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Rising costs are the biggest imminent fear for Welsh businesses despite steady expansion

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Rising business costs have been cited by 65.1 percent of businesses in Wales as the biggest threat to their operations in the coming quarter, according to a new survey from Swansea-based Uplands Communications.

The results of a new Business Aspirations Survey from telephony experts, Uplands Communications, shows that more than 65 percent of firms are anxious about the issue, even though 76.4 percent of businesses polled have seen revenue grow during the pandemic and 85.2 percent have grown their teams by 1 to 10 members of staff.

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Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We deal with many hundreds of businesses across the country and these results, which were taken from manufacturing, retail, professional services and other sectors are really borne out by the conversations we are having with customers on the ground.

“The Uplands Business Aspirations Survey shows continued buoyancy, investment, job creation and a commitment to assimilating the streamlining and efficiencies that have been put in place as a result of Covid. However, rising costs of fuel and energy, raw materials and wages is biting and business owners are feeling the sting.

“A big part of our role as telephony providers is to support customers to make savings or efficiencies with their telephony and this is something that many firms approached us for during the pandemic.

“A shift to hybrid or home working or a move towards having more teams in the field rather than being tied to an office or a company HQ has given a number of our customers the impetus to make changes to their communications that are delivering efficiencies and will help future-proof their operations.

“We are also helping companies to reduce and control costs by offering a free Telecoms audit, as we often find that business are paying for services they simply do not need and they weren’t aware of this.”

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Paul adds: “Clearly the big story in telephony at the moment is the swich to VoIP, which has inherent costs associated, but which is an unavoidable change for businesses with a looming deadline.

“There are certainly things you can do in the planning stages to mitigate costs further down the line and to make sure the switch is planned and the tech and hardware that firms put in place are appropriate and cost savvy.”

Uplands Communications is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications. The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Lifestyle

Almost 1 in 3 Brits turn to social media for a daily dose of positivity with animal content leaving us smiling the most

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close up photo of dog wearing sunglasses

Nearly one in three Brits turn to social media for a daily positivity boost (31%), with animal videos and memes (23%) and random acts of kindness posts (21%) the most smile-inducing content we view as a nation.

That’s according to a study of over 2,000 British adults by Sky Mobile, which found that over half of us (56%) love to use our smartphones to seek out uplifting content, and nearly half (45%) agree that when they view positive stories and inspiring posts online, it increases their mood for the day.

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The findings have prompted Sky Mobile to team up with Vanessa King, an expert on positive psychology, and board member at Action for Happiness, to explore Brits’ habits online and how they can use their phones to easily access cheerful content 24/7.

friends in pink clothes
Nearly a third of us turn to social media for a daily positivity boost according to a new survey (Image: Anna Shvets / Pexels.com)

#Positivity

Alongside animal content and random acts of kindness posts, other popular types of social media content that people view most include light-hearted ‘when things go wrong’ videos (16%) and travel or holiday pictures/videos (15%).

The nation also seeks comfort in the past to lift their mood too, with childhood TV clips (11%) and nostalgic British pop culture content (11%) both inspiring our sentimental sides and making the top ten.

People most commonly seek out positive content online by watching short funny clips or videos (30%) or memes (17%) and bolster their wellbeing by connecting with family and friends (29%) too.

“What we consume online impacts how we feel” comments Vanessa, “Even small positive mood boosts can make a difference. And these don’t just feel good, science shows these can add up – for example helping us be more open to others, more flexible in our thinking, better at creative problem solving.”

Memes are one of the ways people find their daily dose of positivity according to the research (Image: Shutterstock)

Positivity on the go

It’s no secret that Brits turn to their handsets several times a day for a quick check on the latest social media updates as part of their daily routines. And it’s the end of the day that proves to be the sweet spot, with bedtime (14%) being the most popular time to tune in for a positivity boost, followed by before getting up in the morning (10%).

People spend on average two hours each day seeking out positive content, increasing to almost four hours for those aged 16-24. While Gen Z will visit TikTok as their go-to for uplifting content (42%), the 55+ age bracket are more likely to head to Facebook (70%).

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When it comes to spreading the positivity, 19% will send posts to their friends or family directly or tag a friend (15%), doing so to make them laugh (43%) and spread the same mood boost they felt (30%).

Vanessa King adds: “Connecting constructively with people we care about and doing kind things for others are important for everyone’s happiness and wellbeing. Showing we are thinking of others and sharing positive content online that we think loved ones will enjoy or find uplifting contributes to this.”

It was further revealed that one in four scroll across different social media channels until they find something they’re interested in, compared to nearly 20% of people going to the same social media source they know will lift their mood. And it doesn’t stop there, with over a third (35%) admitting they would unfollow social media accounts which don’t lift their mood.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Sweeney, Managing Director, Sky Mobile, said: “With more than half of us using our phones daily to see positive and uplifting content, Sky Mobile is here to help you easily tap into your rolled over data to access the latest memes, humorous videos and more 24/7.”

“It’s important we’re aware of how social media impacts our mood and manage what we access. We of course need to keep in touch with what’s happening in the world around us, and it’s encouraging to see that Sky Mobile’s research shows that over half (52%) agree that listening to positive individuals on social media makes a difference to our psychological wellbeing,” 

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Vanessa concludes. “What’s great is that there are plenty of practical resources packed with ideas for happier living, such as those freely available from Action for Happiness, to help people boost psychological wellbeing.”

The top 10 things that make us smile or give us a positive mood boost when on social media include:

  1. Animal videos/memes (23%)
  2. Random acts of kindness posts (21%)
  3. Light-hearted ‘when things go wrong’ videos (16%)
  4. Travel or holiday pictures/videos (15%)
  5. Cute/funny baby videos (14%)
  6. Comedians sharing snippets of content (13%)
  7. Food pictures/videos (12%)
  8. Childhood TV clips (11%)
  9. Inspiring or motivational quotes or mantras (11%)
  10. Nostalgic British pop culture content (11%)

(Lead image: Ilargian Faus / Pexels.com)

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Food & Drink

Swansea to host major international conference on sustainable approach to food pest control

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Feeding a growing population while reducing the environmental impact is an urgent challenge, but a major international conference at Swansea University will help by bringing together experts in integrated pest management.

They will discuss new approaches to managing insect pests which will cut reliance on harmful chemical insecticides.

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Pests destroy up to 40 per cent of global crops and cost $220 billion in losses, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Climate change increases the threat further as it makes it more likely that invasive pests can move into new territory.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is based on the principle that environmental issues and food production are inextricably linked.

It aims to encourage healthy crops with the least possible disruption to agricultural ecosystems. It focuses on natural pest control mechanisms and involves biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools being used together in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks.

To be effective, IPM also requires different sectors to work together, especially industry, academia and regulatory authorities.

Technology has transformed the field of pest control in recent years. Drones, electronic sensors, robotic crop inspectors and satellite imagery are becoming widely used to protect crops.

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Against this background, the Swansea event could not be more timely. The aim is to bring together everybody involved in the agribusiness chain, to present and discuss new innovations and how they are being implemented in crop protection.

Entitled “New IPM: A Modern and Multidisciplinary approach to Crop Protection”, the conference runs from 12-14 September. It is being hosted and organised by Swansea University in partnership with the International BioControl Manufacturers Association UK.

Amongst the topics that will feature are:

• Pest and disease monitoring
• Increasing plant growth and resilience
• Biopesticides – natural alternatives to chemical pesticides
• How different natural pest control measures can work together for greater impact
• Strains of microbes that have been identified but not yet fully assessed for their potential
• Networking and funding opportunities

The main conference programme runs on 12th and 13th September. This is followed on 14th by a networking event, organised by Swansea University’s Research and Innovation Services, which will be an opportunity for academics and businesses to forge links, with sessions on funding opportunities from UK and EU sources.

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Professor Tariq Butt of Swansea University, who is organising the event, said: “IPM is essential if we are to protect our food supply and our environment, which are two sides of the same coin.

“The problem is that too often IPM discussions focus on individual elements, such as the role of beneficial species or biopesticides, rather than the whole picture.

“At a practical level implementation of IPM relies on a whole set of accurate, timely and appropriate information, passed to a properly trained decision-maker who, ultimately, has access to a pest-management toolkit that is fit-for-purpose.

“To make all of this happen, it requires a combined effort and the collaboration of industry, academia and the regulatory authorities.

“This conference will provide an opportunity for representatives from all of these stakeholders to communicate and build productive relationships. This will help us develop a new approach to IPM, which is essential if we are to succeed in protecting our food and our environment.

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“We will also be revealing plans for the region’s first Natural Products BioHUB, a collaboration between industry and academia to develop new natural products and businesses, creating jobs and training opportunities.”

Dr Ian Baxter of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association UK (IBMA UK) said: “IBMA UK is delighted to be co-organising this event with Swansea University. The last two years have been particularly challenging for all of us, but this has not been reflected in a slow-down in the rate of technology adoption by growers – if anything, it has been expedited by the obvious pressures on resources.

“This is a perfect moment to get together and exchange information on the latest advances in New IPM.”

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Education

Swansea school children set to receive IT equipment thanks to DVLA

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School children across Swansea will receive recycled IT equipment thanks to an innovative digital partnership between DVLA and Swansea Council.

The IT equipment has been donated as part of DVLA’s new Digital Inclusion Scheme which aims to donate digital equipment that DVLA no longer needs, to local authorities for redistribution to schools across Wales.  Swansea Council are the first recipients of the scheme.   

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The scheme supports the growth of vital digital skills for all and helps to ensure that young learners aren’t faced with digital exclusion.

DVLA Chief Executive Julie Lennard said: “I’m extremely proud of this new scheme and am delighted that Swansea Council is the first to receive our donated laptops. Digital inclusion is key to ensure all pupils have access to the technology they need to develop digital skills for themselves and  the region.

We are aiming to roll the scheme out across Wales and encourage all local authorities to sign up and join DVLA’s Digital inclusion scheme”.

DVLA’s Amy Taaffe Evans and Councillor Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council.

Swansea Council’s Leader Rob Stewart said: “I’m delighted Swansea is the first local authority to begin working with DVLA on the Digital Inclusion scheme as part of our commitment to making sure that all our schools and pupils have access to digital devices at home and at school.

“Some pupils are already using the equipment and many more will benefit along with their families so I’d like to thank the DVLA for involving us in this great community initiative.”

Lead image: DVLA’s Amy Taaffe Evans – Head of IT Controls, Gowerton Comprehensive Deputy Head Kathleen Lawler, Mr Ashleigh Harries – teacher and Cllr Rob Smith.

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