Brunel University London’s project, Making the Future, created the Central Research Lab (CRL) where recent graduates, staff, and members of the public can go to nurture their new business ideas – an initiative so fruitful that versions of the centre are soon to appear in other parts of the country.
The CRL, based in Hayes, was created by U+I and is partly funded by a grant to Brunel from the Office for Students. As the UK’s first purpose-built hardware accelerator, it has helped to launch new companies, has encouraged entrepreneurship and created new jobs in West London. From product manufacturing to campaign planning, the CRL has the resources to meet diverse business needs, including offering London's best open-access prototyping workshops.
The original submission for Making the Future was made by Brunel in 2015. The intention was to facilitate and support economic growth by creating an open and integrated working space that promotes sustainability. The Lab is supported by a dedicated leadership team and mentors to meet these objectives.
The success of the centre led to U+I creating a joint venture called Plus X in 2018 to plan a network of five innovation centres across the UK in the next five years. The new centres will evolve to have an even wider impact and a more commercially sustainable business model.
“The Central Research Lab is a great example of universities directly impacting on the economy and being a crucial part of new-business development,” said Prof Geoff Rodgers, Brunel’s Vice-Provost of Research.
“The project has exceeded its original objectives in that it has proven to be a catalyst, not just within the region, but in leading to plans for the development of a UK-wide network of such innovation centres.”
CRL run a high-quality accelerator programme for hardware start-ups where the centre invests in founders, helping them take their early prototype towards manufacture and commercial success. Business start-ups can apply to be part of CRL’s 8th programme. If accepted, teams will be based at CRL for a hands-on 6-month programme focused on product development, commercial strategy and investor readiness. It would also include a trip to meet suppliers in China.
Over 2,100 businesses have interacted with the CRL since the project started and just short of 350 start-ups and early-stage businesses have used the facilities. A plan to develop a national network of similar sites will begin with the University of Brighton’s ‘Plus X’ centre, opening Monday 2 March 2020.
Plus X Brighton’s purpose-built 50,000-square-foot building is part of the largest regeneration project Brighton has ever seen, laying the foundations of a dynamic ecosystem of innovative businesses.
Find out more about CRL here.
Find out more about Plus X Brighton here.
Simone McNichols-Thomas, Media Relations
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