A new innovation centre in Hampshire has appointed an in-house business expert to help small to medium-sized enterprises in their early stages of growth.
Richard May, pictured, is on hand as Incubation Director to provide customers at Fareham Innovation Centre with business support and coaching.
The centre, on a site next to the former Daedalus military airport at Lee-on-the-Solent, near Gosport, is managed by innovation centres specialist Oxford Innovation, an UKSPA member, on behalf of Fareham Borough Council.
Richard said: "Oxford Innovation has incubation directors in a number of centres which it manages across the UK. The business coaching, sign-posting to funds and essential networking provided by the incubation director makes our centres much more than just flexible work space.
"Key to the success of the centre and its customers is to keep business owners and managers focused on what matters most during the early and growth stages of each enterprise.
"All customers at the centre receive an initial business diagnostic session to ascertain any challenges or immediate needs for support. Coaching sessions and specialist business network introductions are then designed to deal with priority issues."
Stephen Brownlie, Senior Centre Manager, said: "The centre was opened in April and is already 50% occupied which is well above original expectations.
"Eleven companies have moved in and several more have expressed strong interest. It’s is exciting to see that many of these companies fit the intended marine, automotive and aerospace sector focus of the centre.
"'There are 15 workshops and 24 offices, from 200 sq ft to 800 sq ft, for businesses of between one to 10 people. We are just across the road from the impressive new facility for Fareham CEMAST engineering college. Companies at the centre have already taken on apprentices from the college and other knowledge transfer projects are likely."
Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Seán Woodward, said: "The centre is already proving to be a great success, having just been awarded the Most Innovative Small Business Friendly, Programme, Campaign or Project at the 2015 Federation of Small Business awards.
"Small businesses are vital to our local economy, so it is important that we provide them with the facilities and services that will help them to grow and prosper. I am delighted to welcome Richard to his post and look forward to working with him to further grow the occupancy at our innovation centre."
National statistics show that less than half of businesses survive the first five years of trading.
Some of that might well be down to business owners having a great product or service but not knowing how to make them commercially successful because, unlike at Fareham Innovation Centre, no support ecosystem was available.
An in-depth report conducted for Oxford Innovation showed that survival rates of businesses based at its innovation centres were substantially higher than those of all businesses in England established in the same year.
In the report, around two-fifths of businesses thought that, without being based at an Oxford Innovation centre, the business would not have survived a critical period.
Furthermore, 40% of companies recognised that they had achieved increased profitability as a result of being in an innovation centre.
The Solent Enterprise Zone, the first such zone in the South to be given the special designation by Prime Minister David Cameron, is positioned to bring hundreds of new jobs and investment to the area with a focus on the engineering, aerospace, aviation and marine industries.
The £5.3m innovation centre, which will help to create and retain around 150 new jobs in this zone, was built by Fareham Borough Council with support from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Occupants at the 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.
Companies based at Fareham Innovation Centre include carbon bikes specialist LIOS, marine training provider Nuwave Training, Psion, a provider of structural integrity solutions for the Ministry of Defence, Freedom Sensors, which manufacturers sensors and analytical tools for marine and research, games software producer Little Orbit, research-based product designer 3-Sci and Britten-Norman, a British aircraft manufacturer and aviation services provider.
Richard added: "We hope that each company coming through Fareham Innovation Centre develops and achieves a sustainable growth plan such that when they graduate to their own premises they will continue to grow, creating new jobs and economic prosperity for the local area."