Case study by Cisco

Nestled in the heart of London’s Tech City, IDEALondon is an innovation centre with a difference. Now in its fifth year, the centre is run by founding partners Cisco and UCL, and were joined last year by EDF Energy, and aims to provide a space in which tech start-ups can grow faster, stronger and further than they could on their own.

Since opening its doors in 2013 more than 50 start-ups have passed through the centre, creating 500 jobs, celebrating upwards of £60m in investment and running more than 400 pilots in the process. None of this could happen without the partnership that lies at IDEALondon’s foundation.

The University’s mission is to change the world for the better. Cisco, in turn, has an approach to innovation that is based on co-creation. IDEALondon is the melting pot in which these ideologies combine, and today the centre stands as an example of best-in-class university business collaboration.

“Innovation can happen anywhere. What’s important is that it’s given the space to do so.” Scot Gardner, Cisco UK and Ireland Chief Executive

Katherine Hannah, Cisco’s Head of Innovation Engagement said: “The real sweet spot of the whole programme is that all the partners are there to help each other, and support all of the resident start-ups towards their goals.” Many of the centre’s start-up success stories – such as Hoxton Analytics and MishiPay which operate within the retail sector – are UCL alumni, and the university plays a key role in bringing innovative entrepreneurs to the table.

Innovative global payments company, Curve, is yet another example of a successful UCL spin-out that has called IDEALondon home. Indeed, Jane Butler, UCL’s Engineering Vice Dean and one of the founding members of IDEALondon, says that “highly talented graduates are increasingly choosing to start their own businesses rather than pursuing traditional graduate schemes with big corporations.

Much more than a co-working space, IDEALondon comprises all parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem onsite and is the first of its kind in the UK to offer such a programme to aspiring students.”

Far from being an isolated innovation hub, though, IDEALondon start-ups are given the opportunity to get involved in other innovation projects happening outside of the centre. The centre has close ties with the government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and startups are regularly brought on board to tackle problem statements – along with other organisations from across business, government and academia.

They’ve contributed their expertise and agility to projects covering everything from superfast Wi-Fi for trains on Project SWIFT, to building the CityVerve smart city demonstrator in Manchester and CONSERVE technology that supports first responders in disaster situations. “That’s why we commit our resources to developing innovation hubs throughout the UK and beyond,” says Cisco’s UK and Ireland Chief Executive, Scot Gardner, “whether that be with dedicated spaces like our Mi-IDEA innovation centre in Manchester, or via our connections with other academic institutions and government organisations in the regions as part of our Country Digital Acceleration strategy.”

Cisco has 12 innovation centres globally, with the concept of co-innovation as their foundation. After all, you won’t change the world by staying in one place.

Published: 6 July 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.