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Healthtech start-up secures £200k Northern Powerhouse investment

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Moodbeam l-r Simon Crabtree, Jonathan Elvidge, Christina Colmer McHugh, Mark Wilcockson, John Connolly

A Hull healthtech start-up which has developed an award-winning device to enhance mental wellbeing has secured a £200,000 investment from NPIF-Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia Fund Managers and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Moodbeam’s wearable device allows users to log their mood and monitor their emotional wellbeing – or that of their children, students, patients or employees. The device, which links to an online and mobile platform, gives insights into how moods change over time, showing patterns and trends that can support positive change. The funding will allow the business to put the device into production.

Moodbeam was founded in 2016 by the Gadget Shop founder and Red5 co-founder Jonathan Elvidge, and former journalist Christina Colmer McHugh, who came up with the idea after her daughter became anxious at school. The device won Best Emerging Technology at the 2017 Hull Digital Awards.

Over the past year, prototypes have been trialled in multiple settings and the company, which is based in Hull’s Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI), has received interest from potential users including a university, the NHS, businesses, sports councils and health campaigners.

Christina said: “It’s been a two-year journey, but Moodbeam has been shown to provide valuable insights into wellbeing and mental health. We set out to create a device with the potential to change lives. This investment will help to make that possible.”

Simon Crabtree, Investment Manager with Mercia Fund Managers, said: “Moodbeam has proven to be a powerful offering, thanks to its ability to timestamp emotions and provide an ‘at a glance’ way to see how people feel. The technology could have a wide range of uses, from supporting children and young adults and the elderly in care, to enhancing wellbeing in the workplace and sports performance. The funding will allow the company to take the next step in bringing it to market.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Relationship Manager at British Business Bank, said:

“The Northern tech sector is giving rise to a number of exciting products, ideas, and innovations that are making a real impact on customers. Moodbeam is testament to that, and the company’s award-winning device has the potential to make positive differences to the wellbeing of customers. We are pleased to announce this latest round of funding from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and are confident that the team at Moodbeam will continue to build on its momentum as a result.”

John Connolly, Managing Director of C4DI, provided business, technology and fundraising advice to the company.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

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Euro zone factories buzzing in February as demand soars

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Euro zone factories buzzing in February as demand soars 1

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Euro zone factory activity raced along in February thanks to soaring demand, a survey showed on Monday, although the burst of business led to a shortage of raw materials and a spike in input costs.

Restrictions imposed across the continent to try to quell the spread of the coronavirus have shuttered vast swathes of the bloc’s dominant services industry, meaning it has fallen to manufacturers to support the economy.

IHS Markit’s final Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) jumped to a three-year high of 57.9 in February from January’s 54.8, ahead of the initial 57.7 “flash” estimate and one of the highest readings in the survey’s 20-year history.

An index measuring output, which feeds into a composite PMI due on Wednesday that is seen as a good guide to economic health, climbed to 57.6 from 54.6, well above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.

“Manufacturing is appearing as an increasingly bright spot in the euro zone’s economy so far this year,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“The solid manufacturing expansion is clearly helping to offset ongoing virus-related weakness in many consumer-facing sectors, alleviating the impact of recent lockdown measures in many countries and helping to limit the overall pace of economic contraction.”

A Reuters poll last month showed the bloc was in a double dip recession and that the economy would contract 0.8% this quarter after shrinking 6.9% in 2020 on an annual basis. [ECILT/EU]

Rocketing demand for manufactured goods pushed factories to increase staffing levels for the first time in nearly two years.

But lockdown measures disrupted supply chains and factories struggled to obtain raw materials, leading to a big increase in delivery times.

“The growth spurt has brought its own problems, however, with demand for inputs not yet being met by supply. Shipping delays and shortages of materials are being widely reported, and led to near-record supply chain delays,” Williamson said.

Those shortages allowed suppliers to hike their prices at the fastest rate in almost a decade. The input prices PMI bounced to 73.9 from 68.3.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Strong exports lift German factory activity to three-year high in February – PMI

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Strong exports lift German factory activity to three-year high in February - PMI 2

BERLIN (Reuters) – Higher demand from China, the United States and Europe drove growth in German factory activity to its highest level in more than three years in February, brightening the outlook for Europe’s largest economy, a survey showed on Monday.

IHS Markit’s Final Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for manufacturing, which accounts for about a fifth of the economy, jumped to 60.7 from 57.1 in January.

It was the highest reading since January 2018 and came in slightly better than the initial “flash” figure of 60.6.

Factories have been humming along during the pandemic on higher foreign demand, helping the German economy avoid a contraction in the last quarter of 2020 and offsetting a drop in consumer spending amid a partial lockdown to contain COVID-19.

Many manufacturers reported higher demand from Asia, especially China, as well as the United States and European countries, with export sales posting their biggest increase since December 2017, the survey showed.

Phil Smith, Principal Economist at IHS Markit, said supply chain pressures intensified as more firms reported delays than ever before in nearly 25 years of data collection.

“There looks to be further upward pressure on inflation in the German economy from supply bottlenecks and a subsequent surge in manufacturing input costs,” Smith noted.

The survey suggested that supply disruption is making it more difficult to replenish stocks, which could complicate production in the coming months, he cautioned.

“Nevertheless, the overriding sentiment for the longer-term outlook is optimism, with a record number of manufacturers expecting to see output rise over the next 12 months.”

Still, economists expect the economy to shrink in the first quarter of this year due to a stricter lockdown, which has shut most shops and services since mid-December, and freezing temperatures that slowed construction activity in February.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Tech demand drives Asia’s factory revival, China’s slowdown puts dampener

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Tech demand drives Asia's factory revival, China's slowdown puts dampener 3

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Solid demand for technology goods drove extended growth in Asia’s factories in February, but a slowdown in China underscored the challenges facing the region as it seeks a sustainable recovery from the shattering COVID-19 pandemic blow.

The vaccine rollouts globally and pick-up in demand provided optimism for a vast number of businesses that had grappled for months with a cash-flow crunch and falling profits.

In Japan, manufacturing activity expanded at the fastest pace in over two years while South Korea’s exports rose for a fourth straight month in February, suggesting the region’s export-reliant economies were benefiting from robust global trade.

On the flip side, China’s factory activity grew at the slowest pace in nine months in February, hit by a domestic flare-up of COVID-19 and soft demand from countries under renewed lock-down measures.

“The big picture, supported by the latest figures, is that China’s growth remains fairly robust, but it is slowing from previously very rapid rates,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

China’s was the first major economy to lead the recovery from the COVID-19 shock, so any signs of prolonged cooling in Asia’s engine of growth will likely be a cause for concern.

With the global rebound still in early days, however, analysts say the outlook was brightening as companies increased output to restock inventory on hopes vaccine rollouts will normalise economic activity.

“The recovery in durable-goods demand is continuing, which is creating a positive cycle for manufacturers in Asia,” said Shigeto Nagai, head of Japan economics as Oxford Economics.

“As vaccine rollouts ease uncertainties over the outlook, capital expenditure will gradually pick up. That will benefit Japan, which is strong in exports of capital goods,” he said.

China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 50.9 in February, the lowest level since last May but still above the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction.

That was in line with official manufacturing PMI that showed factory activity in the world’s second-largest economy expanded in February at the weakest pace since May last year.

Activity in other Asian giants remained brisk.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) jumped to 51.4 in February from the prior month’s 49.8 reading, marking the fastest expansion since December 2018, data showed on Monday.

In South Korea, a regional exports bellwether, shipments jumped 9.5% in February from a year earlier for its fourth straight month of increase on continued growth in memory chip and car sales.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam also saw manufacturing activity expand in February, a sign the region was gradually recovering from the initial hit of the pandemic. (This story corrects to add name of institution linked to analyst comment in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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