By Anna Leather, Marketing Manager (Enterprise), Loughborough University

According to GEM, entrepreneurship continues to grow worldwide, and is increasingly triggered by opportunity rather than necessity.

As more of us choose to go it alone in the business world, where and how we work is changing. One consequence of this is that co-working communities are on the rise and becoming a viable option for businesses of all sizes and sectors.

To support the growing number of local start-ups, we’re launching an exciting pilot for new businesses – a dedicated incubator on the University’s Science and Enterprise Park (LUSEP).

I spoke to Megan Powell Vreeswijk, the manager of this new communal workspace. Here’s our conversation:

Tell me a bit about the pilot.

We’re creating a go-to location for pre- and early-stage start-ups that will support their successful growth.

Based in the Holywell Building, it will be open to Loughborough’s alumni, doctoral researchers, staff, T1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa holders as well as local entrepreneurs.

Everyone who joins us will be allocated a desk and storage space in the open-plan office, and have access to a breakout area, kitchen and meeting rooms.

We’re keen to create a supportive, collaborative environment to help budding businesses grow. So, in addition to meeting young companies’ accommodation needs we’re planning to provide business support and development workshops, mentoring, and access to funding opportunities.

Will businesses with IP to protect have the privacy they need in the communal space?

Protecting business IP is essential. All new tenants will sign our non-disclosure agreement. Plus, the incubator does have quiet spaces and meeting rooms, specifically for confidential work and discussions.

But on the other hand, sharing knowledge, experience and support with like-minded entrepreneurs is invaluable for start-ups and we encourage it, wherever possible and appropriate.

Another part of my job is looking after the Studio, the University’s graduate start-up hub (also based in the Holywell Building) that – since its launch in 2011 – has supported more than 60 businesses.

Working with these dynamic young entrepreneurs is inspiring, and I’m always impressed by their generosity in supporting, motivating and learning from one another. They genuinely have a positive impact on one another’s business growth and success.

We want the new space to work in just the same way.

What benefits will businesses enjoy?

Businesses that make their home with us in the incubator will enjoy a range of benefits. They’ll join our established LUSEP innovation community of more than 75 organisations, and be able to take advantage of our full Campus Partner Offer.

Many existing LUSEP tenants have engaged with the University to speed up essential R&D in a cost-effective way. Others have actually found the expertise they need to develop and grow with other LUSEP companies. The cross-pollination of ideas and services within LUSEP is always really satisfying to witness, and some really productive on-going partnerships are developing.

Another advantage of joining LUSEP is being able to use the campus amenities, including the sports facilities, library, and discounted design and print services.

Companies also enjoy internet access and secure building access as standard.

When will the pilot launch, and when will you be ready to welcome your first cohort?

We’re already welcoming our first tenants, and hope to have the new space filled over the coming weeks.

By joining the incubator’s pilot phase, our first cohort of tenants can take advantage of reduced rates as we develop the full range of support and facilities. What’s more, they’ll be able to help us to create the community’s comprehensive support package.

People interested in finding out more about our pilot co-working community, particularly if they’d like to join us, can drop me a line and I’ll be happy to answer their questions – and hopefully welcome them as new tenants soon. View the pilot offer – including prices – here.


Image credits: Kouadio Kévin Yoboua on Unsplash

Published: 19 November 2018