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The problem:

Fareham Borough Council had identified a need to support the development of high growth jobs on the Gosport Peninsula on the Solent Enterprise Zone at the former HMS Daedalus site. There was a lack of suitable and attractive business premises on the Pennisula, with a high level of out-commuting to Southampton and Winchester, and very few high value jobs being created. SME engagement with local educational institutes and larger sector leading businesses was low, resulting in a lack of opportunities for students and graduates from the area to engage with innovative businesses and gain employment in the area. 

The problem:

Fareham Borough Council had identified a need to support the development of high growth jobs on the Gosport Peninsula on the Solent Enterprise Zone at the former HMS Daedalus site. There was a lack of suitable and attractive business premises on the Pennisula, with a high level of out-commuting to Southampton and Winchester, and very few high value jobs being created. SME engagement with local educational institutes and larger sector leading businesses was low, resulting in a lack of opportunities for students and graduates from the area to engage with innovative businesses and gain employment in the area. 

Vision and objectives

The Council’s overall vision for the 2,400 m2 Innovation Centre was that it would be a place which provides new businesses, predominantly within the advanced manufacturing sector, with a range of flexible office and workshop accommodation in which they can be supported to grow and thrive. An integrated business support service, tailored to the needs of SMEs in these sectors, would need to be provided as well as services to the wider business community to develop a dynamic community in the area.

The Innovation Centre is adjacent to the CEMAST (Centre of Excellence in Engineering, Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training) building and some of the budding entrepreneurs completing courses in CEMAST could be supported to start up their own business at the innovation Centre.

The primary objectives of the Innovation Centre are:

  • To provide new businesses, predominantly, but not exclusively, within the advanced manufacturing sector with a range of flexible workshop and office accommodation which enables them to prosper and grow.
  • To provide access to a range of high quality business support services to nurture, mentor and facilitate business development.
  • To bring together and create a cluster of like-minded people and provide opportunities for networking through a variety of social spaces to encourage businesses to interact, share ideas and provide mutual support.
  • To create a building which creates a “buzz”, is of a high quality design, is welcoming airy and bright in which new businesses are proud to work and in which they can impress their clients.
  • To provide the Borough Council with a return on its investment.

Our solution and impact:

We were appointed as the preferred supplier by Fareham Borough Council in Autumn 2014. During the tender process we developed a 10 year business plan, which forms part of the contract. The contract sets out the process for agreeing an annual budget prior to the commencement of each financial year, along with annual KPIs.

Fareham Innovation Centre has been a remarkable success. The building was completed in March 2015 and compromises 24 offices and 15 workshops aimed at business start-ups, primarily in the advanced engineering, marine, aviation and aerospace sectors.  It also provides virtual office and business lounge facilities for businesses not yet ready to take up physical office space and some much in demand meeting facilities.

Occupancy levels have massively exceeded expectations.  It was initially forecast that it would take some time to build a customer base and that by the end of its first year it would have achieved an average occupancy level of 27% and that it would reach an optimum occupancy level of 90% by March 2018.  In the event, it reached 100% occupancy by the end of March 2016 and there is a waiting list of 20 businesses wishing to take up space. The Centre has therefore revealed a huge pent up demand for such accommodation in the Fareham/Gosport peninsula.

The Centre has reached its objective of being well designed, light and airy which businesses find pleasurable to work in and are proud to show off to their clients. 

A key area of success is the added value gained from the employment of a Business Innovation Director to give business support to fledgling businesses.  A significant level of advice and support has been given both on a one to one basis and through networking events, roadshows and workshops.  These are proving invaluable to businesses in providing them with information and signposting to help them develop and thrive.  Even at this early stage, some businesses have already graduated from being Business Lounge members still working from a spare bedroom, through to taking up shared office space and finally to renting a small office and employing staff.

A mark of its success is that FIC won the award for the most innovative small business project at the Federation of Small Businesses Awards in 2015.

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