Business editor Laura Knowlson looks at the future of SCY (formerly Science City York).

VOTES have been cast in favour of SCY falling under full council ownership as part of a shake-up of how York is marketed as a city.

The board of SCY (formerly Science City York) voted on proposals by City of York Council to take over the organisation in line with plans to create a new company to drive investment and economic growth.

The council's cabinet approved the proposals for the company which will incorporate services currently offered by Visit York and the authority's business development and marketing teams, after a report by council officers highlighted shortfalls in how the city attracted inward investment.

Katie Stewart, head of economic development at the council, who has also been appointed as interim chief executive of SCY, said: "One of the things we have recognised is although we are very good at responding to inward investment inquiries and companies that are looking at York, like we did with Hiscox, we are not as efficient at actively getting leads and selling proactively what we are offering.

"What has led us to this decision to set up the new company is recognition that we need to develop a more proactive sales force that can benefit from expertise within our team at the council and expertise across the city in other guises.

"The key thing with the new company will be really stepping up our investment targets. We want to be selling a more consistent message in what York has to offer.

"Where we were losing track before was having too many organisations doing similar things, and potentially not getting bang for our pound with services duplicating information, and in some cases selling conflicting messages.

"Whether you are a business, resident, student or visitor there wasn't much value from the services being offered before.

"We will be working to target them much more efficiently and make the messages clearer. Increasingly marketing of cities is done from a single point of contact, a more professional team providing a professional and sleek offering."

The business plan for the new company is still being developed and will be presented to the council's cabinet in October.

Work is being done behind the scenes to ensure that if approved in October the new company will be ready to be launched straight away.

It terms of its aims, Mrs Stewart said the team within the new company will be working towards targeted levels of investment, lead conversions, and targeted visitor numbers.

She said: "We'll be setting very specific targets so we can measure performance and hold ourselves accountable for the spend.

"We are looking at targets made by other cities that use this model, and where we fit into that. We want to be challenging but at the same time realistic.

"We are looking at the growth areas to target, where York is positioning itself as a leader. We have identified two areas in biotechnology and agritechnology, as well as rail and insurance and professional services. In these areas the city has great opportunity to go out and look for investment.

"We have a database of companies across the world looking to expand. We know who they are but we need the team of expertise to go out and sell York to them."

Mrs Stewart said the company won't just be focussing on attracting inward investment, adding: "We recognise that some of the biggest growth will come from businesses already in the city looking to expand.

"A lot of the work of the new company will be in signposting support, help and funding.

"We won't have a massive team of business advisors but we will have a team who can work with businesses to put them in touch with the right people or provide the right support where it is needed.

"Its very much a city wide initiative. Although the company will be owned by the council it will involve the whole city to make sure we are at the top of our game to compete against other cities for investment."

It has not yet been decided if, once the council takes ownership of SCY, that too will become part of the new company.

SCY was founded in 1998 in a bid to develop York’s economy in the fields of science and technology, making use of opportunities to create jobs and wealth.

Mrs Stewart said: "There was always an interest that SCY and the new company would work collaboratively together.

"At this stage we are taking the next step in trying to align SCY with the new company we are creating.

"The question that remains is whether SCY and the new entity remain separate or are merged. What we know as a certainty is that we appreciate the value of what SCY does.

"We will be working collaboratively with the SCY board and what they expect. We remain committed to providing the services they see as priorities.

"What we would hope to do is maintain the sector chairs and their leading roles within SCY.

"We haven't made full decisions on the board, however whatever happens once the new company is up and running, whether SCY is merged or remains separate we will make sure there is a very strong private sector leadership within SCY.

"One of the key messages we want to get out is although the council is looking to take full ownership the SCY brand, the ambitions of SCY will remain and we want to share that the brand with both the University of York and York St John who have both been key players in building that brand and maintaining it."

The board of the new company is also yet to be decided however Jane Lady Gibson, current chairwoman of Visit York, has appointed as chairwoman.

Mrs Stewart said: "We are taking legal advice on how roles will be appointed. The council will review the business plan and we very much want Jane Lady Gibson to be able to set the guidelines for how these positions are decided. Private sector will be strongly represented."