Tell us a little bit about Innovation Labs Stowmarket and why it was formed.
We wanted to accommodate new businesses within the Stowmarket region and create an innovation cluster that is designed to nurture and support entrepreneurship and provide wisdom from experienced entrepreneurs.
The second thing was to create an engaging and welcoming co-working physical and virtual space. We believe physical spaces will be very important moving forwards. Although people will probably want to continue working remotely to some extent, we think they will benefit from networking and working in a social situation within a co-working space for some period of the week.
The third aspect is to really inspire start-ups and the creation of new technologies. There’s a focus for us on artificial intelligence but we are also working with virtual reality, augmented reality, gamification, block chain. We’re getting people thinking about how they might improve efficiency, help scale business opportunities, help change the dynamics of their existing business and, from a very aspirational perspective, maybe disrupt industries. We are trying to make people think bigger and better about how to deploy technology. Helping them to prototype an idea, develop it, commercialise it and bring it to market. We’ve got Peter Basford (former Regional Director of Lloyds). We’ve got Hermione Way (former Communications Director at Tinder) who has spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley. We’ve got some amazing entrepreneurs who have been there and done it which really provides that valued support both in terms of getting the structure of the business right and also opening doors in terms of business development and networking.
It sounds like there is a clear benefit there. What have you seen on the ground?
Case studies and feedback from members are really quite incredible. We’ve seen significant transformation. Businesses that started as individuals have scaled up, hired employees, grown turnover and stretched out into developing intellectual property and many other areas. So we are actually seeing that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ if you like in the amazing results through our membership that are coming through.
The co-working space has an excellent reputation. What are the benefits in becoming a co-working member?
The support network is fantastic. Not just from the lab mentors but other members. For example, if you are developing a piece of technology and you really want to knuckle down and identify the user interface and user experience and get that optimised there’s people with very particular skill sets and businesses that focus on that. There’s copyrighters, there’s programmers, there’s graphic designers, there’s 3D modellers, there’s virtual reality specialists. You can have those lovely conversations with fellow members and glean some really important insights and information to help develop your bit of technology and to help innovate and grow your business.
The network also opens up availability and access to other professional skills. We’ve got bite size lightning talks every week. We’ve got our Academy which is a LEP-funded initiative providing the fundamental skills that you need as an innovation start-up. We’re also providing support and guidance on business planning, marketing and project management which is really, really important, because the world is littered with failed IT and innovation projects. We also do a lot of speaking and pitch sessions within the Lab targeted not just at securing investment but getting people comfortable when speaking in front of an audience.
Given the success stories that have come out of Innovation Labs, what are the opportunities to be involved further?
I think we have a fantastic sponsorship programme to match businesses up with start-ups. For example, Fleximize are sponsoring and supporting one of our rising stars, Ellis Heighes from Queue Pay. His business is scaling and doing incredibly well. It’s been a very beneficial arrangement for all parties. Beyond that, there are opportunities to take part in the many events that we hold. There are opportunities to have your branding within the Lab and elsewhere on our digital and web inventory as well as through our social channels. There’s quite a wide variety of benefits that we offer as well as becoming part of something that’s really making a huge difference to start-ups and entrepreneurs in the region.
Alternatively, start-up and scaling businesses can sign up to all of innovation and business support services either as Virtual Members or secure one of our co-working space memberships.
That’s wonderful. It sounds like Innovation Labs is going from strength to strength. Sign me up for a Lightning talk.
This articles is from the May 2021 issue of Upload, our newsletter for professionals with an interest in technology. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Paul Palik or another member of Birketts' Corporate and Commercial Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2021.