A purpose-built innovation centre in Hampshire is calling full house this month (April) - exactly 12 months after being launched.
Fareham Innovation Centre, which is run by innovation centres operator Oxford Innovation and provides occupiers with advice and support to help them start and grow their businesses, is now 100% occupied.
Stephen Brownlie, Oxford Innovation's regional manager for the South, said: "The demand for the 24 offices and 15 workshops here at Fareham Innovation Centre has been phenomenal - we are two years ahead of schedule by way of occupancy levels.
"Everyone here has a spring in their step because of the buzzing entrepreneurial atmosphere. There is a strong case for additional, similar business space to be built in the vicinity because demand from incubator and growing business is so strong."
There are now 27 businesses at the award-winning £5.3m centre, which is next to the former military Daedalus airport at Lee-on-the-Solent and is within the Solent Enterprise Zone.
Many of the occupiers are from the marine, aviation, aerospace and engineering sectors, with a further 36 local businesses regularly using the drop-in facilities, including hired conference and meeting rooms.
Launched in April 2015, the brand-new centre is operated by UKSPA member Oxford Innovation on behalf of owner Fareham Borough Council, with 110 businessmen and women on site.
Oxford Innovation, which looks after 20 centres, specialises in running facilities which combine office space and mentoring support for start-up and early-stage firms.
One of the latest businesses to take root is MRO Insyte, which specialises in the maintenance, repair and operations environment, such as factory spares at warehouses, across the world.
The firm, run and owned by Peter Eales, has just been awarded a contract by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Commerce and Industry to visit manufacturing plants and benchmark inventory efficiencies and international standards for the Kingdom.
Peter said: “The innovation centre is helping me to grow my business by freeing me up to focus on what I do best. It is in a fantastic location and gives me all the tools I need to grow as a business. Working around other businesses allows me to network and acquire new and creative ideas to develop MRO Insyte."
Stephen added: “With 110 people based here, the opportunity for business support and networking with other companies is superb. For example, MRO Insyste commissioned another occupier, LR Animation Studios, to produce a video as a visual sales tool."
Due to the success of MRO Insyte at the centre, Peter has since relocated from Berkshire and is now living nearby.
Occupiers at Fareham Innovation Centre enjoy various benefits, including a 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a five-year period for being within an Enterprise Zone.
Thanks to the achievements to date, the centre received plaudits from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). It was awarded the Most Innovative Small Business Friendly, Programme, Campaign or Project at the 2015 FBS awards.
Andy Wannell, Director of Finance and Resources at Fareham Borough Council, said: “This is a fantastic milestone for the Innovation Centre, and its operator Oxford Innovation, just a year after it opened. The vision for the Innovation Centre was that it would be a thriving business hub for growth and networking and that is exactly what it has become. It’s great to see so many locally based businesses making use of the excellent facilities and support on offer at there - long may it continue.”
The centre is across the road from the recently-launched £12m CEMAST Centre. CEMAST - the Centre of Excellence in Engineering & Manufacturing Advanced Skills Training - is the main learning centre for more than 900 students in apprenticeship programmes with partner companies such as BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Virgin Atlantic, Coopervision, Burgess Marine and Jensen Motorsport.
Having hit its three-year enrolment target students after just one year, CEMAST is regarded as a leading hub for STEM skills training, which will help provide the pipeline of skills businesses need to increase growth and productivity in the local economy.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths.
Stephen said: "Fareham Innovation Centre and CEMAST are both part of a vision to create a world-class hub for advanced manufacturing, marine, aviation and aerospace within the Solent Enterprise Zone. Great things are happening."