Innovation and enterprise blog

12 March 2015

A business boost for libraries

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Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Guy Jeremiah at the British Library Business & IP Centre

The Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England announced that they will dedicate £400,000 funding to support the British Library’s ambition to transform UK city libraries into hubs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The British Library will also make a contribution of £253k in cash and non-cash resources.

The funding will provide a boost to enterprise in Exeter and Northamptonshire, enabling Exeter Central Library and Northamptonshire Libraries to pilot a Business & IP Centre service to support local entrepreneurs.

It will also enable the British Library to consolidate the network of Business & IP Centres already operational in six cities across the UK, and reinforce the important work the Centres do to engage local communities and disadvantaged groups in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow: the London Centre has helped to create 2,775 businesses and an additional 3,345 jobs in new and existing businesses from 2005-2012. Overall, these businesses increased their turnover by £153 million, which in turn made a contribution of £47.1 million in GVA to London’s economy[1].

Libraries also have a strong record of attracting communities from a wide range of backgrounds; an estimated 41% of Enterprising Libraries participants are women, 38% are from BAME groups and 10% are currently unemployed.   

In the six Business & IP Centres already open around the UK (in Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield), local entrepreneurs can receive face-to-face advice and training on how to start, protect or grow their business, and can access market research databases and other information out of reach for most SMEs.

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Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Marsha Brown at the British Library Business & IP Centre

Entrepreneur and recent success story of the Business & IP Centre network, Marsha Brown, used existing Northamptonshire business services (Library Plus Enterprise Hub and Northampton Enterprise Partnership) to set up her dress-making and design business ‘Solo Flair’ in 2012. As a result of the support she received, Marsha successfully expanded her customer base and now employs 3 part-time staff, while working around her family.  She now supports other new business start-ups and gives talks to local schools about starting a career and following your dreams. 

The British Library’s vision is that there will be a UK-wide network of Centres in libraries by the end of the decade, supporting local economic growth and innovation and providing free business support across the country.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said

Public libraries are of huge value to local communities. As familiar and trusted public places, and access points to vast amounts of free information, libraries also have powerful potential as engines of innovation and growth.

As outlined in the Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, our ambition is to open 20 Business & IP Centres in public libraries across the UK by 2020.

It is hugely exciting to welcome the library teams in Exeter and Northamptonshire into the Business & IP Centre network, and I extend our thanks to both the Department of Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England for enabling us to take another key step towards our goal.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The formal business environment can be an intimidating place, but it needn’t be. Enterprising Libraries give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to go and get free expert advice from their library, and receive the support they need to make the most of their great ideas.

“Local communities are untapped business resources – filled with capable and bright individuals who just need a helping hand. By extending the Enterprising Libraries funding today, we can help grow Britain’s ever expanding pool of entrepreneurial talent and ensuring that local economic growth is supported across the country.”

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, said:

 “Libraries are an important part of all our lives, bringing communities together and also providing a vital hub for knowledge and information exchange. The success of the Business & IP Centres illustrates their important role in providing business support to those communities and we are pleased to be able to continue to support this work. This additional funding will build on the success of the Enterprising Libraries programme, sustaining the impact of this project to support more entrepreneurs across England.

1. Source: Adroit Economics, based on Seven Up Census, April 2012  

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