. The recipe for creating a circularity outdoor luminaire using Zhaga standards can involve a mix of Books 13, 18 and 19.

Zhaga Book 13 relates to LED drivers. Although not specific to outdoor luminaires, it plays a non-negotiable role in ensuring serviceability by defining what interface specifications of LED drivers can be used in combination with a wide range of luminaires.

Specific to outdoor luminaires is Book 18, which standardises control devices that can be installed onto streetlights. By specifying power and communication aspects, in addition to the mechanical fit system, the specification allows any certified control device to operate with any certified luminaire.

Also relevant to outdoor luminaires is Zhaga Book 19, which defines interface specifications, including keep-out volumes, for LED modules and lens plates enabling IP protection. The resulting ecosystem of LED modules and lens plates makes it possible to refurbish luminaires during their lifetime with new module-lens plate combinations, thus extending their use and fostering the circular economy.

“This makes field-repairability and field-replacement easy and extends the luminaire’s economic life,” remarks Creusen.

Lifecycle Data Enables Easy Repairs and Upgrades

Two other Zhaga Books that are relevant to the serviceability of outdoor luminaires are Books 24 and 25, both of which deal with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. The extremely short-range wireless communication standard allows manufacturers to configure such lighting components as LED drivers to their specifications, both before and after installation.

NFC also lets you manage data over the luminaire’s entire lifecycle, from production to installation, maintenance, replacement and repair.

Luminaire manufacturers, installers, system integrators, and utility companies now have the option to select a single physical programming tool that will work with all field-maintenance applications from all vendors implementing Book 25 and all NFC-programmable devices implementing Book 24. 

Whereas Book 24 is geared towards luminaire manufactures, Book 25 defines a Bluetooth Low Energy communication protocol for communication between the field-maintenance application on a smart device and the NFC reader. In doing so, it enables maintenance and replaceability with a cross vendor harmonised method of NFC programming for in-field use.

According to Konrad, using Book 25 creates an enormous advantage in the field. “If an LED module is replaced by a more energy efficient LED module, Book 25 ensures that new operating parameters can be set wirelessly on the driver,” he says.

Zhaga Delivers Circularity Outdoor Lighting

The road to resource-efficient, circularity lighting starts with standardisation – exactly what Zhaga delivers. “By ensuring that luminaires and components can be repaired, upgraded, replaced or serviced, Zhaga is futureproofing outdoor lighting and promoting a circular economy,” says Creusen.

To enhance Zhaga’s global reach and impact on the circular economy, Zhaga Books are being transferred to the International Electrotechnical Commission.

To find out more how Zhaga addresses Sustainability and Circular Economy, please visit

Coming to the Smart City Expo, 7-9 Nov in Barcelona? Visit the Zhaga booth in Hall 2 #54.

Project using tech and AI to track litter on Glasgow and Cardiff roads suggests new approach needed by authorities

  • Study reveals focusing litter interventions on hotspots at junctions, slip roads and roundabouts by combining bins and signage could save time and money
  • Hubbub calls for a more joined-up approach to tackling litter nationwide

Litter surveys on the roads surrounding Cardiff and Glasgow today reveal ground-breaking insights that could help local authorities and agencies across the country tackle litter more strategically and save time and money in the process.

Using advanced image capturing and AI data-processing technology, scientists from Ellipsis Earth worked with environmental charity Hubbub to create a detailed map of the locations and types of litter dropped. Vehicle cameras were used to survey motorways, A-roads and B-roads including their respective service stations, junctions and slip roads to give the most accurate and detailed roadside litter survey to date.

Signage in Cardiff

The data collected suggests that authorities should be focusing on stretches of roads where vehicles drive at a slower speed or stop, such as traffic lights, junctions, slip roads and roundabouts, and after the exit points of fast-food outlets at junctions as that is where the litter is accumulating. In Cardiff for example, junctions were identified as litter hotspots with 20% of litter concentrated on just 2% of the land. 68% of litter in South Wales is found on roadside verges and junctions, with junctions showing 25 times higher rates of littering than open road verges, particularly on A roads.

The survey in Cardiff also revealed relatively low levels of litter on motorways (an item every 23 metres) compared to twice as much on A roads and five times as much litter on B roads. A total of 146,662 items were detected on Cardiff’s roads, an average of a piece of litter every 1.22 metres, with higher littering levels evident on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Another finding, this time from the Glasgow survey, found that litter from food and drinks packaging is twice as high in out-of-town sites than in the city centre, particularly in the evenings.

The surveys also showed that paper, cigarette butts and plastic fragments — often broken down from food and drink litter, are the top three types of roadside litter.1

The intelligence gathered was then used to inform the placement of litter-busting interventions in key hotspots. Interventions included displaying new signage around litter hotspots, asking road users to ‘Keep it ‘til you bin it’; engaging drivers to do a 2-minute tidy of their cars; trialing brighter bins with messaging at motorway services and retail parks, and running a radio and social media campaign.

The surveys were then repeated to measure changes in litter levels and the impact of the interventions. The data provided the following key insights:

Putting bins in targeted locations/litter hotpots is 4-5 times more effective than putting them in random locations

    • Combining signage and bins together results in a 25% greater reduction in nearby littering than the reductions from just a bin, or sign alone
    •  Placing multiple signage at junctions reduces accumulation rate on slip roads
    • The combination of billboards, signage and rewrapped bins together significantly reduces littering at motorway services
    • Isolated signage has limited impact on roadside littering

Following the research and testing of litter prevention measures, Hubbub has developed the following key recommendations to help local authorities and businesses to effectively tackle roadside litter:

  1. Focus clean-ups and litter reduction interventions near junctions, slip roads and roundabouts where cars slow down
  2. Make it easy for drivers to bin rubbish, by providing bins where drivers stop, ensuring they are visible and easy to access. Encourage binning rubbish before getting on the road again
  3. Combine bins and messaging together for greater effectiveness
  4. Work collaboratively – an effective approach is for highway agencies, councils, and businesses to work together to target litter across the road network with consistent messaging and bins at retail points

Gavin Ellis, Co-founder and Director of Hubbub said: “These surveys showed litter is dropped every 3 seconds on the roads in Cardiff and Glasgow which creates a significant burden on local services.

Signs on Paisley Road West

“The data we collected suggests the way that litter is tackled on our roads across the country could be much more joined-up and effective – we need to be less piecemeal in our approach, using existing data and insight to ensure that the right sort of measures are introduced in the right places. We believe the findings from this study could save local authorities, highway agencies and other stakeholders both time and money in the future, as well as reducing the blight of roadside litter. 

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Roadside litter is not just unsightly, it is costly and dangerous to remove. We are pleased to be involved in this campaign which is a positive step towards tackling roadside litter in Wales. The litter survey provides us with fascinating insight into where litter is being dropped and when across the region, with robust data clearly identifying those locations with highest litter levels, such as junctions and slip roads. This will help us and all those working to tackle roadside litter to focus their efforts and introduce the right measures in the right places.”

 A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “We were delighted to work with Hubbub on the Tidy Roadsides campaign. Anything which encourages more people to bin their litter responsibly is welcome – as is data and insight into nudge theory techniques which encourage positive behavioural change and which enable resources to be targeted where they’ll be most used.

“Litter is entirely preventable if people simply took their rubbish home with them or put it into one of the thousands of public bins across the city. Money which the council has to spend clearing it up, could then be used more constructively.”

Hubbub will present key findings and recommendations from the study in a webinar on 16 November for local authorities, businesses, highways agencies and other stakeholders. For more information and to sign up, visit

Empowering Haringey: Matrix Partnership Eases Unemployment and Bolsters Temporary Staffing

How Matrix and Haringey Works continue to satisfy the London Borough’s temporary staffing resource needs, while relieving the burden of local unemployment.

The challenge

The standard and reach of the services local authorities provide to their citizens is heavily dependent on the quality and availability of their workforce. Like many councils across the UK, Haringey faces a major challenge filling key vacancies, which is having an impact on the care and support it delivers.

To address the problem, in February 2022, Haringey Works, which helps borough residents back into employment, partnered with Matrix with the aim of identifying the best possible candidates from the local area for the growing number of temporary vacancies to both relieve the council’s human resource burden and ease unemployment in the borough.

“For temporary employees, it’s important to find people who can hit the ground running and be pro-active in their roles, so careful screening is necessary each candidate to ensure drive successful placements,” explains Aarti Chhatwal Senior Resident Engagement Advisor for Haringey Works.

The solution

Working with Matrix, a campaign was launched across the borough spreading awareness of the temporary opportunities at the council and encouraging residents to register quickly and easily via a QR code. The myths of temporary work were busted through an informative flyer, pointing out how successful candidates would gain the opportunity to:

  • Explore different roles
  • Gain valuable work experience
  • Work flexibly
  • Enjoy a shorter commute and lower travel costs
  • Earn London Living Wage

To engage more closely with local residents, regular live events were held across Haringey providing more detailed information and advice, and driving registrations for temporary work. The details of applicants were held and processed on the Matrix database. Job criteria for various roles were set by the local authorities hiring managers and programmed into the Matrix system. Appropriate candidates were then automatically selected and shared with the Haringey Works team for further screening. This saved valuable time and resources.

The outcome

The partnership between Matrix and Haringey Works has significantly increased the number of local residents taking up temporary placements with the council. This means that many will go on to apply for permanent roles within the council after their temporary roles. Those for whom the flexibility of temporary contracts is more desirable will remain in temporary roles.

From April 2022 to March 2023, 465 local residents expressed an interest in temporary work through the campaign, with 269 people registering. From this pool of candidates, the most appropriate were selected by Matrix and referred to Haringey Works. This resulted in 100 vacancies being filled by local people, with the majority of placements proving successful.

“Many local residents who secured temporary work have remained in their jobs or have progressed to different roles,” said Julian Panter at Matrix. “What’s really encouraging is that at least 12 have secured permanent roles, showing the benefits of the scheme. Not only was the originally aim of filling vacancies in administration, health and social care and manual labour achieved, but suitable candidates were also identified for other Haringey departments, including HR, housing and more, relieving resource issues across the local authority.”

For further information on Matrix Workforce Management please visit

ScannX launches in the UK with D&H General Trading partnership agreement

CZUR M3000 V2 – Pro Professional Book Scanner

ScannX software will add new, breakthrough functions to CZUR’s overhead scanner to offer affordable book scanners designed for UK libraries.

D&H General Trading Ltd, a leader in the distribution and support of CZUR overhead scanners in the UK and thirteen European countries; and ScannX, Inc., a leading US software developer of document capture, delivery and cloud services, today announced a new distribution partnership of ScannX software in the UK and Europe.

This is the first time ScannX’s market-leading software technology and capabilities will be available outside of the US. What’s more, this partnership will extend the functionality of the CZUR scanners for UK library customers and staff. The scanner models supported by this new software include models ET18, ET24, ET25 and M3000 Pro series.

Murray Dennis, president of ScannX, says: “D&H General Trading is synonymous with quality and reliability in this industry, so it is the perfect partnership for us. The CZUR Pro series of overhead scanners, integrated with GDPR compliant ScannX software, will offer digital services not previously affordable to most UK libraries.

To date, ScannX has shipped over 3,500 book scanning systems powered by ScannX software to academic, public, law, and school libraries in the US. What’s more, in excess of 220 million pages have been scanned using its scanners and software.

ScannX is proud to say that the US community of librarians, LibraryWorks, has recognised ScannX’s software technology for its customer satisfaction ratings for the last nine consecutive years.

The partnership with D&H General Trading will ensure the UK company provides marketing, sales and support for ScannX’s award winning software effective immediately.

“Offering our overhead book and document scanners with the ScannX software enables us to introduce innovative, easy-to-use scanning to libraries that are looking for an alternative to the more expensive overhead scanners,” said Hao Zhou, General Manager of D&H General Trading.

“One study showed that a CZUR M3000 scanner, integrated with ScannX software, produced comparable excellent image quality results, with many more processing options than overhead book scanners that are more than twice its price”.

Libraries that want to build on their existing investment in CZUR Pro Series scanners can also now upgrade to ScannX software and cloud services. Bringing this new software and hardware together is a huge win for libraries who want the best technology available, but need to stick to tight budgets.

The ScannX software expands the use of CZUR book scanners from digitisation productivity tools to cognitive language services such as translation into over 100 languages and handwriting recognition; breakthrough technology at an affordable price.

For more information please visit:

Fusion21 invites bids for £820 million Heating, Renewables and Electrical Framework

Procurement organisation and social enterprise Fusion21 has announced the fourth generation of its national Heating, Renewables and Electrical Framework worth up to £820 million over four years and is now inviting bids from interested contractors of any size, providing local, regional or national coverage.

This framework is being setup to help the owners of domestic and non-domestic buildings to ensure they are safe and compliant in respect of heating and electrical installations and to support their journey to carbon net zero.

Alongside traditional heating installations and electrical testing/works it also covers innovative technologies dedicated to sustainable heating solutions (including ground source and air source heating) and quality assurance audits. The framework is specifically designed to support public sector organisations, including housing, education, and healthcare providers.

Split into a total of ten lots, the structure is:

  1. Lot 1 Domestic Heating (Combustibles)
  2. Lot 2 Domestic Heating (Electric)
  3. Lot 3 Domestic Heating – Air source heat pump (ASHP)
  4. Lot 4 Domestic Heating – Ground source heat pump (GSHP)
  5. Lot 5 Commercial Heating (GSHP)
  6. Lot 6 Commercial Heating (All)
  7. Lot 7 Electrical Testing
  8. Lot 8 Electrical Works
  9. Lot 9 Solar PV & Battery Storage
  10. Lot 10 Quality Assurance Audits

Peter Francis, Executive Director of Operations at Fusion21 said: “Due to launch in January 2024 and developed in response to member and supply chain feedback, we’ve streamlined previous lots to create a new generation of the framework which combines a full heating offer, renewable technology, quality assurance audits and two electrical lots. We welcome bids from all organisations, large or small, to provide specialist services for our members.

“Fusion21 members can access a compliant, efficient, and quality framework, whilst benefitting from greater cost efficiencies, flexible call-off options, including direct award, and geographical coverage across the UK down to a regional and local level. As with all of Fusion21’s frameworks, the Heating, Renewables and Electrical Framework will also support members to deliver social value they can see in communities, aligned with their organisational priorities.”

Tender applications are welcome from interested organisations that meet the criteria set out in the tender documentation, now available on the Delta e-Sourcing Portal via the following link:

The submission deadline is Monday 30 October 2023.

New study reveals just 12% of jobs cite health and wellbeing benefits on online listings, despite UK sick leave epidemic

Finance sector and Northern Ireland lead the wellbeing reward league

A new study auditing more than 5,500 jobs posted online in July 2023 has revealed that despite UK workers taking more sick days than ever before, employment packages fall short when it comes to incentives that support good health and wellbeing at work.

Undertaken by pathology testing platform Plasma by Medichecks, the research encompassed roles within the education, finance, government and public sector, healthcare, hospitality and HR and recruitment industries. It found that only 12% of the positions listed health-related perks such as private healthcare, wellbeing perks or life insurance as part of the employment package.

Even fewer roles advertised healthy lifestyle options and wellbeing rewards like access to the government’s Bike2Work scheme (10%), use of free gym classes or discounted gym memberships, shopping and cinema vouchers (5%) and a birthday day off (2%).

Workers in the finance sector are more likely to have bosses who prioritise employee health, with 41% of roles featuring healthcare and wellbeing perks, while government and public sector positions ranked bottom, with just 7% of jobs listing such incentives.

Reviewing the UK as a whole, Northern Ireland jobseekers were best off, with nearly one third (31%) of job packages citing healthcare and wellbeing benefits, followed by North East England (15%), Yorkshire and the Humber (15%) and the North West (15%). The areas listing the least health perks were Wales (4%) and Scotland (6%). A total of 17% of fully remote positions promoted health initiatives in the job ads.

Dr Natasha Fernando, head of clinical excellence at Plasma by Medichecks, explains: “Since the pandemic, the narrative around employment has massively changed, with a noticeable shift in employees being encouraged to have better work life balance and to prioritise their mental and physical health.

“Yet this study proves that in many cases that’s just rhetoric. In fact, ONS data released earlier this year found sickness absence in the UK labour market reached a record high in 2022 – accounting for an estimated 185.6 million working days lost.

“The lack of employee benefits which support improved health and wellbeing therefore seems incredibly low. And although budgets may be tight for many businesses, it is in the interests of employers – both commercially and ethically – to do all they can to keep their teams healthy, happy and productive at work.”

As a diagnostics partner for everyone from digital health companies and private healthcare providers to public sector organisations such as the police force and ambulance service, Plasma by Medichecks has witnessed a surge in demand for blood testing services.

Natasha continues: “The strain on NHS services means that many people want to take more ownership of their own health by understanding, through personalised testing, how their body is performing and what improvements they can make to their diet and lifestyle to safeguard their health for the future. As a result, workers are calling on their employers to offer up rewards that actually make a difference.

“It’s encouraging to see how the finance sector has taken stock,  particularly in an industry renowned for its fast pace and staff burnout. It’s important that more business leaders recognise what an important role they could play in keeping Britain healthy, too.”

For more information visit: 

The NHS is awash with data — how it manages it is pivotal to its success

Sascha Giese

By Sascha Giese, SolarWinds

Earlier this year, NHS England — the largest of the four public health providers in the UK — merged with NHS Digital to become the sole custodian of NHS data and technology.

The move is designed to bring responsibility for NHS data and technology expertise all under one roof to create a more streamlined and efficient organisation.

Those behind the merger maintain it’s an essential next phase in the NHS’ ongoing digital transformation. But in an organisation that is awash with data, one of the biggest headaches for those now in charge is how best to manage data safely and responsibly.

Automating tools are key

Clearly, automation plays a pivotal role in that data management. Without such tools, streamlined data collection — via the integration of various sources such as electronic health records and diagnostic equipment — would be impossible.

In fact, wherever you look, automated tools are critical to the processing and analysis of large volumes of data.

This includes rectifying inconsistencies, duplications, and errors to improve data quality — something that is crucial if clinicians want to identify trends, patterns, and insights that can inform clinical research and improve public health.

Continuing to address the need to replace outdated legacy systems

But this is just the start. For an organisation like the NHS — which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year – the issue of legacy systems is a constant reminder of its long heritage.

Systems that were once ‘cutting edge’ are now past their sell-by date but continue to underpin key services.  

There are plenty of reasons why legacy systems need to be replaced, such as obsolescence and higher running costs.

However, two issues — data sharing and providing real-time access to data — have gained extra traction recently, exposing the shortcomings of legacy systems with regard to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Investment into new technologies such as AI and ML

The UK government has made no secret of its eagerness to harness AI and ML in areas such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health, and neurological disorders.

But for this to happen, it needs ready access to good-quality data to train AI models. In one sense, that is good news for the NHS. The data already exists.

However, the issue of legacy means that a lot of that data is not necessarily primed for use by the latest AI tools. For example, data in legacy systems can be stored in a huge range of formats that are not necessarily compatible with each other.

Perhaps more important is the issue of security. Of course, any automation or AI project should be implemented carefully to ensure data security, privacy, and ethical considerations. However weaknesses in legacy environments can make it difficult to fully integrate them with modern systems.

These issues can be overcome. For example, the training phase of AI projects could be done ‘behind closed doors’ in offline networks before a full roll-out using real-time data to ensure that security has been properly implemented.

Simplifying compliance through SIEM tools 

Another approach would be to leverage enterprise-wide security information and event management (SIEM) tools.

SIEM tools monitor threats round the clock by gathering logs from apps and systems — located across hybrid environments in a centralised location — and issuing immediate alerts when an issue is discovered.

This approach can also take pre-emptive steps to quarantine risk or shut down processes or devices without the need for manual intervention.

With so much going on, technical teams need to be able to see what’s happening across all platforms and systems. This can be achieved via observability, an approach that provides all-important valuable insights into the inner workings of complex systems.

Putting the right tools in place

Ultimately, the challenges facing the NHS touch on all these areas as it looks to manage and secure growing volumes of data in a more and more distributed IT landscape.

What’s clear is that throwing people at it won’t solve the problem. The NHS needs to put the right tools and processes in place to achieve the visibility required to stay ahead of cyber threats, fraud, and compliance requirements — efficiently, effectively, and at scale.

While automation offers numerous benefits, it should be implemented carefully to ensure the highest standards of security, privacy, and ethics.

UK sets out its credentials to become an AI superpower

By Sascha Giese, Solarwinds

Rishi Sunak spoke recently about his ambitions to make the UK an AI superpower. Opening London Tech Week the Prime Minister said the UK was an island of innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, synthetic biology, and semiconductors.

But he acknowledged the UK’s position as a tech leader should not be taken for granted.

“We must act – and act quickly – if we want not only to retain our position as one of the world’s tech capitals but to go even further and make this the best country in the world to start, grow, and invest in tech businesses,” he told delegates in London.

He made a direct link between innovation and economic growth—something would, no doubt, have chimed with his audience eager to invest now to reap the benefits in the future.

After all, Mr Sunak made it clear, “if our goal is to make this country the best place in the world for tech, AI is surely one of the greatest opportunities before us.”

But can the UK make the most of its AI opportunity? And, perhaps more importantly, do the Government’s actions match its ambitions?

Investment, skills, and pro-innovation legislation are key to AI success

There is no doubt the U has plenty of things going for it when it comes to AI. The country has a strong financial sector, a skilled workforce, and an openness to technology among citizens and policymakers that is more prominent than in some of its European neighbours.

And the Government is taking steps to build on these advantages. At London Tech Week Sunak also explained how the UK government is creating a “pro-investment tax regime…increasing public R&D investment to record levels…” and making the UK’s visa system for international talent “one of the most competitive in the world”.

One of the thornier issues is the need to strike a balance between innovation and legislation. On this matter, at least, the UK appears to prefer a ‘light touch’ compared to its neighbours in the EU.

In June, the European Parliament gave the green light to its approach to AI governance which follows a “risk-based approach” to protect EU citizens.

The UK, on the other hand, has made it clear it prefers a “pro-innovation” approach as it looks to become an “AI superpower” — a claim made by Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology in the introduction to the government’s AI policy paper earlier this year.

With so many countries busy looking at AI, it’s impossible to say with any certainty which approach will deliver the most benefits with the right level of safeguards. But it is also unclear what an AI-augmented world might look like.

Data and AI could help drive change in the NHS

One area that might provide a glimpse of the future is healthcare – another area where the UK potentially has an in-built advantage as a proving ground for AI innovation.

The UK government has already invested £123 million into 86 AI technologies supporting stroke diagnosis, screening, cardiovascular monitoring, and managing conditions at home.

And just recently, the government announced the creation of a new £21m AI Diagnostic Fund which it hopes will “accelerate the deployment of the most promising AI imaging and decision support tools to help diagnose patients more quickly for conditions such as cancers, strokes and heart conditions.”

Of course, while any funding is to be welcomed, in reality, £21m won’t go far. It may help kickstart a pilot project or proof of concept — but little else. But at this stage, perhaps that’s all that’s needed.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) recently compiled 10 recent examples of research on AI-based technology could support the NHS in areas including detecting heart disease, diagnosing lung cancer and reducing pressures on accident and emergency (A&E) services

The NIHR acknowledged that research of this depth and quality needs to be conducted to “deepen our understanding of how these tools could work in routine clinical practice, their long-term effect on patient outcomes, and their overall value for money.”

In other words, more work needs to be done to identify exactly what progress can be made now while planning for the future. But it’s clear there is already an appetite for AI.

In an interview with Sky News recently, Professor Naeem Soomro from the Royal College of Surgeons explained how technology could be harnessed to free up staff and improve efficiency.

“The biggest problem we face right now is access to care,” he said, “and robotics, data, and artificial intelligence will help the NHS respond to those challenges.”

I couldn’t agree more. If the UK is to match its ambitions as set out by Rishi Sunak then the NHS is one area where the country can take a lead and become an AI superpower. The groundwork is already being done. It’s up to those with vision — not just from within government and the NHS, but from the tech sector as well — to join forces to make this happen.