Barclays has announced the launch of a series of working spaces in cities across the country designed to incubate new businesses.
The so-called Eagle Labs will provide access to resources including expert mentoring, event spaces, 3D printers and laser cutters. The Eagle Labs will be made available to all types of businesses, but can particularly help foster hardware manufacturing startups and new technology companies, according to Barclays.
The bank opened its third Eagle Lab in Brighton in the week beginning 7 March, following the successful launch of pilot labs in Bournemouth and Cambridge. In total, Barclays intends to open 20 such spaces across the country in 2016, with Birmingham and Huddersfield cited as locations where an Eagle Lab might next open up.
In an exclusive conversation with Business Advice, Barclays head of business banking Adam Rowse told us that supporting new business with more than just funding was becoming an increasing priority for the bank.
“We are passionate about helping businesses grow, and what is good for business is also good for the UK economy,” he told Business Advice. “We’ve already seen businesses from our pilot tell us that the Labs have helped with prototype design, saving valuable time and money.”
“Barclays wants to be able to use these spaces to support businesses with digital skills, running workshops and events on topics such as cyber security,” added Rowse.
The Eagle Labs will be tailored specifically around the needs of local entrepreneurs and small businesses, reflecting regional economic strengths and local industries. Supported by Barclays’ Digital Eagles initiative, which encourages small businesses to become more tech-savvy, the Labs will feature two types of space.
“Incubators” will target fast-growth businesses – those entrepreneurs whose ventures are projecting 20 per cent growth or more – giving them space and resources to help them continue that growth. Startups will benefit from expert mentoring and collaboration with peer-businesses. “Maker Spaces”, meanwhile, will give each company access to laser cutter and 3D printers, enabling each to make prototypes and design products faster and for less expense.
According to the bank’s latest Entrepreneurs Index, the number of UK startups is at its highest rate in three years, increasing nearly four per cent in the fist half of 2015. However, the number of high-growth businesses has fallen.
Barclays UK CEO Ashok Vaswani hopes initiatives like the Eagle Labs help demonstrate what needs to be done to ensure startups thrive, rather than just survive. “Technology is transforming the speed at which startups can grow and scale.
“Simply having access to a 3D printer can now help people turn a clever idea into a business success overnight, and by providing practical resources alongside our financial expertise Barclays intends to help people succeed,” he said at the launch of Brighton’s Eagle Lab.
The initiative has enjoyed initial success in Bournemouth, where leader of the borough council John Beesley expressed delight at the Eagle Lab opening. “The early take up has been very encouraging and our aim is for many local people, businesses and entrepreneurs to use this new facility,” Beesley said in a statement.
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