Small businesses given big boost

Alistair McDermott, Director of Knowledge Services at the University, and Shena Mitchell, Director of Innovation Warehouse, at the newly opened Innovation Centre on Hampshire Terrace

Alistair McDermott, Director of Knowledge Services at the University, and Shena Mitchell, Director of Innovation Warehouse, at the newly opened Innovation Space on Hampshire Terrace

A one-stop shop for innovation, entrepreneurship and the creation of new jobs for the city opened at the University of Portsmouth yesterday.

The University has invested £500,000 into the Innovation Space, on Hampshire Terrace to help ignite the growth of entrepreneurship and businesses in the region.

The centre has two floors dedicated to help business owners and managers work alongside academics to develop new products or routes to markets, and two floors dedicated to the Innovation Warehouse, an engine room for individuals and start-up companies looking for serious growth and new business opportunities.

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Craven officially opens the Innovation Centre

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Craven officially opens the Innovation Space

The combination of the two elements is a first for the University, which has never before provided space for businesses, and a first for Portsmouth, which is now the second city in the UK to be home to the Innovation Warehouse, a concept designed and tested in its London headquarters and which has, in 18 months, helped eight new business ventures to launch.

The launch of the centre was attended by local business and civic leaders, including businesses from the Isle of Wight, academics whose research has potential to deliver a boost to businesses, local media and strategic managers from the University and Innovation Warehouse.

The University's new Innovation Centre aims to help fledgling and medium-sized businesses

The University’s new Innovation Space aims to help fledgling and medium-sized businesses

Alistair McDermott, Director of Knowledge Services at the University, said: “The launch of Innovation Space is about the University bringing wealth and jobs to the region and promoting engagement with experts from University.

“Together with the Innovation Warehouse, we are now in a position to help support local entrepreneurship and growth, which the city and region needs.”

The University’s goal for the centre is to put like-minded people in science and innovation together side by side to find new ways of solving problems or to come up with answers to help businesses make a step change in the development of new products or services.

Alistair said: “We are committed to offering businesses direct access to researchers who are experts in their field to help create sparks of innovation and business growth. The businesses which have already joined us will be working with our experts in artificial intelligence to help improve their profit margins.”

The top two floors are dedicated to the Innovation Warehouse, which launched in London in 2011 after a philanthropist saw a need for those with entrepreneurial spirit and ideas to be given space to develop and fine-tune their ideas, products and goals.

The co-founders and directors offer mentoring, coaching and support help in writing business plans which stand a chance of working and, crucially, regular meetings with successful business directors and potential funders. In return for investment, they can take a share in businesses they help develop.

Tony Fish, Director of London’s Innovation Warehouse, said: “We are about giving direct access to market for entrepreneurs with progressive and novel ideas.
“What we offer is not for everyone but it is a strong launch-pad for businesses which have brilliant potential but also some gaps or hurdles ahead of them.

“The gaps could be anything from understanding business concepts including intellectual property or company and product law, access to finance, pitching for funding, marketing and technical skills such as software development.

“You could say we are de-risking people who already have ideas worth millions.”

The Innovation Warehouse has plans to open eight more centres in the next two years and is working with partners to develop these in Leeds, Oxford, Croydon and New York.

Shena Mitchell, director of Innovation Warehouse Portsmouth, said: “When the co-founders and co-directors were looking to invest and start a new Innovation Warehouse I persuaded them to consider Portsmouth.

“Having worked in the city for the last 20 years, I believe there are many people in Portsmouth ready to start their own businesses and who just need the kind of support we have to offer.”

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