University Enterprise Zone supports over 100 innovation start-ups and contributes £17m to Bristol economy, report shows

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More than 100 innovative businesses have been supported by Future Space, launched just five years ago in 2016 by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), a new report has revealed.

Managed for the university by Oxford Innovation, Future Space provides office space, labs, workshops, and co-working space at the heart of the University’s main Frenchay Campus.

One of four University Enterprise Zones (UEZ) set up nationally, it was intended to build bridges between innovative, fast growth businesses, academic researchers, and students, sparking new ideas and opportunities.

This new report reveals that the UEZ has supported more than 100 innovative businesses to create 240 new products and services in the region. Between them, the businesses located at the UEZ have raised almost £45m in finance, created 427 jobs and contributed almost £17m to the local economy.

Future Space businesses include university spinouts, student start-ups as well as high tech, science-based businesses attracted from across the UK and internationally. The team behind the space took home the Community Award at last year’s local SPARKies Awards, recognising their contribution to the Bristol tech cluster.

Over 40 UWE Bristol students have completed internships with these businesses, and more than 20 UWE Bristol graduates have gone on to be employed on a permanent basis.

The news comes shortly after Bristol was named the most innovative city in the UK outside of London, while UWE Bristol was named on a list of universities in the UK that have produced the most start-ups.

As well as demonstrating the key role Future Space has played in powering innovation in the region, the report highlights that this success has been achieved due to close collaboration with their members, with UWE Bristol, and with their neighbours the Bristol Robotics Lab and the Health Tech Hub.

Future Space five years impact video

Jo Stevens, Managing Director for Oxford Innovation, says:

“Oxford Innovation are delighted to partner with UWE Bristol at Future Space and very proud of what has been achieved there by the team, in supporting so many innovative businesses to grow and create so many new products and services.

Innovation is the lifeblood of growth in the UK, and Future Space is a great example of the impact that can be achieved through real collaboration between academia and business.

We can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.”

Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol

“UWE Bristol is particularly proud of Future Space, the businesses it supports and the links that we have built between leading-edge, high-tech businesses, university researchers and our students.

We’re committed to working with and supporting businesses across the region, and Future Space has enabled us to do that on a much deeper level and with real impact.

Future Space has provided many excellent opportunities for our students and the wider community. Joint research has created innovation and jobs, and it has played a huge part in us championing and driving innovation across the region”

CASE STUDY: Indus Fusion – from start-up incubator to health tech innovators

One of the businesses supported by Future Space is Indus Fusion, who hit the headlines recently for their innovative vaccine preparation device. Co-Founder of the business, Arthur Keeling, started out as a student at UWE Bristol where he studied on the Team Entrepreneurship course for three years.

“This course allows you to learn everything you need to set up and run a business alongside your studies.” Arthur says. “When I left university, I wanted to try out a few of the business ideas that I had. Because of the connection between UWE Bristol and Future Space I was able to join the Launch Space incubator programme and get one-to-one mentoring and support to develop these ideas.

“Once we’d developed our ideas into a clear business plan, we were able to apply for funding and investment, which enabled us to grow. We moved into Future Space permanently, where we were able to tap into support from the Bristol Robotics Lab to scope out ideas and access equipment.” Indus Fusion is now focusing on how automation can improve the service in sectors such as food, health and care. Their automated vaccine preparation device is currently being tested in NHS Covid-19 vaccine clinics, with early trials indicating a 40 per cent increase in roll-out capacity.”


UWE Bristol’s contribution to climate action and sustainability

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As the UK host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), we look at how UWE Bristol are contributing to climate action and sustainability:

With 40,000 students and 3500 employees, we are well aware of our impacts in terms of sustainability and carbon reduction – and well aware of our responsibilities.

We recognised the Climate and Species Extinction Emergencies in 2020, with our board of governors formally signing up to this commitment. Our 2030 UWE Bristol strategy sets out a clear commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 across key areas. The strategy sets out our commitments across:

  • Carbon neutrality
  • Reducing water and energy use, waste
  • Aim to eliminate single use plastic – signed up to UK Plastics Pact
  • Working towards Clean air and smoke free campuses
  • Looking for year on year reductions in non-sustainable travel
  • Embedding awareness of carbon reduction and sustainability across all of our programmes and prioritising research that addresses these issues

Below is a small snapshot of some of the support we offer businesses and processes we are putting in place to achieve our 2030 carbon neutral goals:

Skills for Clean Growth

Skills for Clean Growth, in partnership with NatWest, will help address the skills needed to deliver the West of England’s net zero ambitions and vision for clean and inclusive growth. It will support SMEs in the region adapt and change as they transition to a low carbon economy, providing the leadership skills needed to build a clean growth strategy; and the knowledge and tools to achieve sustainability.

UWE Bristol and NatWest have shared values around supporting SMEs to achieve net zero, in support of West of England’s ambition to be a driving force for clean and inclusive growth, committing to net zero carbon by 2030.

The scheme, funded by WECA (Workforce for the Future) will address these challenges:

  • Increased demand for green skills – Harnessing the opportunities for innovation and growth
  • Growth in low carbon economy – predicted 11% a year
  • Creation approx. one million jobs nationally
  • Adaption required by high carbon sectors (e.g. building and construction)
  • Mismatch between what is currently provided and what employers need

Innovation support for SMEs

UWE Bristol works in partnership with WECA to identify the growth and regeneration needs of the region, focusing our activity on strategically important sectors such as Clean Growth. 

UWE Bristol has designed, developed, and delivered targeted programmes to support the growth of the region’s strategic priority sectors. We have secured a series of multi-million pound EU funded projects to channel capital grants and business support to SMEs across the region in support of innovation and growth. These have secured £11m for the region, leveraged over £10m of private investment and the university has invested over £3m in these programmes.

Over the past 3 years, UWE Bristol has channelled more than 100 innovation grants – worth £7m and attracting £8m in private sector investment – to fast-growth businesses through our Innovation 4 Growth Programme and other targeted initiatives.  This has secured nearly 1,000 new jobs in the region. The success of this activity is communicated across the local innovation ecosystem and feeds into the design and delivery of our portfolio of future business support programmes including our new Digital Innovation Fund.

Case study:

  • Collecteco works in partnership with UWE Bristol to donate surplus furniture and equipment to good causes and has generated over £363,000 social value and avoided 67 tonnes of CO2 in 2021. They said: “UWE’s support has been invaluable and has ranged from facilitating Scale 4 Growth funding through to them partnering with us to donate surplus furniture and equipment from their estate”

University Enterprise Zone (UEZ)

The University Enterprise Zone(UEZ) based on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus, provides high quality space for 80+ high tech start-up and scaling businesses, employing in excess of 300 people, with access to a robust and vibrant investment community. It is on target to generate 500 jobs, and more than £50m for the local economy. These businesses are supported through targeted innovation support and growth advice.  Focus/gateway is on digital, HealthTech, bioscience and low carbon SMEs.

Case Study:

  • Inheriting Earth (in Future Space) is a sustainable product design company set up by Adam Root, with the mission to stop the flow of new plastic entering our water, trapping plastics shed by clothes in washing machines. They successfully grew their business, attracted investment and recently outgrew Future Space and moved on into their own premises. Read more about Inheriting Earth.
  • Albotherm is another Future Space business and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change. Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology. They have developed coatings for glass that respond to light and heat and control thermal gain, which reduce the need for air con.

Student Accommodation

We are developing a 2,200 bed student accommodation complex on Frenchay campus, which will be built to Passivhaus standards, the biggest development in Europe built to this exacting energy efficiency standard. The accommodation will have Air-tight fabric combined with air-heat pumps and solar panels. The accommodation will have high air quality and, low running costs, and will also be affordable.

Our Students

We aim to embed understanding of sustainability and carbon literacy across all of our programmes not just the many which are more obviously of direct relevant to the built environment, like environmental management and engineering.  Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor Environment and Sustainability, commented “They are probably ahead of us any anyway, but if we can embed this understanding in all our students they will be committed ambassadors for the next 40,50, 60 years. They are the future – but the future is coming faster than we might like”.

Find out more about Sustainability at UWE Bristol

Future Space Business produces technology to help tackle sustainability and climate change issues

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Future Space is part of UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. They aim to drive the University’s ambitions to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills, spark collaboration between UWE researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs and commercialise the latest research.

Professor Steve West, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor and President, said:

“This is the latest venture that sets us apart as a technology-based university focused on generating opportunities for business growth and collaboration.

There is no doubt in my mind that fostering an entrepreneurial atmosphere on our campus is a win for our students and our research community, as we know that by collaborating and nurturing business we create a climate of innovation that has a ripple effect.”

Future Space is part of one of four University Enterprise Zones in the UK. The West of England University Enterprise Zone provides facilities and services to companies specialising in robotics, biosciences, medical technologies and other high tech sectors. 

Albotherm is a member of Future Space and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change.

Here’s their story:

Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology.

Air conditioning alone currently accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and this is expected to triple by 2050 due to rising global temperatures. Using fossil fuel derived energy for air conditioning traps us in a ‘Catch 22’ as we are further warming our planet, creating even more demand for cooling.

At Albotherm we are developing coatings based on novel polymer chemistry that reversibly transition from transparent to white, passively cooling the structure they coat by reflecting solar radiation in hot weather. We can control the trigger temperature this transition occurs at, between 18 ℃ and 45 ℃ to create optimal conditions in a range of climates. Our technology works without electrical input, cutting down carbon emissions associated with air conditioning and removing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Our first product is a glass coating aimed at the Greenhouse Horticulture market. Greenhouses are designed to extend our growing seasons by increasing growing temperatures during colder months, hence the term “The Greenhouse effect”, however they are consequently prone to overheating in the Summer months.

Currently, greenhouses are painted with chalk based white paints each summer. This is a labour intensive process and also means light levels are reduced even on cooler summer days. Unlike these solutions, our coatings only turn white to shade crops when they risk being damaged by heat. This protects crops while maximising light levels in cooler days, boosting yields in an industry that has historically struggled with razor thin margins.

In the future, we plan to develop products for commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions associated with air conditioning. At the moment air conditioning accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and 10% of total global electricity usage. By applying our technology to windows and roofs, we can significantly reduce energy usage from these buildings to protect against the impacts of climate change.

Furthermore, another key benefit of our technology is the ease with which it can be retro-fitted. More than half of current global building stock will remain standing in 2050. On top of that, two thirds of UK homes do not meet energy efficiency standards. Is it essential that we improve the sustainability of the buildings we currently have and retrofitting is the only way to do that. As our technology is applied as a coating, it can be easily sprayed onto existing and new buildings.

To get in touch with Albotherm please click here

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

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The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is one of five areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains its purpose:

Located beside the UEZ café, which forms a central meeting place for the building’s companies, entrepreneurs and academics, is one of the most exciting parts of the University. Identifiable by the array of industrial robot arms and other cutting-edge hardware, visible through its window onto the café – the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is a high tech, inspiring and truly creative space. 

As UWE Bristol’s specialist industry-facing unit within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – a collaborative partnership between the city-region’s two universities and the UK’s most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research – RIFBristol provides training, research and consultancy services to a range of private and public sector clients.

Recognised as a Digital Innovation Hub by the European Union, it has been successfully delivering robotics workshops, prototyping and validating new products, demonstrating how automation can improve manufacturing processes, and supervising student-industry collaborations, since 2013.

“Our engineers help clients to trial various technical solutions, identifying the best options for their requirements,” says Farid Dailami, Director of RIFBristol and Associate Professor for Knowledge Exchange in Manufacturing.

“They can advise on capital purchases, support the deployment and integration of hardware, undertake research and proof-of-concept work, and deliver training.”

One of the unique strengths of RIFBristol is what it describes as its ‘brand agnostic’ approach. As part of BRL and UWE Bristol, it is not tied to a particular hardware manufacturer or supplier. It is, therefore, under no pressure to favour a particular brand or model and its advice is always honest, unbiased and wholly tailored to its customers’ needs.

This also means that its dedicated workspace in the UEZ is equipped with an impressive range of manufacturing equipment. ABB, KUKA and Universal robot arms sit alongside conveyers, sensors, cameras and laser measuring systems, all of which can be used to address clients’ research, CPD and product development challenges.  

“Our expertise is as diverse as our hardware”, says Dailami. “Our staff have knowledge of industrial robotics, cobotics, mechanical and electronics engineering, mechatronics, smart manufacturing, 3D printing and simulation. This diversity is our strength. We can help with robotics, but we can also bring knowledge and experience of related disciplines into play”

Alongside its private consultancy projects, RIFBristol leads several publicly funded research and business support programmes. The EU-funded TERRINet initiative, for example, enables researchers at all levels, from undergraduates, to PhD candidates and industry-based professionals, to access robotics infrastructure located across Europe. 

Since 2018, RIFBristol has also delivered the ERDF-funded SABRE Programme. This £1m project has enabled small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the West of England to explore the benefits of robotics and automation.

From start-ups, micro-enterprises and sole traders, to larger and more established companies, its free and subsidised services have helped businesses to get the most from these important technologies.

“RIFBristol and the SABRE Programme played a vital role in the completion of our initial prototype. It enabled the company to undertake pilot studies with leading OEMs – and to safeguard the development of this exciting technology in the UK, securing 3 existing, and creating 4 new, jobs in the West of England.”

Dr Evangelos Zympeloudis, CEO, iCOMAT Ltd | www.icomat.co.uk


For more information about RIFBristol visit its website. The University Enterprise Zone is also made up of the Health Tech HubFuture SpaceLaunch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory Hardware Incubator.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Future Space

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Future Space is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains a bit about them:

Who we are

Future Space is an innovation centre, based on UWE Bristol‘s Frenchay campus, within the University Enterprise Zone. The centre offers a range of office space, laboratories, workshops, and coworking facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science-based entrepreneurs and innovators. Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation, the UK’s largest operator of innovation centres, and manages a growing network of over 25 innovation centres in the UK.

A former head chef, a PhD in cancer genetics, and one of the region’s top 75 innovators; just some of the eclectic accolades of our Future Space Team. With a wealth of experience in business, and managing lab and workspace, we’re on hand to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

What we offer to business

There are many reasons why Future Space is a fantastic location for growing science and technology businesses: Purpose built laboratories; Customisable workshops; and a range of flexible offices and shared spaces. A distinct advantage is the positioning of the centre – on UWE Bristol campus and co-located with the Health Tech Hub and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

We also have an onsite Innovation team to oversee all the business needs of our community and provide practical business support for our tech and life science residents. As well as running peer networks and 1:1 support, the team organises free expert advice for resident businesses, connects companies with the University, and designs and develops a varied support programme of workshops and Q&As.

An event held in the Hub Space of the University Enterprise Zone

How we work with UWE

Our Innovation team works closely with UWE Bristol to drive collaboration opportunities. If you are a small company in the early stages of development, it can be difficult to find the capacity to carry out all aspects of running the business as well as giving focus to building your product and services. The knowledge and expertise you have in-house is also likely to be limited. Universities can play a key role in helping SMEs grow, with access to skills training, student and graduate resource, academic expertise, and an abundance of practical advice.

Businesses based at Future Space have benefitted from more than 200 engagements with UWE Bristol, from the use of specialist equipment at the university, to funded business assist support through programmes such as the Health Technology Accelerator Programme and SABRE. This support has enabled companies to build new products and services, as well as giving access to valuable knowledge and technical expertise that is needed in the early stages of development.

You can read more in our recent article.

What’s new for 2021/2022

Student and graduate engagement with SMEs are a core focus in the centre, with residents offered fully funded UWE Bristol internships, as well as regular chances to pitch project briefs to degree and masters level students. This year we launched our new internship programme aimed at post-graduate students, as well as undergraduate students – more than 40 interns have been employed in the Future Space community over the years, and these internships bring in vital skills and talent to resident businesses. We will be developing this programme further in 2021/22.

This year, our team also got involved in UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund, delivering innovation training as part of the ‘Innovation & Bid-writing’ course, delivered to SMEs in the region. This was a great opportunity for SMEs and our Future Space community, and we are committed to working closely on future programmes.

Our strong affiliation with UWE Bristol brings a huge amount of opportunities for resident businesses, from student and graduate engagement, to innovation support, and funding opportunities. The impact of all of this work is seen in the great successes of our community, and you can read about some of these in our cases studies and blogs. We’re excited to see what’s next.

For further information about Future Space please contact info@futurespacebristol.co.uk

UWE Bristol’s Launch Space open for applications

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UWE Bristol’s Launch Space Incubator is now open for applications from aspiring entrepreneurs and early stage businesses. Based within the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), Launch Space is home to high-tech, innovative start-ups with a strong focus on research and development. Applications are now open for the free business support, incubation, and acceleration services we provide for graduate entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.

The Launch Space incubator and accelerator could be the place for you if:

  • you have a business idea you’d like to put into action
  • you’re a recent graduate, or in the early stages of developing your idea
  • you need support to validate and develop your business further.

With access to communal networking areas, use of professional meeting rooms, and on-site hot-desks, you can get ready to launch your business. Launch Space is home to existing graduate-led businesses at various stages on the start-up journey, so you’ll be working alongside others who have a common goal of making their vision a success.

Launch Space is open to graduate-led, or early stage, businesses with high-growth potential. We’re looking for those that are working on products and services across key themes:

  • Health and life science
  • Advanced engineering
  • Digital futures
  • Sustainability and climate change

Our new Launch Space programme will kick off with an exciting Induction day onsite in early October. Meet your peers, say hi to our Innovation team, and get your first glimpse of the science and tech community in our University Enterprise Zone.

A weekly programme of pitch events, boardroom advisor sessions and coaching sessions will kick start your start-up journey and help bring your idea to life.

If you’re a graduate entrepreneur, you may also be able to benefit from a £6,000 bursary to support you, while you focus on your new business.

Interested businesses will need to complete a short application form before being invited to an interview. Find out more about the application process here.

Mark Corderoy, Entrepreneur in Residence UEZ, commented:

“We are excited to be able to accept new applications to Launch Space. Launch Space gives those starting out or recent graduates with a business idea the support to be able to really focus on their start-up. The 1-on-1 support and access to expertise and facilities is invaluable for any new business”.

Find out more here.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: The Health Tech Hub

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The Health Tech Hub is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains about their purpose:

The Hub’s mission is to advance innovation in healthcare, to invigorate the growth of UK companies and to improve the quality of life for citizens. The Health Tech Hub team identify and create opportunities for businesses, universities and the healthcare sector to work together to solve the demanding problems faced by the healthcare sector in the UK and globally.

The Health Tech Hub is located in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. Its founding partners are UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, Sirona Care and Health, P3 Medical Ltd, Designability and the West of England Academic Health Science Network.

Their skilled staff are well-placed to advance innovation, by supporting each company we work with to develop their technology solutions. In their purpose-built world-class laboratories, complete with the latest equipment; our dedicated team of experts are able to support companies with precision, utilising their accumulative experience across the industry, academia and healthcare sectors.

The projects undertaken in the Hub are hugely diverse, from developing a sensor for detecting Urinary Tract Infection, to running sophisticated spectral analysis of cells undergoing stress. Other projects included characterising novel biocompatible materials and integrating electronic systems into assistive technologies such as a “Smart” walking stick for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The real asset of the Hub is the creativity, enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff. The practical support shown at all levels has been second to none. Using the facilities has been very useful in terms of gaining access to professional and state of the art lab and workshop facilities to conduct initial tests and experiments in a highly sensitive and controlled environment. As a start up SME with limited capabilities, such resources are invaluable for us to be able conduct high quality and competitive R&D to develop our ideas further.

Habib Patel, Founder of Fullfat Technologies | fullfattech.com, based within the Health Tech Hub


For more information about the Health Tech Hub go to their website. The University Enterprise Zone is made up of the Health Tech Hub, Future Space, Launch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Future Space businesses supporting next generation of innovative talent in Bristol

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20 young people have been given access to internships at Future Space in Bristol thanks to programmes funded by UWE Bristol.

Future Space is co-located with UWE Bristol and provides workspace, meeting rooms, labs, and workshops to more than 50 innovative Bristol businesses.

To mark World Youth Skills Day the team is celebrating the interns, who are all completing eight or 16-week internships within their resident businesses.

The internship programme has been so popular with its residents that Future Space worked with UWE Bristol to extend the funding to make 2021 its biggest year yet.

The programme has offered internships in engineering, VR, AI, explosives, biomedical sciences and more to 40 young people in Bristol since Future Space launched in 2016.

Bristol is often named as one of the most innovative cities in the UK, and in 2019 it was shortlisted for the European City of Innovation Award.

One of those young people is Jessika Perdomo, 22, from Bogota. Jessika has just graduated in Environmental Health at UWE Bristol, where she is also a BAME advocate and part of their Widening Participation programme.

The programme ensures the university attracts a more diverse student body and ensures they have access to all university opportunities so they are able to fulfil their potential.

Jessika heard about the internship opportunities through Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager at Future Space.

Jessika says:

“I was looking for opportunities to gain work experience. Aimee told me that they’re recruiting here at Future Space through the internship, and now I’m part of the customer service team at Service Robotics. It’s been a very flexible role because it’s a start-up, and that’s what attracted me to the role. The flexibility means you get to learn skills that are transferable.

I’ve now been offered a full-time role with Service Robotics and I’m so happy because it feels like a family. I didn’t know I was going to enjoy it so much so it has surprised me and I’m excited for the future.”

Rob Parkes, CEO at Service Robotics, says:


“We’ve had five interns through Future Space so far and it’s been really successful. Now that we’ve offered Jessika a full time job we will have two interns who have been offered employment with us.

We’re a startup so we don’t have much money, so anything that’s funded is a big help. We’re also very busy so this programme allows us to tap into the right pool of talent without having to spend time scouring the market.”

Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager at Future Space, says:

“It is vital for our city’s economy and future that we give the next generation of innovators in Bristol a chance to work at the cutting edge of science and technology. This programme also provides funding for Future Space businesses to bring in vital skills to their companies so that they can work on research and kick-start projects that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to progress.

This is especially important right now, when many young people have been cut off from these opportunities due to the pandemic. This year we’re delighted to be working with students from every faculty of the university, from photography undergraduates to forensic science masters. Some of them have already been offered full-time employment here and we’re all looking forward to seeing where it might take them in the future.”

Tracey John, Director of Business, Research and Innovation at UWE Bristol,
commented:

“We are passionate about skills development and providing opportunities for all. For us, pairing our innovative businesses that are part of Future Space with our eager to learn students is a no brainer. The internship scheme provides the businesses with access to our talent and provides the students with vital industry experience and helps them to develop skills needed for the future.”

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone.

Innovative SMEs gather to develop their digital innovation business ideas

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On the 7 and 8 July 2021, UWE Bristol hosted an in person innovation workshop for SMEs in the region. The workshop was funded as part of UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund, which was is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Innovation leads came together to deliver interactive creative workshops to SMEs. The sessions provided much needed time for small business owners to get away from their desks or kitchen table. For most this was the first time since early 2020 that they had been in a workshop or networking environment. The attendees worked on innovative ideas with like-minded people and got their mindset and innovative concepts ready for funding. The delivery team included Thanh Quan-Nicholls (Digital Innovation), Aimee Skinner (Future Space), Mark Corderoy (Launch Space), Lucy Paine (Innovation for Growth) and Alan Gould (Lightholm Consulting).

The workshops were held at at Future Space, part of the University Enterprise Zone.

Businesses learnt techniques for ideation, honed their pitching skills, learnt about investment and funding, and fine-tuned their bid-writing skills. Businesses also had to rapidly solve problems, pitched for chocolate and became bid reviewers. Future Space transformed their networking space into a spacious and safe area for businesses to gather and it was wonderful to see the space so lively!

Thanh Quan-Nicholls, Digital Innovation Lead UWE says:

“So much has changed over this last year and as the markets recover it is important for SMEs to dedicate time for innovation as this will be the key to their future competitiveness and growth.

It was great after so long to see businesses working together in person – at these events, businesses also learn from each other and this is the part that is hardest to recreate remotely. Businesses told us they find meeting other innovative businesses empowering and motivating. The warm and inspiring cohort reminded us of best of the region’s spirit of collaboration and diversity.”

The businesses sectors were very wide-ranging, including creative technologies, visitor economy, edtech, legaltech, not-for-profits, engineering, software and marketing. They included new start-ups right through to established businesses.

Businesses attending get to bid over the next few weeks for micro grants of up to £5000 to implement their ideas. This forms part of UWE’s commitment to providing a supportive and accessible business infrastructure.

Tracey John, Director of RBI says:

“Putting time into upskilling disruptive businesses and helping them access new opportunities is a key part of ensuring diversity and economic growth. We are creating a pipeline of innovative and ambitious businesses for the future.”

Find out more about the Digital Innovation Fund here.

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business

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The below post is a guest blog from one of our Launch Space incubation managers Kim Brookes. Kim has recently set up her own business, Perfino. Kim talks about how her job at UWE has helped to launch the business:

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kim Brookes and I am one of two Incubation Managers at Launch Space, UWE’s graduate start up Incubator based in the University Enterprise Zone. 

I have been working at UWE for many years now giving advice and support to students and now graduates, alongside my other entrepreneurial endeavours. I love working with people who are brimming with ideas, energy and a can do attitude, and often feel I learn as much from them as they do from me. Starting a business is always a bit of a rollercoaster as nothing is certain and you learn as you go – there’s no such thing as failure in this world, just learning experiences, and an opportunity to grow as a person. 

So not so strange perhaps that after 3 years of ruminating on an idea that I thought had potential and which appealed to my obsession with fragrance, I have now launched my natural scent jewellery business, Perfino, and am currently crowd funding to help it grow. 

Perfino makes artisan jewellery that combines with wonderful natural scents to become your own personal diffuser. Studies show that 1/3 of us are intolerant to synthetic chemicals and that up to 60% of these chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream, making the wearing of commercial perfumes a bit of a gamble. So Perfino is offering an alternative way to smell great that is kind to the wearer and supports the sustainable production of natural essential oils around the world. 

The learning never stops and I look forward to sharing my experiences with the start-ups in Launch Space as we all embark on a very similar journey, soaking up all the knowledge that surrounds us.

Find out more about Perfino here.

Graduated from any UK university in the last 5 years and got a business idea you’d like to put into action? Launch Space offers free desk space and business support for budding entreprenuers. Find out more via our website.


Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.