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£1.6m to boost digital innovation support in West London

Architect's impression of the Plus X Powerhouse

The Central Research Laboratory, part of the Plus X innovation hub network, has secured £1.6m from the Research England Development (RED) Fund. The funding will triple its existing support for start-ups, propelling greater innovation opportunities for digital business founders.

A new focus for digital innovation builds on Making the Future, Brunel University London’s successful project in collaboration with the Central Research Laboratory and regeneration property developer, U+I plc.

Making the Future Digital will ensure that Central Research Laboratory’s accelerator and BOOST programmes will continue for another four years. The funding will unlock a wide range of new expert services and specialist facilities for digital start-ups, with a focus on business concepts being planned by graduates and staff from universities in West London.

Based on the site of EMI’s former record factory and named after EMI’s innovation laboratory in Hayes, the Central Research Laboratory is an inspirational workspace with prototyping and product-making facilities, flexible co-working, private studios and innovation support programmes. It is partly funded by a grant to Brunel from the Office for Students as part of the original Making the Future project, and is one of a growing network of Plus X innovation hubs across the UK.

Brunel alumni success

Since its launch in 2014, the Central Research Laboratory has supported 99 product design companies to bring 55 products to market, creating over 60 jobs, and in the process raising over £4 million in funding and winning numerous awards. More than 2,100 businesses have interacted with the project, with 343 start-ups and early-stage businesses using the facilities.

Among its many business accelerator success stories is Aceleron. The battery re-purposing business was co-founded in 2016 by Brunel graduate and Shell Entrepreneur of the Year, Carlton Cummins. Aceleron has recently secured £2 million of equity investment to further expand its operations. Cosi Care is another recent accelerator success story. Led by female founder and Brunel design graduate, Lauren Bell, the eczema relief company has secured a raft of funding, investment and awards, with an imminent global launch planned this year.

The RED fund will enable the Central Research Laboratory to offer extensive new support services for digital business start-ups, including state-of-the-art facilities for virtual prototyping with an immersive space to allow multiple users to collaborate on design through 3D sharing and innovation showcasing. The virtual prototyping laboratory with workstations will allow entrepreneurs to perform virtual engineering modelling, build digital twins, creative content, physical products, services and immersive experiences.

Tripling the size of the CRL

Currently in early construction, Plus X Powerhouse will become the new hub for Making the Future Digital. With a capacity for 300 entrepreneurial minds, Plus X Powerhouse will triple the size of the Central Research Laboratory. Using sustainable building materials and light-infused space, the new innovation hub will offer the best digital connectivity in the region, with world-class workspace designed to enhance health and wellbeing.

“Making the Future Digital will draw on the experience and networks we have developed during the original project and will create a community of the brightest and the best digital minds in the nationally significant economy of West London,” said Professor Geoff Rodgers, Vice-Provost of Research at Brunel.

“By extending into the digital arena, Brunel and our partners will boost our impact on this economy through nurturing digital innovation, facilitating the development of new digital products and services, and creating new jobs. I look forward to seeing Brunel students and alumni as part of future success stories.”

Mat Hunter, Co-CEO of Plus X, added: “This is a truly exciting new phase in our support for a new generation of digital innovators. The team at Brunel have been an incredible partner to work with, helping us design a world-class range of support services and facilities that have turned founder concepts into successful global businesses.

“We look forward to working together over the next four years, supporting Brunel students, partner university students and entrepreneurial talent both locally and UK-wide.”

University partners joining Brunel in Making the Future Digital are City, Imperial College London, Royal Holloway, UCL and the University of West London. The project has support and endorsements from a host of local, regional and national businesses, including Heathrow Airports, Hillingdon Chamber of Commerce, West London Business and Innovate UK.

Find out more about the Central Research Laboratory and the Making the Future project.

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