UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 20 SEPTEMBER 2019
Hundreds of West Midlands entrepreneurs are set to benefit from a comprehensive support package, focussed on business skills and mentoring, after a new £500k project was announced by government.
Birmingham City University has secured £531,627 from Research England’s Development Fund to kick-start its STEAMincubator pilot programme, which will see new spaces, facilities and collaboration opportunities provided for start-ups across the region.
Based at Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus, the scheme will help new businesses create sustainable business models, and ensure their products or services are market-ready. The service is available to students, graduates and academics as well as new start-ups.
The University’s STEAMhouse, a creative innovation centre for businesses, will also provide support for those signed up to the scheme, by allowing them to access the facility, which is focussed on embedding the arts with traditional science subjects to maximise innovation.
The Midlands has been celebrated as one of the country’s most vibrant start-up ‘hotspots’ in recent years, with reports showing more than 20,000 new businesses were created in 2018 alone.
The project has been developed to help start-ups respond to the key needs of the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, which identified AI and data, an ageing society, clean growth and future mobility as the region’s four ‘grand challenges’.
Targeting key growth areas STEAMincubator will also provide a boost for the regional economy.
The pilot scheme, which will run for 12 months, aims to support an initial cohort of 25 businesses with more expected to follow.
The announcement forms part of the government’s UK Research and Innovation funding for University Enterprise Zones announced today.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Birmingham has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.
“Today’s funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Birmingham City University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”
Central England Co-operative has already signed up to the STEAMincubator to help support the development of its digital innovation team, which aims to find new and innovative business models.
Senior staff from the business will also provide mentoring for start-ups.
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “Our STEAMhouse facility has already made a big impact in supporting businesses around the region to work on, develop and implement their creations.
“This funding allows us to take this new way of working to the next level, by providing opportunities for the many entrepreneurs in our region to take important steps towards setting up their own businesses.
“Combining the arts with traditional STEM subjects has an important role to play in growing the economy not only in the West Midlands, but across the country.
“This region’s historic role in the industrial revolution and its growing population of entrepreneurs make it the ideal place for a new way of doing business, and we are delighted that this project will help us continue our leading role in placing STEAM at the heart of its economy.
“It is all the more pleasing that we will be able to expand even further on the excellent work already taking place at the University to support student entrepreneurship.”
Providing incubation facilities for businesses is believed to provide a boost to the regional economy creating new jobs, developing a knowledge base within communities and creating a new generation of skilled workers.
The STEAMincubator will connect to the University’s existing STEAMhouse facility, providing a space for product and service designers to sustain themselves, maximising business growth in the city. STEAMhouse is the University’s centre for collaborative innovation, focused on supporting projects that combine artistic and scientific thinking.
The STEAMincubator will open its doors to entrepreneurs later this year.