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The problem:

Located on the third floor of the iconic Broadstone Mill, Stockport Business and Innovation Centre is in a former cotton mill, providing 24,000ft2 of lettable office space and a selection of meeting rooms and communal spaces. The centre originally opened in 2005, but having fallen in to disrepair, and with customer service levels dropping, the Council appointed Oxford Innovation to inject a new lease of life.

The problem:

Located on the third floor of the iconic Broadstone Mill, Stockport Business and Innovation Centre is in a former cotton mill, providing 24,000ft2 of lettable office space and a selection of meeting rooms and communal spaces. The centre originally opened in 2005, but having fallen in to disrepair, and with customer service levels dropping, the Council appointed Oxford Innovation to inject a new lease of life.

Our solution and impact

Oxford Innovation took over the management of SBIC in September 2013 on behalf of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. Part of our recommendations was that the centre be rebranded from Stockport Business Incubator to Stockport Business and Innovation Centre. There were a number of reasons for this:

  • At 30,000 ft2 the centre is quite large and has a range of office sizes from shared offices up to large offices of around 4,000 ft2 that would suit more established companies of up to 40 people. An incubator facility would not accommodate such large companies and we were concerned that the existing branding would make it difficult to attract companies into this space.
  • The reputation of the centre had suffered in recent years and the rebranding gave us the opportunity to redress this.
  • Our intention was to introduce a separate start-up / incubation programme, and retaining the existing branding would have confused potential customers.

We were initially appointed as the preferred supplier by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council in March 2012, having submitted a tender that identified a significant revenue funding requirement. As a result, over the following 12 months we worked in partnership with the Council, at no cost, to secure an ERDF grant to provide revenue funding for 2.5 years.

During the mobilisation process we employed a number of marketing activities:

  • Press coverage
  • Promotional signage
  • Show office
  • Website & SEO activity
  • Launch event

Our on-going marketing activity is aimed at achieving and then maintaining high occupancy, while ensuring existing customers have space to grow and new companies can be attracted. For this reason we aim for occupancy to be around 85 – 95% once a centre is established. In order to achieve consistent occupancy levels a constant level of ongoing activity is needed to maintain the sales pipeline. At SBIC, the Centre Manager and Innovation Director, with support from our central marketing team, develop a marketing strategy on an annual basis.

During the first 3 months of mobilisation we recruited a new team and undertook a rebranding exercise and refurbishment programme which was delivered for a budget of approximately £90k, invested by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council and managed by Oxford Innovation. 

To ensure the project delivered the required objectives, we focused primarily on delivering a clean, functional and inviting environment, with minimal disruptions or structural work.  The major projects included the following:

There was a distinct lack of communal networking space at the centre.  We identified two adjoining offices close to reception that had never been let and replaced them with an open plan co-working space called the Engine House. We currently have over 105 registered members.

One of the biggest areas of feedback we had was the poor internet service.  The provision was significantly under specification for the usage requirements, so we installed a 100mb line along with a revised pricing strategy.

The kitchens were not fit for a multi occupancy building and the toilets had fallen into disrepair, so we made various upgrades and repairs. Throughout the whole centre, we installed new health & safety signage, carried out portable appliance and fire extinguisher testing, gave the communal areas and empty offices a fresh coat of white paint, and arranged a thorough deep clean. 

In conjunction with the new management team and active marketing campaigns, SBIC is now seen as the hub for business in the Stockport area, and with occupancy now at 80%, over 44 companies are using the centre as a base for their business, with an additional 40 using The Engine House Business Lounge and co-working space.

Pioneer10

In 2014 and 2015 we ran an outreach business support and start-up programme called ‘Spark Stockport’ that supports new and existing entrepreneurs with establishing or growing their business in the local area.  Due to their success, we have since invested in rebranding and further development of the programme, which is now called Pioneer10. Pioneer10 is our 12 month intensive accelerator programme of business support for start-ups, entrepreneurs and SME’s. Pioneer 10 is a fully-funded programme led by inspiring business experts featuring workshops, online tools, support and one-to-one business growth reviews. It has been designed for small, ambitious businesses in the Stockport area which is operated by Oxford Innovation and supported by Stockport Borough Council. Pioneer10 is available for entrepreneurs and businesses at all stages to help drive growth and development.

There are on-going online workshops, tutorials, advice and support to all those that sign up to the programme. The next stage is for the top ten Pioneers to be selected to receive one on one business support, access to the business lounge at Stockport Innovation Centre, coaching and mentoring from local industry experts and OI’s Innovation specialists. After a further competitive selection process, one outstanding Pioneer is selected as Business Growth Pioneer and they are awarded a 12 month support package, including office space at SBIC up to the value of £5,000.

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