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The problem:

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is one of Britain's most enterprising universities; it has a successful record in co-creating new ideas and new solutions to deliver innovative futures and had plans to develop the West of England University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), delivering a 4,000 m2 (43,000 ft2) incubation and grow-on facility to promote business/university collaboration and generate innovation, entrepreneurship, jobs and economic growth. They needed a partner who would deliver on the vision for the UEZ to generate economic growth by facilitating interaction between business, research and clinical and academic communities, supporting enterprise, new business and significant job creation

The problem:

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is one of Britain's most enterprising universities; it has a successful record in co-creating new ideas and new solutions to deliver innovative futures and had plans to develop the West of England University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), delivering a 4,000 m2 (43,000 ft2) incubation and grow-on facility to promote business/university collaboration and generate innovation, entrepreneurship, jobs and economic growth. They needed a partner who would deliver on the vision for the UEZ to generate economic growth by facilitating interaction between business, research and clinical and academic communities, supporting enterprise, new business and significant job creation

Vision and objectives

  • To become the ‘location of choice’ for entrepreneurs and innovative companies seeking business premises and innovation services to support their growth and a recognised UK launch pad and source of R&D.
  • To stimulate and support university/business collaboration including, in particular, early-stage, small, and innovative businesses.
  • To facilitate close collaboration and interchange between business and academic researchers, postgraduate and placement students both in the two universities and through extended academic networks, nationally and internationally.
  • To facilitate recruitment of skilled graduates and postgraduate students by businesses in the UEZ.
  • To overcome a shortage of private investment in suitable supported office, workshop and laboratory space including wet-labs.
  • To provide fitted out laboratory space available on easy-in/easy-out terms, with in-built adaptability to meet the needs of growing firms, while providing direct access to specialised laboratory equipment and technical expertise.
  • To make available to start-ups and small businesses, a wide range of advanced technical analysis, fabrication facilities and technical support to offer R&D, test and prototyping of a scale and scope not otherwise accessible to them.
  • To provide and facilitate access to business support and development including financial support through dedicated on-site provision.
  • To stimulate international collaboration and investment through the LEP, UKTI, Invest in Bristol and Bath, academic, industry, EU and other networks.
  • To evaluate the UEZ pilot as an exemplar and test-bed of university/business engagement and cluster development and derive lessons for future development of equivalent initiatives.

The UEZ needed to be much more than just a building: it will be the core of a dynamic and innovative cluster drawing on and driven by business/university collaboration, stakeholder support and wide-ranging networks at local, national and international scales.

Our solution and impact:

In 2014 Oxford Innovation were commissioned to provide advice relating to the design, construction and strategy together with a financial model for the UEZ.

Our market research included current demand and supply within the Bristol ecosystem, an analysis of the wider Bristol economy and by applying Oxford Innovation business planning tools, we provided a comprehensive report recommending re-utilisation of an existing building; a former Hewlett Packard R&D and fabrication facility owned by UWE and located on their Frenchay Campus in Bristol.

A second commission in May 2015 allowed us to work in an ‘intelligent client’ capacity alongside the professional team tasked with designing the centre. Our brief was to refine the business plan and to consult with all stakeholders in developing and agreeing target sectors and a gateway policy. This work was completed in two months with a £2.5m (12%) construction cost saving; a signed off design and construction budget and 100% stakeholder support for the strategy and economic outputs for the UEZ.

After a formal tendering process Oxford Innovation were appointed to manage Future Space, in the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ).

After a period of construction and mobilisation, Future Space opened in September 2016. Within 3 months, occupancy is already nearing 10% with 2 customers growing into the centre from the collocated Bristol Robotics Laboratory due to their growth and desire to be part of the community created within Future Space. In February 2017, the centre hosted Venturefest Bristol and Bath attracting over 400 of the region’s entrepreneurs, academics, funders and innovators to collaborate and share.  

Oxford Innovation are currently working with UWE on a range of business and innovation support programmes in addition to delivering on the vision and objectives for Future Space.

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