In Bristol, disparate companies from a diversifying range of sectors come together in modern, unique open spaces to foster a spirit of collaboration. Hannah Gal reports
Bristol has always been an ambitious city,” says Nick Sturge, director of Bristol’s Engine Shed, “from fishermen sailing to America many years ago, right through to today’s innovation.” This "global outlook" is also the spirit of the Engine Shed, where business leaders, academics and corporates meet to collaborate and inspire enterprise.
Engine Shed has re-engineered the terminal building of Brunel’s old rail station by the city’s current Temple Meads station. Components currently under Engine Shed’s roof are The Interchange – which offers workspace to strategic organisations and inward investment services – Saloon Car, The Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator, Bristol SETsquared centre, Boomsatsuma builders and Bristol Angel Hub, supporting the early-stage investor community.
"Our ethos is about having components which share economic growth as a common goal and interact with each other,” explains Sturge. “Users of the Business Lounge meet and collaborate serendipitously, or with nudges from my team or other tenants. Oracle, for example, developed a relationship with Invest Bath and Bristol via such conversations and now it has strong relationships with the university as well as the city."
Its cross-sector philosophy sees Engine Shed arrange monthly connects and joint events with other incubators, hubs, workspaces and programmes, as well as work with primary school children, “where hi-tech companies in the incubators are used as role models.”
Engine Shed also ‘seeds’ projects, such as the £1,000 surplus used to put together a bid to the Digital Catapult, to establish an “Internet of Things” acceleration programme. It brought together University of Bristol, University of West England, SETsquared and others and resulted in £45,000 of work in that area, supporting the growth of 15 companies, one of which has just joined the Oracle accelerator programme. “Engine Shed 2 (see page 8 of Bristol IS ) will take us even further,” says Sturge, “through added space for more components, and more money to spend on interesting projects.” Sturge also serves as a member of TechSPARK’s advisory board. A useful information hub, TechSPARK connects and informs the Bristol technology industry about news, jobs and regular events. Like Engine Shed, it holds interaction as key to encouraging enterprise and aims to get “a coder to meet a creative, creative to meet an entrepreneur, entrepreneur to meet a graduate.”
To Desklodge founder Thanh Quan-Nicholls, Bristol is “unlike other cities”. It has unparalleled community spirit where “businesses support each other through cross referrals, sharing and cross promotion, all driven by the conviction that you cannot lose from supporting others, only gain”. Desklodge was created as a new-age, ‘non nine-to-five’ work environment.
“Our users do not close their office door,” explains Quan-Nicholls, “they talk to each other. Freelancers engage with corporates and collaborations come to life.” Home to predominantly creative and tech start-ups, Desklodge’s strength is in the multitude of work spaces and renting packages it offers freelance developers, engineers, silicon chip and aerospace designers, creatives and those who service them, such as recruitment agents.
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