Our Bristol Startup month is slowly drawing to a close (my how the time flies) and over the course of the past four weeks one thing that we have been hearing repeatedly (aside from how amazing Bristolians are) is that if you are a startup in Bristol there is only one place to be ... Engine Shed. Now, we know what you’re thinking…‘what a bloomin’ brilliant name’ - this was our first thought too, however as we delved a little deeper, we soon discovered that there’s lots more to Bristol Engine Shed than just a wildly intriguing title.
Bristol Engine Shed
Bristol Engine Shed is the city's foremost coworking / entrepreneurial / innovation hub and is so-named because it is housed in Brunel’s original station, dating back to 1841. 175 years on and this historic space is a thriving centre of activity where entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and students come together to collaborate, inspire and be inspired.
The space is contained within the Bristol Temple Quarter, a groundbreaking 70 hectare urban regeneration project which began in 2012 and aims to create 17,000 new sustainable jobs over the coming 25 years. Engine Shed places itself at the forefront of activity within the enterprise zone through fostering innovation and supporting new ventures.
We had a chat with Nick Sturge, Director of Engine Shed and also The Bristol SETsquared Business Acceleration, where he manages the Centre’s strategy and delivery of incubation activity to the 60+ ventures.
We picked his brain about the city of Bristol, its people, its places, its startups, why it is so different from anywhere else in the country and how the development of a government enterprise zone has affected the startup scene.
“The biggest difference between Bristol and anywhere else is that, with its close partner Bath and surrounding areas that make up the Bristol & Bath city-region, it has the greatest diversity of industry sectors, public/private/third sector split, culture, demographics and geography, which lead to a long history of innovation, exploration and, above all, ambition.
Whilst our ability to shout about these strengths in the past, the last few years has seen a far more confident approach of the authorities, LEP and entrepreneurs so that it is now so much easier to do business because it is so easy to find others who can help, guide, partner, invest, buy or simply connect.
There is a huge can-do attitude – just look at how Engine Shed went from business plan to opening in 11 months in a brand-new collaboration between the two largest institutions in the city with £1.7m of public money and refurbishing a grade 1 listed building. This is having a knock on effect – not least nationally and internationally, raising the profile of the city which makes it that much easier to attract investment, media and political attention, customers and senior talent to this area – all things which have historically been difficult for Bristol-based startups and SMEs”
“The development of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone has provided some renewed focus on the existing level of activity, of networks and of the quality and dynamism of the cluster – which before, perhaps, was more distributed. We now see more people wanting to start businesses and more existing businesses wanting to connect and be a more active part of the ecosystem”
Inspired by Nick’s words of praise for Bristol and Engine Shed, we went investigating some of the businesses taking part in the SETsquared incubator, to gauge for ourselves the level of innovation that's taking place within the space. Needless to say, we weren't disappointed, here’s a very brief selection of what we found.
Agilic Ltd- Who are currently working on an innovative new product called PiBot a 'build your own' robot kit based on the Raspberry Pi mini-computer
Folium Optics- A company that makes colour reflective displays for products that are effective in all lighting conditions, are low power, thin, robust and can be curved into lots of different shapes.
Handaxe Limited- Develop new technologies to support mental health services- Their first product Pesky gNats, is a computer game that supports Cognitive Behavioural Therapy interventions for young people aged 9-17.
Intelligenti Publishing- which specialises in taking books, magazines and other written material and repackaging it for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch devices.
iPEST- Takes a 21st century approach to pest control through the use of information gathered through a series of intelligent pest control units.
Micrima- These guys are in the process of developing a new 3D breast imaging platform that will allow screening to be safer, more comfortable, more convenient and more economically viable in a greater number of countries across the world.
stolencamerafinder- This is an innovative new web-based technology that allows users to locate stolen camera equipment using the serial numbers that are currently embedded within images.
If you have been intrigued by all this talk of innovation then pop yourself over to the Engine Shed website to find out more about the great work that they do, and dont forget to check out all the stuff we have featured so far in our Bristol Startup month.