Occupancy has risen by 17% over the past 12 months at a business centre in south Hampshire.

Fareham Innovation Centre bucked economic trends with a series of signings and on-site expansions since May 2020.

With 55 serviced offices and 20 fully occupied workshops, the centre is now home to 60 SMEs – many of which are involved in technology.

Designed for start-ups and early-stage businesses, the centre by Solent Airport provides a supportive ecosystem for occupiers in marine, aviation, aerospace engineering and advanced manufacturing.

Stephen Brownlie is Centre Director at Fareham Innovation Centre, which is run by UKSPA member Oxford Innovation, the UK’s largest operator of innovation centres, on behalf of building owner Fareham Borough Council.

He said: “Just over 6,000 sq ft has been signed up from a range of tech businesses over the past year, with occupancy increasing by 17% since May 2020.

“This shows optimism and confidence by new and expanding occupiers – they have been planning ahead beyond the challenges posed by Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our customers are telling us that the centre offers a supportive ecosystem and is suited to the new flexible working trend highlighted in a topical survey by Microsoft in the UK and globally.

“We’re also being told by smaller businesses that they prefer the financial reassurance of monthly licences rather than committing to long-term office leases where you’re tied down for a set number of years.”

Business support ranges from one-to-one mentoring, workshops, signposted funding opportunities, seminars, programmes and, with the universities of Southampton, Solent and Portsmouth, internships; there are also apprenticeships through Fareham College.

Latest occupiers include Ecomar Propulsion, a specialist in zero emission marine engines with a 398 sq ft workshop, and Carnage Digital, an interactive leisure and entertainment software developer, with a 204 sq ft office.

TestTech Global, which provides hardware and software solutions, moved into a 258 sq ft office, as has advanced electronics communications firm  Marlborough Communications.

Wearable technology specialist Guided Knowledge moved into the centre, signing up to 1,883 sq ft of office and workshop combined.

Other occupiers include tech start-up Maverick Aviation, which is developing next-generation lightweight jetpacks, and RAD Propulsion, which manufactures high-quality bespoke electric propulsion systems.

Another occupier, Psion Consulting, has been contracted by a corporate manufacturer to develop advanced software for smart eyewear linked to computers.

Stephen said: “The amount of tech research and development which comes on here at Fareham Innovation Centre is staggering – James Bond’s ‘Q’ wouldn’t be out of place here.”

Companies on site also benefit from complimentary business coaching.

One firm, IT and engineering recruitment consultancy Source Solutions, was put on a strategic growth path by the centre’s in-house Innovation Director, as was LR Animation Studios.

As well as offices and workshops, Fareham Innovation Centre has a conference centre and meeting rooms for hire.