New co-working hubs are appearing across all cities. They are filled by young businesses that can’t justify an office of their own but require a business address, a place to hold meetings that isn’t laden with pushchairs, and a regular place to work that isn’t hindered by the distractions of home life.
Incubators are a rarer breed. Incubation centres are set up to support start-ups as they grow: providing accommodation, structured mentoring, along with game-changing introductions and guidance to create business plans that resonate with prospective investors.
Incubators are not created in the same way as co-working space; offers of desks on commercial terms in ‘cool’ parts of town, where tenant members come and do their own thing.
Incubators are not just buildings – they are about nurtured communities-of-interest. Incubators provide a dynamic environment, with sustained support during the entrepreneur’s transition from concept to commercial reality. It is a journey passed ‘hackathons’ and ‘accelerators’, in protective settings that promote commercial success.
Innovation Birmingham’s incubation centre – Entrepreneurs for the Future – extends the typical offering by providing nine months’ free office space, WiFi, telecoms and meeting room usage, in addition to the ongoing guidance of our Entrepreneurs in Residence. This is made possible via a European ERDF grant, which comes with the criteria that only innovative digital start-ups can be accepted onto the programme.
In just over five years, Entrepreneurs for the Future has incubated 105 tech start-ups, creating close to 200 skilled jobs. As our 50th start-up enrolled, Prime Minister David Cameron came to the Innovation Birmingham Campus to meet some of the entrepreneurs and mark the milestone. This occasion signified the rarity of the programme; there will never be a multitude of business incubation centres springing up in disused warehouse buildings and the likes because it wouldn’t be commercially viable. The grant funding we receive enables us to provide invaluable support to pre-revenue generating start-ups.
Birmingham is the well-documented city of start-ups, but let’s create more clarity and focus over the variety of business support offerings that are available to young and small businesses.