Lord Digby Jones has come home – with the launch of a “world-first” software firm close to his Longbridge area roots.
The renowned Midland peer and former Director-General of the CBI is among seven business colleagues who have pumped a total of just under £4 million into new IT pioneers NeutrinoBI.
Lord Jones, whose parents ran a corner shop in Alvechurch, a few miles from the giant Austin car plant, said NeutrinoBI marked an “emotional” link to his formative childhood years.
Now, more than 45 years later, the former Trade Minister and current adviser to Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, HSBC and others, has launched his latest business venture at Longbridge Technology Park.
NeutrinoBI chairman Lord Jones said the potential for the firm was vast – but attacked the Government for inhibiting possible employment growth with its National Insurance tax levy and the City of London investment community for failing to back long-term projects.
The Midland peer said the original idea for NeutrinoBI came from IT expert Patrick Foody, who met Lord Jones on a motorway station for half an hour to explain his concept, which is set to provide a new design of intuitive search function closer to the Google example.
“Patrick said: ‘I have got my idea, I want to patent it, I have got no money.
“I put together a group of ‘business angels,’ Roman McAlindon, John Stirling, Nick Baird, Bernard Hampson, Glyn Thomas, Basim Sheikh and myself.
“We all met in Roman’s dining room and kitchen and put this package together in 2006. Just under £4 million has gone into this in development finance. This has enabled Patrick Foody to develop the product and patent it.
“It got to the point where we were ready to go to the market and we have got our first few sales. There is no other company doing what we are doing in the world but we need more development capital.
“We are looking for £7 million to £8 million over the next two years. We have had positive responses from America, Germany and India but there is a very short-term investment community in London.
“This ticks so many boxes – there is no debt on the business, it is on the site of old manufacturing, it’s knowledge economy, we are taking on an apprentice, but I have a worry it will end up in America. Three years from now, it would not be a surprise if we ended up in Boston.”
Lord Jones also went on the attack over National Insurance. “We are already paying £60,000 a year in national insurance – if were not paying that, we could employ three more people,” he said.
“I say to the Government ‘tax my profits, put up corporation tax – I would fill the gap.”
The brainchild behind NeutrinoBI, Patrick Foody said: “The key to this is the search engine; you should have an interface as easy as Google.
“We have done four years of research and development and now we have to go to market.”
NeutrinoBI chief executive Jonathan Woodward said: “The potential is huge. It is a 10 billion dollar a year market growing at 10 per cent a year. I think this is truly innovative – my projections are that within three to five years, we will have 200 to 250 people in this company.”
Mr Foody added: “This is not simple stuff. We are trying to change the world of business with this. There is no sector we can’t get into.
“In an Internet world, interface requirements change on a daily basis. Small companies through to large companies need solutions like this.”
The firm, which employs 12 people, has already recruited one apprentice, 19-year-old Sonia Younas, who said: “I feel pretty good about this – I will be getting real work experience here.
“Competition for jobs is extremely high and on the job experience is essential to stand out from the crowd. I am thrilled to have been accepted on the NeutrinoBI apprenticeship scheme and look forward to working with the team.”