Three years ago I set up a competition for new businesses to allow them to exhibit for free at the annual Conservative Party conference, in a special area called the Start-up Hub. This week we have launched the competition again to find twelve new businesses to take part in the Start-up Hub, following the 33 that have benefited from the experience over the previous three years. It would normally cost thousands of pounds to exhibit at the conference, a cost that would be prohibitive for most new businesses. The competition is also sponsored by the British Venture Capital Association and Fujitsu, who provide additional prizes for the 12 businesses selected to take part.
Previous entrants have included businesses from Kent, and from right across the country. Many have found the experience and the networking opportunities incredibly helpful. One businesses, Versarien, that took part in the first year of the competition, has developed a unique cooling system to reduce the energy costs of running computer systems and storing data. Last summer they floated on the stock market and continue to go from strength to strength. All businesses which have started since May 2010 are welcome to apply and you can find out more information about the competition on its website www.conservatives.com/startuphub.
On Tuesday evening this week I attended the opening of the National Army Museum’s exhibition at the Folkestone Town Hall. The exhibition is called, ‘Your country calls: enlistment to embarkation’; and tells the story of the journey taken by millions of men during the First World War as they left their civilian lives to take up arms and answer their country’s call.
The exhibition has been organised in partnership with Step Short, Folkestone’s First World War centenary project, and Folkestone Town Council. The idea for the exhibition came from a meeting I had with Janice Murray the Director of the National Army Museum a couple of years ago. I am very grateful to Janice and her team for all their work in bringing this exhibition to Folkestone. In this First World War centenary year it is great for the town to be able to display part of the collection of a major national museum, alongside local images and artifacts. I would also like to thank all of the volunteers from Step Short and the team at the Town Council, particularly their heritage officer Rebecca McCutcheon, for everything they have done to support this project.
The exhibition explores the vital role that Folkestone played as the main port of embarkation to and from the trenches of the western front during the war. It also examines Folkestone’s crucial role as a place of refuge for thousands of Belgians who left their homes after their country was invaded. The exhibition will be open in the Town Hall for ten months and will complement the Step Short memorial arch, the visitors centre in the harbour and the planned photographic exhibition of local life during the war in the Sassoon Room of Folkestone library, which will open next month.