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ENTERPRISE - Stephen Smith

Shared space rings right tone for ‘Fab Four’

Demand for shared office space at thriving Fareham Innovation Centre is soaring – and with it a growing waiting list.

Four small businesses have signed up to a desk each in a special 400 sq ft office – website design agency Chemical Design, Psion Consulting, which provides technical advice to the Ministry of Defence, animation specialist LR Animation Studios and data collection consultancy MRO Insyte.

With the four sharing licence costs between them, they are among 27 businesses on site to have put down roots at Fareham Innovation Centre after the building opened in April 2015 and is now 100% occupied.

Purpose-built, the £5.3m centre is run by Oxford Innovation, Britain’s leading innovation centres operator, on behalf of owner Fareham Borough Council.

Stephen Brownlie, Oxford Innovation’s regional manager for the South, said: “The shared office space here at Fareham Innovation Centre has proved a magnet for small businesses who wish to keep overheads low.

“The concept is proving incredibly popular with the ‘Fab Four’, so much so that we have a long waiting list from people wanting to move in.

“The four occupiers have fed back to us that they are already starting to utilise each other’s skill sets.

“For example, MRO Insyte commissioned LR Animation Studios, one desk away, to produce a video explaining how MRO Insyte can deliver efficiency savings and industry standardisation to logistics companies across the world.

“Occupiers at the centre are benefiting from a vibrant business ecosystem, where they can buy in goods and services from fellow occupiers on site, as well as business support which we both provide and signpost.

“In short, the four occupiers can help each other grow, as can the other businesses on site.

“Whilst we have no other shared office space on site, it is clear that demand outstrips supply and we will consider similar spaces at other centres in due course.”

Chemical Design, owned by Stephen Smith, is the latest firm to sign up at the four-desk office, which is one of 24 offices and 15 workshops at Fareham Innovation Centre.

The web design agency’s work includes the interface for an online seafaring learning course by Splash Sea School and the website for Go Skydive, a skydiving company which operates out of an airfield near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Stephen Smith said: “Sharing office space makes commercial sense on all fronts and there is the positive social aspect as well. Home-working can be lonely whereas there is lots of interaction with people here – you feel you are very much part of something exciting and fulfilling.”

Oxford Innovation, which looks after 20 centres, specialises in running facilities which combine office space and mentoring support for start-up and early-stage firms.

Occupiers at Fareham Innovation Centre enjoy various benefits, including a 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a five-year period for being within an Enterprise Zone.

Thanks to the achievements to date, the centre received plaudits from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). It was awarded the Most Innovative Small Business Friendly, Programme, Campaign or Project at the 2015 FSB awards.

ENTERPRISE - Stephen Smith

ENTERPRISE: Stephen Smith of Chemical Design, a website design agency which shares office space with three other firms at Fareham Innovation Centre. Stephen sits alongside the owners of three other businesses, Psion Consulting, LR Animation Studios and MRO Insyte. They are among 27 businesses on site.