RWE, with its UK subsidiary npower, has joined Innovation Birmingham in setting up a new initiative to drive innovation and open up a wealth of opportunities for tech start-ups, themed around the Internet of Things.
A 2,500 sq ft Internet of Things incubator will be featured within Innovation Birmingham’s Serendip® Smart City Incubator in the new £8m iCentrum® building. RWE npower has signed up as the partner to deliver the new challenge-led facility, which will allow tech start-ups to access the 23 million-strong customer base of one of Europe’s leading energy companies.
The Internet of Things incubator will have a focus on energy, to reflect the specialisms of RWE npower’s innovation team and business practitioners who will help mentor qualifying early stage tech companies. The new facility will launch when iCentrum®, located off the A38M Aston Expressway, opens in March 2016.
The ground-breaking incubation centre will seek to accelerate the growth of young businesses with a tech product or service offering in the growth markets of connected smart homes, intelligent energy and the internet of things marketplace.
Neil Pennington, Director Innovation for RWE npower said: “In RWE we have recognised the power of open innovation to drive fundamental change in the future energy system. We already have outposts in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Berlin; launching our first ever incubator in the UK is a hugely exciting move for the business and cements the UK as a key part of our Europe-wide strategy. npower has offices in Oldbury, Burton and Worcester and our UK innovation team is based in Solihull, which means it’s particularly relevant for us to partner with Innovation Birmingham.
“People are being informed by the personalised experiences they receive from today’s ever changing and advancing retail marketplace. We need to deliver exceptional new products and services in intelligent energy to our 23 million-strong European customer base. Innovation is how we will win new customers become more relevant to the lives of our existing customers and significantly expand - both for domestic and corporate business. We are really excited to working with fresh-thinking tech start-ups and sharing ideas and opportunities across Europe and beyond.”
Innovation Birmingham’s business mentors will actively work in the Internet of Things incubator. There will also be mentoring from industry experts, access to open and closed data, and exclusive insight into innovation challenges facing the energy industry. Representatives from RWE npower will have co-working space within the incubator, in order to open doors to the local, national and international energy marketplaces.
RWE npower will deliver the Internet of Things incubator for an initial three year term. The application process for early stage tech businesses will be launched in the New Year.
The Internet of Things incubator will be located on the first floor of the 3,881sqm (42,149 sq ft) iCentrum® building. The other three sector-specific quarters are Digital Heath, Finance and Intelligent Mobility – the latter of which will be jointly delivered by Centro and the Transport Systems Catapult. Innovation Birmingham will announce the remaining two partners before the end of 2015.
The whole 10,000 sq ft first floor of iCentrum® will be known as Serendip®, with the ethos behind the space being to harness the power of serendipity and encourage the development of ideas between the four quarters. To complement Serendip®, there will be state-of-the-art event and meet-up space on the ground floor for up to 500 people. The top floor of iCentrum® will house office suites for growing tech companies.
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Construction work started on iCentrum® in January and is on schedule to complete on time and on budget in March 2016. It is being developed and funded speculatively as a tech incubator for the generation of entrepreneurs that is growing up with social media, 3D printing and cloud-based business solutions.
“Sitting at the heart of the new building will be Serendip®; a 10,000 sq ft incubation centre purpose-designed to nurture relationships between corporate executives and entrepreneurs. I am delighted that an international company of the size and scale of RWE npower will be delivering the Internet of Things incubator. The opportunities that early stage companies in this sector will be able to access by being based in this new facility are invaluable, and the potential for us to link to RWE’s Berlin incubator will further extend this community of interest. The objective is to create many new high value jobs in high-growth businesses right here in Birmingham.”
iCentrum® is being funded through a £7.5m commercial loan, agreed with Birmingham City Council, to cover the main construction and fit-out costs. In addition, Innovation Birmingham secured funding from the GBSLEP’s Enterprise Zone’s Site Development and Access Fund to create additional co-working space in the new building. iCentrum® will provide space for 400 high-value skilled tech jobs at any one time, generating £25 million of GVA to the local economy per annum. The building was one of the first to start on site within the GBSLEP’s Enterprise Zone, which features 30 sites within central Birmingham.
The Innovation Birmingham Campus is currently fully let with an extensive waiting list for space from new and growing tech businesses. Significant investment has ensured its 135 technology tenants can already access 30Gbit/s broadband speeds – equalling the fastest internet connection available anywhere in the UK. iCentrum is the first building under construction within Innovation Birmingham’s £40m development zone.