The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has transformed its incubation space on campus, bringing together two technology incubators into one area.
More than 170 tech founders have been supported by UWE Bristol’s Incubators. Between them, the Launch Space Incubator, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) Hardware Incubator have seen these companies go on to raise more than £80 million.
As well as creating hundreds of jobs for the region, there have been new, exciting, and leading technologies being developed by companies within the incubators. Open Bionics, Perceptual Robotics, and Bunk are just a few of the successful enterprises to have been supported by UWE Bristol’s Incubation team. Almost half of all companies that have been supported are UWE Bristol graduates – evidence of the growing entrepreneurial journey the University has built on campus.
The recent investment by UWE Bristol has brought together the two incubators in a newly refurbished space at the heart of the University Enterprise Zone, on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus.
Both incubators were originally set up to work with tech founders in the early stages of their business development, and both have seen huge success: Launch Space focused on working with founders to develop their ideas and value proposition, preparing businesses for their first funding raise, and the BRL Hardware Incubator provided space for companies to build and test their products, refining them ready for commercial launch.
Tracey John, Director of Research, Business, and Innovation at UWE Bristol, oversees the incubation team. She said: “By bringing together our incubators in a new multiuse and multidisciplinary space, we have created an even more powerful incubation offer for tech start-ups. We have created a place where individuals can build their teams, where the business savvy can bump into the tech savvy, and where things can be built, from prototypes and early products to commercial offerings.”
Professor Manuel Giuliani, Co-Director of BRL, oversees the incubator space. He said: “The Incubator is an exciting space for startups to work on their ideas, exchange ideas with academics and students from the BRL and wider University, whilst growing their business. The refurbishment of the space is fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to work out of such a modern, high-end co-working environment?”
The brand-new space has co-working desks, individual workbenches, a large meeting space, and collaborative zones. Funding from the ERDF Digital Innovation4Growth programme and the West of England Combined Authority has enabled the purchase of additional tools and equipment to support incubator tenants. Companies that join the incubator are given up to 12 months free desk space, as well as bespoke technical mentoring and expert advice services, access to a programme of business frameworks, peer group sessions, and wider events. For those building hardware, a weekly drop-in service is provided by BRL technicians to support safe working practices and provide technical training.
Aimee Skinner, a Senior Business Innovation and Growth Manager at UWE Bristol, said: “The space is exciting and has been designed to inspire those that work in it, but it’s also practical and functions in the way that start-ups need. There are areas to work quietly and focus, break out spaces to come together as a team, benches to build hardware, and professional meeting facilities.”