The value of shared spaces and clusters for creating partnerships

The value of shared spaces and clusters for creating partnerships


TechCity London

New business ideas and business models are such integral part of the digital economy, they've touched a whole generation and created many significant opportunities for technology entrepreneurship. Much work has been done both to capture the interest of technologists to create new enterprises and to provide the support to help them take the steps towards building an idea into a business.

"That process of ‘discovery’ and entrepreneurship is part of the Smart Specialisation policy that is now one of the core ingredients to economic development"

This explains why shared spaces are fashionable in new tech businesses. Co-working space can be seen in TechCity London which has informal relationships with HE such as with City University’s “Unrulyversity” and also puts on its own talks on business formation, funding, modelling and growth.

Co-worker space via a membership scheme can vary from say having an allocated desk/workstation (such as at Surrey Incubation in the Surrey Technology Centre on the Surrey Research Park) to sharing a large room with shared tables at which people can settle to work. Surrey also provides support programmes and runs its Angel Club known as Surrey 100. At Surrey “pitch” coaching for entrepreneurs has led to an in excess of £22m being raised as investment in the companies that have been supported.

Today, there is also a significant focus on young entrepreneurial technology companies by government because of the role these new companies play in open innovation. This is in part why Google has opened its doors to young entrepreneurs through its Google campus Google for Entrepreneurs programme on a worldwide basis.

That process of ‘discovery’ and entrepreneurship is part of the Smart Specialisation policy that is now one of the core ingredients to economic development being promoted by the EU. At the core of this policy is entrepreneurial discovery, which is aimed at capitalising on the skills of this group to explore and transform technology into a marketable form through the innovation process.

This requires understanding the way in which entrepreneurial companies invest in, for example: developing their next generation of technology products, services or solutions; improving the competitiveness through driving efficiency, understanding how they access specialised professional services such as seed capital, IPR and HR; how they reward staff; and how they buy non-technology innovative support services.

All this is moving forward but it seems to me that the next step in the process is to try to build on the research base of university PhDs by introducing impact assessment to these prolific parts of the UK’s research base and by linking those with good ideas to the science park co-worker spaces in places such as Surrey.

"The ideas pioneered by the science park movement have also touched commercial organisations such as Grind in the US as well as big corporates like Google in that they create a community of entrepreneurs"

In the last 20 years, the science park movement, which has been pioneered by universities, has developed a raft of property offerings that have adapted to this new way of working. This movement continues to fuel new ideas that add significant value to these science parks as instruments for supporting economic development. One of the ambitions for many science parks has been to attract inward investment in the form of a major international technology company as a tenant to their site but the reality is that most have to rely on growing their own businesses.

The ideas pioneered by the science park movement have also touched commercial organisations such as Grind in the US as well as big corporates like Google in that they create a community of entrepreneurs that offer access through membership.

Business incubators are now pretty well universal with centres associated with universities across the UK, the US, other parts of Europe, South Korea and China as well as many other countries in the Asia Pacific region. The business model on which they are based continues to be adapted.

The model pioneered on the University of Surrey’s Research Park is also now seen in many other parks such as TUS Park associated with Tsinghua University in Beijing, which is the country’s top university. This model is based on offering co-worker space in their incubators for pre funded start-ups or individual entrepreneurs, space where young enterprises can be formed, nurtured, mentored and coached to a stage where external funding can be brought in.

Dr Malcolm Parry is the Director of the Surrey Research Park which includes the Surrey Technology Centre.

NCUB supports innovation through creative and digital fusion: combining the best of arts and technology knowledge. Our research shows 'fused' business that use both sets of skills grow faster than other small companies, with arts and humanities graduates driving that growth. NCUB were partners in Fusion projects in Brighton and London which created hundreds of jobs and led to millions in funding and we are working to expand the model to the rest of the UK.  

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