Bristol’s first science and tech hub Future Space generated more than £2 million for the regional economy within its first year, a new report reveals.
The innovation centre, which was the first flexible office space in Bristol to also offer private and shared laboratory space to start-up R&D enterprises, exceeded all its targets for its first 12 months of operation, with occupancy at 68 per cent by the end of 2017.
Companies based at Future Space raised more than £10 million in funding between August 2016 and July 2017 and created four new patents, the figures show.
A total of 25 new jobs were generated by the client companies, taking the total number of people employed within Future Space to 145 within the first 12 months.
Part of University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Future Space provides shared and private laboratory, workshops and office space along with business support services and has received a 93 per cent customer satisfaction rating.
Three quarters of the companies at Future Space, which is run by Oxford Innovation, have engaged with UWE Bristol, working with researchers, students and graduates. Nearly half - 45 per cent - have been working with one another demonstrating the strong networking potential of being based there.
Elaine McKechnie, Future Space centre director, said: “We are really pleased and proud to see so many amazing companies growing and developing under the Future Space roof.
"Our aim at Future Space is to provide a flexible working environment where science and tech companies can base themselves while they carry out the research or development work necessary to attract major funding or set up lab space of their own.
“We want to encourage the wealth of talent coming out of Bristol and Bath’s universities and tech cluster to stay in this region while also attracting dynamic businesses from further afield in the UK and overseas.
“We’ve had significant interest from foreign companies with the likes of Japan-based TMS (UK) Ltd setting up here.”
The turnover of Future Space client companies averaged more than £600,000 by the end of the first year.
Reach Robotics, creators of augmented reality gaming robot ‘Mekamon’, was an early Future Space success story. Set up by UWE Bristol robotics graduate Silas Adekunle, Chris Beck and John Rees and originally based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Reach Robotics moved to Future Space in August 2016.
During 15 months at Future Space, Reach was able to grow its team, test and develop its robots and prepare for investment without the distraction of running its own office building. Having secured $9.5 from overseas investors, Reach needed to scale up and moved to its own premises in the Bristol Business Park in November 2017 – the same week it launched its robots in Apple stores.
Cerberus Security Laboratories, which specialises in semi-conductors and cyber security, moved to Future Space in January 2017, and has developed close links with UWE Bristol cyber security experts.
Andrew Lindsay, one of the co-founders of Cerberus, said: “Future Space originally sparked our interest due to its location but we have been continually surprised by the range of benefits from being based here.
“The facilities are fantastic for hi-tech start-ups and there is a real buzz having an ever increasing number of companies arriving. We have been very impressed with the added benefits of being based in an Oxford Innovation centre, in the few months we have been here we have made clear savings using the centre's contacts for legal services and R&D Tax Credits.
“We expected that our links with UWE would take some time to evolve but thanks to UWE's presence in Future Space this has been greatly accelerated and we expect fruitful cooperation within our first six months of residence.”
Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “Future Space is further enhancing UWE’s great reputation for fostering business development and enterprise.
“The businesses that have moved there have had access to the sorts of academic expertise, business support and facilities that would usually be very tricky for start-ups. There is the added advantage of being able to tap in to Bristol’s student talent pool.
“We’re really delighted to see that so many exciting companies are benefitting from this amazing facility and so many of them working closely with our staff and students."