Enterprise Innovation

15 April 2007

I spent a really good couple of hours Frankie Owen at the Enterprise Pavillion at the Arts Institute Bournemouth. In the way of these things, I’d visited the Pavillion shortly after its launch when in my previous role, but haven’t had much contact since. The building itself is set apart from the AIB but is on the same campus, I think gives a good balance with being ‘business’ focussed and not just converted teaching rooms, yet still definately a part of the AIB and thus not isolated.

Frankie has a specific project he wanted to talk about (Universal Access by Design)and many of the issues he has faced are common to both our roles so hopefully it was as useful to him as me. Its a very cool and low tech way to upgrade the signage in a library to be more meaningful and useful to visitors than the traditional Dewy classification. To me, possibly the greatest benefit of the system was that having discovered the area of interest e.g. Graphic Design, the system would encourage you to explore, almost in a StumbleUpon manner rather than directing you to a highly specific Dewy code.

The whole experience rather got me thinking about innovation and the role of the Incubator facilities that (nearly) all Universities have. People like Frankie are not teaching staff and have a very entrepreneurial mind set. Although the offices that are available for staff and students to get their business up and running are important, it’s the surrounding service environment that really makes the value proposition. A recent post about Y Combinator made the point for me that even though they are offering a comparatively small cash investment, their value add from service and connections appears to be enough to make it worth while for start-ups and pre-start-ups. One thing is certain, there are more entrepreneurs, VC, angel investors and company directors blogging than ever before. The stories, advice and raw experiences are there to be learned from, the future of incubators is, I think, increasingly around blending that background information with access to professional advice so that once the (pre-)start-up has ventured over the electronic welcome mat, they find a conducive and encouraging environment.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether the business environment in the UK supports or stifles entrepreneurship and personally I’m not sure we’re quite there yet. But a tipping point is approaching. More investors, advisers, entrepreneurs and innovators are blogging and extending the traditional networks. The series of Open Coffee events are really gaining ground (personally I’m looking forward to the first Bristol OC event) that should see a breaking down of the traditional access route to Angels and VCs through membership and subscription services. The Funded are providing a backchannel on what different investors are like to work with/for.

Its a good time to be innovative.

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