As Future Space reaches its second anniversary this summer we caught up with Martin Boddy, pro vice chancellor of research and business engagement at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) to talk about how it has successfully fostered wide-ranging links between academia and business.
Future Space, run on behalf of the university by Oxford Innovation, provides offices, workshops and lab space for new and growing tech-based businesses and is already close to 80% occupied.
Commenting on the successful initiative Martin said: “Future Space is unique in the fact that so many tech businesses and such a range of activities are operating under the same roof and next to Europe’s leading robotics laboratory.
“I think that everyone in Future Space has benefitted in one way or another from connection to UWE Bristol including access to interns, graduate talent, research expertise and unrivalled research facilities.
“The benefits of Future Space go well beyond simply provision of accommodation and business support, excellent though this is. Future Space offers depth and complexity of linkages which work on so many different levels and rarely achieved in the university sector.”
“We’re always looking for ways to make the links stronger. A fantastic example of this is the fully funded internship programme set up with Future Space this summer along with our ‘grants for growth’ programme which provides funding for Future Space businesses for R&D collaboration with UWE researchers.”
Access to resources
“We have also set up a scheme to provide Future Space businesses with access to technical equipment, research facilities and expert support of the sort that small businesses would generally be unable to access or afford” adds Martin.
“This ranges from scanning electron microscopes to a medical simulation suite at UWE Bristol’s Glenside campus and specialist medical imaging technologies”,
Commenting on this valuable connection with the university, Elaine McKechnie, Centre Director at Future Space, said: “Oxford Innovation runs a wide range of innovation centres across the country but we haven’t had a facility anything quite like this before and it’s something that the companies based at Future Space really value – many have commented that it is a real attraction.
What does the future hold for Future Space?
Looking ahead, Martin said: “We’re now thinking about Future Space Two to add more capacity to foster fast growth businesses which are scaling up.
“Take for example, Reach Robotics a fantastic success story with its roots in Bristol Robotics Lab. They expanded rapidly and soon outgrew Future Space. We are thinking about how we would be able to provide the sort of grow-on space and facilities that would support companies like Reach – and others following in their footsteps.
“The incredible progress of the businesses based here and the fantastic links with the university make for endless opportunities. There’s plenty in the pipeline for the future!”