Hans Moller: Business Incubators Key to Innovation
Guest blog by Hans Moller, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership
Newcastle upon Tyne and the wider North East is recognised across the country as one of the UK’s leading innovation hotspots. But we need to be more and better than that.
Innovation is helping us lead the way in sectors like health and life sciences, creative and digital, and subsea and offshore. It’s also playing a part in our cultural life too with NewcastleGateshead recently named host of the Government’s Great Exhibition of the North in 2018, which will feature a special innovation trail.
With innovation playing such a vital role in many areas of our lives, how can we capitalise on the achievements made to date? One of the answers lies in well run and effective business incubators.
When I first took up the role of Innovation Director at the North East LEP I was surprised by the lack of incubation capacity in the region.
An incubator for me is not just another managed workspace. It is much more. Yes, it is a physical space; it could be offices, labs, open spaces etc. But the more important part is the support programme for the start-ups run by really passionate people, the surrounding community and business networks.
It’s an innovation model that has proved very successful in other areas of the world and was something I championed in my role as chief executive of Ideon Science Park in Sweden.
The triple helix model – a network of business, academia and the public sector – has been proven to support innovation and we have a unique opportunity to put it into practice as part of the landmark project currently taking place in Newcastle upon Tyne – Newcastle Science Central.
The site is already home to The Core and in the coming years it will also house three National Centres for Excellence; The National Centre For Ageing, Science & Innovation, The National Institute For Smart Data Innovation and the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration.
What it lacks at the moment is an incubator, a place to support innovation businesses and attract talent that will strengthen our economy and create more and better jobs.
I’d love to see a big business incubator on Newcastle Science Central that supports our growing industries. Something with a digital focus, for example, could support across all areas and really add impact and value. Business incubators attract talent and create communities that support innovation growth.
We already have a successful business incubator in Campus North with Ignite100, which has delivered seven accelerator programmes, investing over £1.75m into more than 60 companies. I’d like to see more of that happening across our region and I think Newcastle Science Central is the ideal location for our next incubator hub.
With support from the LEP, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University, the injection of a business-led SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) would deliver all the components for a triple helix model at Newcastle Science Central. This would encourage start-ups to develop from the National Centres and help raise the profile of Newcastle Science Central as a breeding ground for talent and innovation.
From the birth of the railways to leading research in stem cell technologies, the North East has long been at the forefront of innovation. I believe by investing and supporting in new businesses and help them to scale up, we will continue to deliver new and innovative products, services and ideas from our region way into the future.
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