Spaces designed for an increasingly mobile and fluid workforce, incubators that create networks and temporarily house growth businesses, and accelerators that fast-track smart ideas into fledgling businesses through a combination of mentoring and seed investment – all combine to offer London’s SMEs a wide range of options.
Academic institutions can also contribute. The London College of Fashion, London City, London Metropolitan, and University College London, all draw on their strengths in academia to form partnerships with the business community that helps students make the transition into business, and allows businesses to benefit from their resources.
A digital-driven university sector college with close links to the UK creative industries, Ravensbourne has high-end, high-spec equipment such as 3D printers, video production studios, edit suites, digital fabric printers and laser-cutting machinery that would otherwise be out of reach to small businesses. These form a key part of the incubation offer, alongside regular events and specific training sessions aimed at helping creative people develop generic business skills such as law, finance and marketing.
More than 200 companies have incubated at Ravensbourne since it first opened its doors to the private sector in 2008. And, thanks to European Funding, Ravensbourne have been able to strengthen links with the private sector through incubation and commercial partnerships. An independent review of the programme between 2008-2012 found that;
- A £1.7m of secured funding benefited nearly 1,800 businesses;
- One third of participants learned new skills as a result of the programme, while a quarter expanded their contact base;
- The programme generated £8.1m in GVA (gross value added), more than five times the level of funding awarded; and
- The report also noted strong support for the project in general, as well as the impact it had on supporting the growth and building the reputation of the Greenwich Peninsula.
This is something that has been built on in 2013 and expanded for 2014. In addition to facilities, Ravensbourne have expanded their business support programme significantly to offer regular seminars on general business areas such as accountancy, law and marketing – as well as one-on-one specialist sessions in those areas where the advice is tailored specifically for individual business.
As a by-product of the way it is funded, Ravensbourne is currently only able to open windows for applications –the window for applications for 2014/15 closes on February 10.
Carrie Wootten is Head of Commercial Development at university sector college Ravensbourne – responsible for the institution’s commercial projects, which include incubation.
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