Innovation and enterprise blog

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5 posts from March 2021

24 March 2021

Design for a better life – the legacy of William Morris

Have you ever bought anything artisan made? It might be something like a beauty product, organic food or even sustainable handmade furniture? Or maybe an ethically made fashion item or you’ve sampled an exotic craft beer locally made by an independent brewer?

Our love for high quality products with an ethical heart can be traced back to a man and a movement. Step forward and take a bow, William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896). Pioneer, polymath and prophet; you changed our world and made it that little bit better by creating a lot more beauty.  

Image of Kelmscott Manor, William Morris' Bedroom

Morris was a founder of what became known as the Arts & Crafts movement and was its most well-known proponent.

Among his great achievements was to make high quality design a desirable commodity, and the world never looked back. It’s what Morris is most famous for today.

How did he do it and why? What role did design production and protection play in guaranteeing his success and reputation? When we explore these questions we discover a man and his time, eerily similar to our own.

He was a pioneer pushing against an age of mass-produced, badly designed factory products. ‘Made in Britain’ was an embarrassment and he wanted to change it. The country could (and would) make better and more beautiful things. Especially for the domestic home, a place of rest and recreation from a harsh and polluted world outside.

The rapid pace of industrialisation and manufacturing had come at a cost, not least a social one. It was widely felt that society had lost contact with the natural world and age old skills and crafts that connected us to it. Factories, those ‘dark satanic mills’, had crushed the artisans by sheer scale of efficiency. It had made the factory owners a ton of money.

Perhaps then it’s no surprise that the medieval age with its community guilds and love of nature and beauty represented a pre-modern innocence, a paradise to be regained. That’s why the middle ages gripped the imaginations of artists, writers, architects and social critics for much of the century.

Image of Bird and Pomegranate illustration

Morris lived in this world and he wanted to re-shape it, radically, by returning to the best of its past. This would be achieved through traditional ways of living and working, by changing the process of creating decorative arts. The craftsperson and artisan would become the centre of production.

So he founded a company with fellow artisans, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, later to become simply Morris & Co. Businesses today have vision statements and so did they. Theirs was, ‘art for all’ and they fully lived their vision.

Image of Daisy illustration

In a strange way, the world was ready for a new generation of entrepreneurs. The Victorian age was also the great age of reform. Historic Acts of parliament established a modern state and created a world recognisable to us moderns.

In the late 1830s, there was much talk in parliament to protect industry from unauthorised copying of designs and products, which was endemic and costing industry terribly. But there was also a need to safe-guard future exports from countries with a strong design heritage, such as France.  So during this time a system of design registration was enacted that we recognise today.

New legislation, such as the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842, expanded the coverage and copyright protection for proprietors of more crafted design, to recognise artistic originality as being of high value.

There were many other changes of significance such as the promotion of schools of design and public galleries to expose more of the public to works of ‘good taste’, thereby encouraging consumers to demand better designs. All of these reforms set the stage for William Morris.

He and his company would soon benefit from the intellectual property protection the design registration provided, as did many of his contemporaries.

Image of Trellis illustration

Some of his most famous wallpaper designs were registered by Morris & Co and are now held at the National Archives, the main repository of designs for this period. This includes illustrations such as ‘Daisy’ (171341) the first wallpaper by Morris to be put into production and ‘Trellis’ (173081) both registered in 1864.

Other examples registered for design protection were textile designs including ‘African Marigold’ (304147) 1876, and ‘Pomegranate’ (311179) also designed by Morris and registered in 1877. Also furniture fabric such as ‘Anemone’ (298226).[1] Here at the Business & IP Centre we have indexes of design for this period.

African Marigold illustration

It was soon apparent that there was an ‘alternative economy’ emerging. Morris understood something fundamental, people recognise and even demanded good design, and they will pay for it. He also understood the commercial importance of protecting it, not least to promote his work as well as to benefit the company and achieve its vision.

Morris’ extensive design portfolio included wallpaper, furniture, tiles and even stained glass windows, for the more affluent. He also recognised that people desired natural more than the synthetic, so natural vegetable dyes were used in printing rather than chemicals. We can all relate to that.

So by providing consumers with a choice to buy good design and crafted works of art, he forged an industry that would only grow bigger and bigger into the 20th Century and to our own.

Image of Kelmscott Manor

We live in a craft age.

Morris looks modern to us simply because he helped create our world. His priorities have become our priorities.

Today we value exceptional design more than ever and prioritise how it’s sourced and made. These values complement each other. The designer has retained their status and their creations are just as valuable to us. I wonder what Morris would think of the latest debates around design? In 2016, section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) was repealed giving ‘works of artistic craftsmanship’, produced industrially, the same length of copyright as works of art, the life of the creator plus seventy years. A helpful boost for designers creating contemporary icons, just like Morris did.

Designers of today live out Morris’ original vision, “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Now we all share his vision. We too can own a little work of art, thanks to a man and his movement.


[1] Selected works sourced from Halls, Julie. ‘Questions of attribution: Registered Designs at the National Archives’. Journal of Design History, Vol 6. No. 4.

19 March 2021

Meet our delivery partner: Sam Lane

Not everyone can afford a professional photographer, especially when you are starting a new business and having to spin a number of plates including and not limited to marketing, research and  finance... But these days almost everyone has a great camera in their pocket or bag. Today’s smartphones are all pretty good with a good quality lens (or maybe multiple lenses) and software that makes some great photography decisions for you.

I’m Sam Lane and I have been taking photos since I was around 10 years old. I have over 30 years of experience in Marketing Communications working for some amazing brands including Microsoft and I set up a Limited company in 2013 covering both Commercial and Social photography projects. Commercial clients include the British Library, Network Rail and High Speed 1 (that owns and operates St Pancras International station); I have had the pleasure of photographing the Queen, Sir Elton John and John Legend as well as over 85 weddings including two in Australia and one in the US!

Sam Lane taking a selfie

So I know what it is like to work in a business and not finding enough time to work on the business. A few years ago the Business & IP Centre ran a(nother) fantastic Start Up Day and invited me to do a session on smartphone photography. This evolved into two-hour workshop – face to face when we are allowed, but now perfectly manageable via Zoom – which gives some practical tips and tricks about how to take better photos using your smartphone, whatever make or model; whatever your skill level; and whatever your business needs.

This workshop is aimed at start-ups, small business owners and entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas but maybe not the money to pay for professional, outsourced help.

We start by looking at ways of optimising your camera phone settings and identifying some features that are going to be helpful as you take more photos – switching on the camera grid being one great example.

Phone camera screenshot

We touch on how to actually take a photo, and moving you from taking a snap to taking a more considered photo.

And really getting to grips with storytelling as “a picture speaks a 1000 words”.

We also look at the importance of planning to make sure that you don’t waste your valuable time. Imagine you are paying someone else to take pictures for you – they’d need to know where, when and what you want the photo of, but also why and how they are going to be used…

We focus (you see what I did there?) on what makes a good photo with the key photographic principles of Lighting and Composition. Ever heard of the Rule of thirds for example?

Even as a professional I know that life is too short to spend time editing so I will give you some tips on making simple edits, mainly using the in-camera editing tools, that help take your images from good to great.

We touch on saving, sharing and storing the images and then focus back on YOU.

Sam workshop in person

My favourite part of the workshop (apart from seeing and hearing your “lightbulb moments” – AE/AF Lock to mention just one) is then finding out about your businesses, looking at your website images and social channels and getting peer group insight from other attendees about what looks good and / or could be improved.

I’ve been amazed - and humbled - at the talent I have seen. People who are thinking about it or just starting out; and those already running small businesses and even growing them - from belly dancers and fitness instructors to tango shoes and pet accessory manufacturers – all with unique challenges but the one common factor – the desire for great photos.

From my experience of running the workshops, we all learn something, especially me!

I look forward to seeing new and inspiring people and hope to meet people face to face at the BIPC later in 2021!

You can find Sam's workshops listed on our Events page:

09 March 2021

Female patent pioneers you should know

This World IP Day we, at the Business & IP Centre, are shining the light on women inventors to celebrate this year's theme of Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity. We heard from the curator from our historical patent collection, Steven Campion, on just some of his favourite inventions patented by women in 2021 for International Women's Day. Now he's added a couple more to the list, who despite not receiving a patent for their remarkable work, have left an indelible mark in the field of innovation and paved the way for future generations of female inventors.

'I decided to add them as they are rightfully considered to be pioneers in their respective fields, which is all the more remarkable considering they worked during a time when it really was a man’s world. Their inclusion also serves as a nice reminder that not all innovations or breakthroughs are patentable, and not all innovators seek to protect their work with a patent.

Although women have always found solutions to the problems around them, social and historical factors mean little of this was recorded. Women inventors would have had fewer resources and faced discriminatory barriers at every step of their journey – often having their contributions downplayed or overlooked entirely.

Therefore just 62 out of the 14,359 patents granted in England between 1617 and 1852 were awarded to women. In fact before 1965, the proportion of women in the UK patent system was generally between 2% and 3%. The proportion has since risen at an accelerating pace, having reached 6.8% in 1998, and then almost doubling to reach 12.7% in 2017. As the number of women working within the STEM sector increases, we can hopefully look forward to this number rising further.

Before we begin, a quick caveat. Earlier patents may exist for some of the inventions given in this list but the following women are widely considered the inventor of their ‘thing’ because it worked (earlier versions didn't in some cases), or it was popular, or it is recognisable to the form as it exists today, and so on. 

Marie Curie

Black and white photo of Marie Curie, wearing a black dress, her hair in a bun and sat on a chair looking off into the distance

Trying to do justice to the life and work of Marie Curie (née Sklodowska) in just a few hundred words is almost impossible. She is one of the most famous women of the 20th century, being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win a Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields (Physics and Chemistry).

Curie and her husband and research partner, Pierre, discovered polonium and radium, developed a technique for isolating radium in its pure form, and coined the term 'radioactivity'. Notably, Curie chose not to patent radium, or any of its medical applications, to ensure it could reach its full potential in benefiting the world.

During World War One, Curie also developed mobile X-ray vans known as petites Curies, which saved countless lives on the battlefield. She and her daughter, Irène, trained around 150 women to become radiology assistants for the vans.

Marie Curie is also the name of the UK’s leading end of life charity (and owners of some great charity shops – I’d recommend the one in Highbury). But how did this come about?

In 1930, Curie gave a North London hospital permission to use her name. Staffed entirely by women, the pioneering Marie Curie Hospital treated female cancer patients using radiology. The hospital was destroyed during an air raid in 1944, but the committee overseeing the rebuild decided to separate it from the newly formed NHS, creating instead (with permission from Curie’s daughter Eve) the charity now known as Marie Curie.

Marie Curie has inspired countless women into STEM careers, and will surely continue to do so for generations to come.

Grace Hopper

Photo of Grace Hopper with a few of her male colleagues sat around the UNIVAC

Grace Hopper (née Murray) was teaching mathematics when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour thrust America into the Second World War. Wanting to do her bit, Hopper joined the newly formed women's branch of the United States Naval Reserve – despite being told she was too old and small. 

Hopper was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University, where she was one of the first programmers of one of the world’s first electromechanical computers – the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, more commonly known as the Mark I. The manual she wrote for the machine is considered to be the world’s first computer user manual.

Opinion is split on this, but Hopper may have been the first person to describe a computer problem as a ‘bug’, and the fixing of said problem as ‘debugging’. These terms were used very literally by Hopper, when the problem she encountered was discovered to have been caused by a dead moth inside the machine.

After the war, she joined the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation where she helped to develop the UNIVAC I – the first commercial electronic computer. Here she developed the world’s first compiler, which translated mathematical code into code that could be understood by a computer. The first step in allowing data processors to write programs in English, and the beginning of COBOL, one of the major languages used today in data processing.

This is just a small taste of Grace Hopper’s many achievements. Today she is rightfully remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of computing, and a true STEM pioneer.

Mary Anderson – windscreen wiper

Window Cleaning Device patent

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

Mary Anderson visited New York City in the winter of 1903. This was the year before the subway opened and the streetcar was a popular way to get around town. During her trip it snowed heavily, forcing the streetcar drivers to frequently stop to clear the snow and ice from their windscreens. When this became unmanageable, they would instead drive with their head sticking out of an open window.

Delays and open windows of course meant discomfort for the passengers, especially someone like Anderson who was not used to the chill of a New York winter.

Knowing there had to be a solution, Anderson began work as soon as she returned to Alabama. Her finished prototype was a radially swinging rubber blade which would wipe the windscreen clear of obstruction. Fairly similar to the modern-day windscreen wiper, except Anderson’s invention was manually operated by a handle inside by the driver (in 1917 another female inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, was granted a patent for the first electrically powered windscreen wiper).

On the 10th November 1903, U.S. patent no. 743,801 was granted to Anderson for her ‘window-cleaning device’. Unfortunately not many people saw the worth in her invention, saying it would be a dangerous distraction to the driver. Cars were also not particularly common and Ford’s Model T was still 5 years away. Anderson therefore made no money from her patent and it eventually lapsed.

As driving became more commonplace, the windscreen wiper was eventually adapted for automotive use, today being an important safety device that is a legal requirement in most countries.


Mary Walton – pollution reducing devices

Patent for Elevated Railway

A copy of U.S. patent no. 221,880 can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 3,512 of 1879).

A copy of U.S. patent no. 237,422 can be seen here.

Elevated trains were installed throughout the larger U.S. cities in the second half of the 19th century, unfortunately bringing a large amount of air and noise pollution for those living nearby. Mary Walton, who lived beside the tracks in Brooklyn, worked to solve both problems, earning herself a place in history as a STEM female pioneer.

In 1879 she was granted U.S. patent no. 221,880 for ‘Improvement in locomotive and other chimneys’. Her invention reduced air pollution by diverting chimney smoke through water tanks. This process dissolved and trapped the pollutants in the water, which would later be flushed into the sewer system.

Next, she realised that wooden elements of the track were amplifying the noise of the trains. Using a model railway she built in her basement, she came up with a working solution – encasing specific sections of the track in weatherproof wooden boxes filled with sand. This successfully absorbed the majority of the vibrations; greatly reducing the noise levels. Before Anderson, many noted engineers and inventors tried and failed to find a solution, including Thomas Edison.

After successful trials, Walton was granted U.S. patent no. 237,422 in 1881. She sold the patent rights to New York City’s Metropolitan Railroad, and before long the system was in place throughout America.


Josephine Cochrane - first commercially successful dishwashing machine

Dishwashing machine patent

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 9,895 of 1887).

Josephine Cochrane, a 19th century socialite, often hosted grand dinner parties at her mansion in Illinois. She was fortunate enough to have servants to wash up afterwards, but Cochrane was unhappy to discover the occasional chip in her heirloom china. She therefore decided to wash the dishes herself, though soon became bored of the task.

So bored in fact, that Cochrane designed a machine to take over. Her machine used water pressure to clean dishes held in place by wire racks – a system recognisable to anyone with a modern dishwasher.

The first few male engineers she hired predictably insisted on changing her design. They were convinced they knew better than an untrained woman, but their changes never worked. Eventually her design was built and U.S. patent no. 335,139 was granted for her ‘Dish washing machine’ in 1886.

At the time the machine was too expensive for most homeowners and required more hot water than the typical home could generate. But after winning a top prize at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, orders poured in from hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.

In 1898 Cochrane started her own company which she managed until her death in 1913. In 1926 the company was acquired by Hobart, which went on to produce the first successful home dishwashers under the KitchenAid brand in the 1940s.

Today half of all UK households have a dishwasher thanks to the pioneering work of Josephine Cochrane – presumably the other half wishes they had room for one.


Margaret Knight - machine for making flat-bottomed paper bags

Patent for Bag Machine

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

In 1867 Margaret Knight started work at a paper bag factory. At the time, mass produced paper bags had envelope style bottoms, which were both weak and narrow. Flat-bottomed bags were stronger and made packing easier, but there was no machine that could make these. Instead a production line of 30 women were employed to cut, fold, and glue these together. Flat-bottomed bags were therefore expensive and uncommon.

Knight was an inventor at heart. At the age of just 12 she had invented a loom safety device that was used extensively by the cotton industry (but unfortunately not patented). She therefore soon developed a machine that could manufacture flat-bottomed bags from start to finish – something male inventors had been trying and failing to do for years. In 1871 Knight applied for a patent, but was rejected as a similar machine was recently patented by Charles Annan.

Before her application, Knight had visited several machine shops in order to create an iron prototype. At one of these, Annan saw the plans and decided to steal the invention. Knight filed a patent interference lawsuit, with a mass of documentation and witness testimony on her side. Annan could only really state that no woman could design such a machine. Knight of course won, and U.S. patent no. 116,842 was granted for her ‘Improvement in paper-bag machines’ in 1871.

Knight would continue to innovate, being awarded many more patents over the course of her lifetime.


Melitta Bentz – the coffee filter

Journal entry that includes the industrial property right for Melitta Bentz's coffee filter patent

The industrial property right was granted with registration on page 1145 of the 8th July 1908 edition of the patent gazette of the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin – see image.

Like many of us, Melitta Bentz enjoyed starting her morning with a cup of coffee. What she didn’t enjoy was the bitter tasting coffee grounds still left floating in her cup.

At the time, coffee was usually brewed by pouring ground coffee into hot water and then waiting for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Sieves and cloth bags would help, but they either let too many coffee grounds through, or would be so narrow that the coffee would be cold by the time it was filtered.

One day Bentz had a flash of inspiration. She drilled holes into the bottom of a brass pot, which she then sat on top of a cup. Next, she placed a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school exercise book into the bottom of the pot, adding freshly ground coffee on top. Bentz then poured hot water into the pot and watched as clean, filtered coffee dripped into the cup below – she had invented pour-over coffee and the coffee filter.

In 1908 Bentz was granted utility model 343,556 for her ‘Coffee filter with a domed underside, recessed bottom and inclined flow holes’ from the patent office in Berlin. The same year she founded the company ‘Melitta’ and began to sell her pot and filter paper. In the 1930s Melitta would go on to create the cone shaped filter and today, the still family owned business, produces over 50 million filters a day.

Despite the ease of modern coffee brewing methods, pour over coffee has remained popular amongst coffee lovers, who appreciate the high level of control it provides.


Elizabeth Magie – the landlord’s game

Patent for The Landlord's Game, precursor to Monopoly

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

For the longest time it was an accepted fact that Monopoly was invented by Charles Darrow in 1933. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a decade long trademark infringement lawsuit revealed the actual truth – Monopoly was heavily based on another board game patented decades earlier by a progressive woman called Elizabeth Magie.

Magie was granted U.S. patent no. 748,626 in 1904 for her board game ‘The Landlord's Game’. It was designed to illustrate the anti-monopolist theories of 19th century economist Henry George, and as such it came with two rule sets – one monopolist, the other anti-monopolist. The idea being players would see the latter was the morally correct choice.

Failing to find a publisher, Magie self-published the game in 1906. It sold poorly, but a local economics professor picked up a copy and played it with his students. At the time it was not uncommon to create handmade versions of published games, and that’s exactly what several of these students did, and it’s exactly what several friends of these students did, and so on.

As the homemade versions spread, the game would change a little here and there. New house rules would be added and the street names would be updated to reflect local towns. Ironically, people thought it was more fun to own land, charge rent, and bankrupt friends and family, and so the anti-monopolist rules were left permanently to one-side.

Fast forward to 1932, and Charles Darrow is introduced to a home-made version of the game. He immediately creates his own copy and starts to sell it under the name ‘Monopoly’. It does well and he sells the board game rights, becoming the first millionaire game designer in history. By contrast, Magie is said to have earned only $500 from her board game.


Hedy Lamarr – frequency-hopping

Patent for Hedy Lamarr's Secret Communincation System

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood icon who was promoted as ‘the most beautiful woman in film’. She was so startlingly beautiful in fact, that her brilliant mind was largely overlooked her entire life. It wasn’t until her later years, and sadly really only after her death that the world would learn of her part in the development of the wireless technologies we take for granted today.

It was World War Two, and Lamarr had heard that German U-boats were easily jamming the signals that guided the radio-controlled Allied torpedoes. She hit on a brilliant solution – if the signal hopped from frequency to frequency rapidly, then it would be near impossible to detect and jam.

She asked a composer called George Antheil to help realise her invention, and together they created a system that used paper piano rolls, perforated with a complex and random pattern, to make a signal hop rapidly between 88 frequencies – the same number of keys on a piano.

U.S. patent no. 2,292,387 was granted for their ‘Secret communication system’ in 1942, however the Navy declined taking their idea forward. It is thought the invention was not taken seriously as it was created by an actor who was world famous for her beauty.

However during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, about three years after the patent had expired, the technology was adapted and in use. Fast forward many more years and frequency-hopping would be foundational to modern wireless technologies, such as GPS, Bluetooth, and secure Wi-Fi.'

For more on intellectual property and female founders, you can visit at the Business & IP Centre resources at

08 March 2021

International Women's Day 2021: Meet the wonderful women of the BIPC

This International Women's Day we are celebrating the talented women working in our BIPC. Learn more about who they are and the important roles they play within the team… 

Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Marketing


Isabel worked in the private sector for over 20 years before joining the British Library in 2002. Her background was in market research, strategic planning, business development and marketing in the tech and professional services sector and she worked for both start-ups and major corporates. Isabel enjoyed working in start-ups more than in major corporates and also did a stint of freelancing when she relished being her own boss! Isabel joined the British Library as Head of Business Marketing with a blank sheet of paper to write a strategy to develop services for businesses.

“As part of my role, I had to attend an information services exhibition in New York and one of the British Library directors recommended that I visit the New York Public Library (NYPL) while I was there. They had set up a separate Science, Industry & Business Library, situated in a former department store to support entrepreneurs and small business owners in the New York area and I was literally blown away by what they did.  They had made their information resources and expertise freely available to SMEs and brought in consultants and retired executives to deliver workshops and 1:1 advice on how to set up and run a successful business.  My immediate thought was ‘How can we take this back to London?’. To cut a very long story short, we got some funding from the Mellon Foundation to support a collaboration between NYPL and the British Library and then developed a plan and pilot which attracted London Development Agency funding.

I’m not a librarian but I realise the value of access to information and expertise. My first real job after graduating in International Marketing, was at a market research agency where I spent a lot of time doing desk research in libraries, when everything was in hard copy or on microfiche. When I arrived at the Library, I realised we were sitting on a goldmine of information - some £5 million of information including market research reports and company and financial information - usually accessible only to major corporates.  In addition, we were (and still are) the library of the Intellectual Property Office, so had a huge collection of patents, trade marks and designs and many years of expertise in how to protect one’s ideas and avoid infringement of other people’s. My areas of expertise are in marketing and strategy but I’ve learned a number of other skills at the Library, such as bid-writing and fundraising. 

One of the most exciting days in my career at the British Library was when we heard that we had been granted £13 million in the Spring budget last March to expand our service to 20 cities by 2023 and deploy a hub and spoke model to reach high streets, as well as rural and coastal areas. A week later we went into lockdown and suddenly had to pivot and take our services online! Thankfully, the funding enabled us to launch Reset. Restart to help small businesses weather the storm, as well as continuing with our start-up services. What’s really heart-warming is that we have continued to reach people who are under-represented in business ownership demonstrating that libraries can reach parts of the community that other organisations cannot reach.  Of the 18,000 people we have supported 65% of them have been women and 38% from a black and Asian minority-ethnic background, compared with only 20% and 5% of business owners respectively.  We’re all about democratising entrepreneurship and giving people the greatest chance of starting up and running a successful business. In the background, the lockdowns have provided the opportunity for the new library partners to refurbish and prepare dedicated spaces for start-ups and SMEs to come together to learn and network when the UK opens up again. We really look forward to welcoming people back but from hereon we will run a hybrid service of face-to-face and digital services to reach as many people as we can.

A fun fact about me is that I am quite creative and enjoy painting and writing. I also write a lot of silly poems for the team to celebrate successes and it seems to have caught on.  Now we all write poems – or even raps – for one another at Christmas, as part of our Secret Santa! It’s so important to celebrate successes and acknowledge everyone’s contribution.

Working with such an amazing team, including our delivery partners, who are all passionate about supporting people from all walks of life to start up and run successful businesses.  They have gone above and beyond over the past year, helping people to weather the Covid-19 crisis and look to the future.  It’s also great to meet so many inspiring people at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey and knowing that we’ve managed to make a difference, however small.  Last, but not least, I have really enjoyed travelling across the country by train and visiting our public library partners, all of whom have amazing civic buildings in the heart of their cities – and am hoping to resume this soon.”

Seema Rampersad, Senior Business Researcher and Service Manager


Seema has worked as an information professional for over 25 years. Most of this time has been as a business librarian in the corporate sector, and now at the British Library. Seema also has experience as a trustee for a local charity for 12 years and that has given her some practical business insight. She has developed and refined quite a few new skills since starting, such as delivering webinars, one-to-one advice clinics, workshops, reference and in-depth research for customers. 

“I do like all types of information in various formats and subjects. My background is very broad, therefore I am familiar with most business topics.  However, there is always some trend, database or new technology to learn about, so you never really get bored. Business information is ever changing and the role in the Business & IP Centre is interesting. I am still learning aspects of Intellectual Property everyday and rely on my colleagues for their insights and experience.

A BIPC resource I love to recommend to people is Mintel. We get several queries from persons wanting to use it and they are always happy to know that we have access to the consumer goods series on Mintel. It is useful for both planning your businesses and for growing companies. It has been around for a long time and is a very reliable source of information. The most under-utilised database I would say is the EIU’s CountryData database but it is great for key economic indicators, which are essential in this business climate. 

A fun fact about me is I am a proud Trinidadian, although I have lived in London most of my life.  Most customers say they can detect my Trinidadian accent.

My favourite bit about working in the BIPC is the variety in the role, access to great information, our fabulous team, general day-to-day activities and the amazing collection held in the whole of the British Library.”

Julie Boadilla, Reference Specialist at the Business and IP Centre


Julie is one of our exceptional team who are on hand to help you navigate the databases and resources we have at the BIPC. She is also an ace at delivering workshops on intellectual property and protecting your business, which she does both at the British Library and in our Start-ups in London Libraries boroughs. She has been with the BIPC since it opened in 2007, having previously spent more than 11 years in the British Library’s separate departments of Business and Intellectual Property. She has Level 4 Business Advisor Training and Masterclass training with the central IPO.

The first thing I recommend to people on my workshop and to my clients on the one-to-one advice clinic is COBRA database. This is the database that I think customers need to use to help them understand regulations, IP rights, insurance, cash flow and everything they need to know on how to start their business.

The One to One advice clinic is now my main interest. It is a nice feeling when a client recognised your help on organising their thinking on their business idea/s.

A fun fact about me is I love bowling. I was The British Library Champion of Bowling in 1993 and since I won the trophy they never done another BL Bowling competition.

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is meeting different people when delivering workshops or one to one advice sessions. People are interesting, especially what they write on their feedback forms about the workshops whether within my control or not. Also working with my team in BIPC gives me joy.”

Meron Kassa, Business and IP Reference Specialist.

Meron 2

Meron joined the team in 2019, sharing her expertise from the Reference Desk and showcasing her market research knowledge with a blog drawing on the available information on the vegetarian/flexitarian sector. Before landing a role within the Business and IP Centre as Reference Specialist, Meron had worked in a few reading rooms beforehand as a Library Assistant, which includes the Sciences, Rare books and Music, Manuscripts and Asia and African Studies.

“I particularly enjoy the market research side of starting a business. The databases we have are brilliant and invaluable. I enjoy watching readers make the most of what’s available and in so doing they are minimising their risk for failure. 

I love recommending the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event. I believe networking is such a valuable tool for anyone looking to do well in business, and the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event not only allows you to hear from successful Entrepreneurs but it also provides you with the opportunity afterwards during the networking part of the evening to go up to them and ask them questions directly. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow in confidence and develop the necessary skills for business. I myself have grown in my networking skills from attending this event and always walk away feeling inspired. The best piece of business advice you’ve heard is, ‘Go for it- what’s the worst that can happen’ Jamal Edwards founder of SBTV.

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is the individuals that you meet and being able to help them in their journeys with the wonderful resources that we have and also being inspired by their stories.”

Uto Patrick, Project Manager of Start-ups in London Libraries


Uto joined the British Library in 2018, to lead on Start-ups in London Libraries based on her extensive experience in partnership working on multi-stakeholder projects. Uto previously used the British Library as a reader during her postgraduate degree and has always valued the wealth of knowledge held in the collections.

“My parents own several businesses which I have had the privilege to gain some experience in supporting them. I fully understand the entrepreneurial drive that made both of them step away from professional careers to forge a path that would ensure long-term financial security for our family. There is something very liberating in working for yourself and seeing something that you’ve birthed grow and become a pillar that creates jobs in the community.

SiLL is an ERDF project that takes the blueprint of business support provided in the BL’s BIPC – onto our highstreet libraries. It is working collaboratively with 10 London boroughs to democratise entrepreneurship and ensure that people from all walks of life can access the right information and support locally. The support includes workshops, 121s with our SME Champions, inspiring events, networking etc. to provide fertile ground for seeds of ideas to form roots, and the on-going support during the project to help these ideas to grow. The project is truly special as we have proven the value of situating this project in libraries as they act as community hubs where people come to get information about all topics. This project has already addressed some barriers people face in starting a business and we are proud that the project is reaching underserved communities with over 65% of our clients identifying as women, 60% from the BAME community and 9% identifying as having a disability. It has become a pan-London project since lockdown as we are delivering services online so more people are better able to access the free support.

As a Sustainability professional, my areas of expertise stem from my interest in Low Carbon transport alternatives, Travel demand management, Active Travel, Placemaking (creating healthy streets), Public Health promotion, Air Quality, delivering community focussed projects and schemes. 

I’m always eager to see aspiring entrepreneurs that SiLL support embedding sustainability into their plans. I think the business information and support through the BIPC prepares our clients for the jobs of the future and provides a base of innovation to drive that future sustainability.

I would say the best resource at the BIPC is our people, the staff. The Business Information Specialist and Reference Librarians within the BIPC and the SME Champions in the SiLL boroughs. They have the knowledge and access to vital databases and tools such as COBRA, etc. that can ensure aspiring entrepreneurs don’t waste time or money in their start-up journey. The British Library’s ‘Democratising Entrepreneurship’ report demonstrated that those who receive start-up support from the BIPC are 4 times more likely to succeed in sustaining their business. I would recommend that SMEs tap into this freely available resource.

A fun fact about me is that lockdown has ramped up my houseplant habit and my living room looks like a tropical oasis with 38 plants at present.

My favourite thing about the BIPC/working at the British Library is the wealth of knowledge held by the people who work and use the space. It really brings to life the concept that libraries are not just full of books, but full of ideas and stories.”

Anna Savory, Relationship Manager for Innovating For Growth


Anna is one of our Innovating for Growth Relationship Managers, keeping in touch with all alumni (540 and counting) in our Growth Club network. Here’s more from Anna.

“Every three months I guide ten businesses through our programme of tailored one to one sessions designed to help them find new ways of adapting and growing (even in our current challenging circumstances). I’m the human face of the project, a first port of call for support, and the bridge between our businesses and our wonderful team of external business advisors. It’s really wonderful to see SMEs enter the programme at the start of those three months and leave it energised and full of new plans. I basically get paid to be around inspiring people and help them take their businesses to the next level! It’s brilliant.

One of the BIPC’s resources I love to recommend, although obviously I’m biased, is the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, but I genuinely think it’s one of our gems. I can never quite get over the fact that it's three months of completely free business consultancy (worth £10,000)! I really like that you become part of a little family too. I’m still in touch with businesses that went through the programme two or three years ago, and will often get emails from people out of the blue giving me an update on all their latest exciting developments. But overall, I just think so much of what is on offer at the BIPC is brilliant. It’s all gold!

My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s a ship! The interior is designed to look like a cruise ship, and if you view the building from the outside, it has a prow and chimneys like an ocean liner. My favourite thing about working at the British Library (and where I’m most likely to be found when not at my desk) however is a type of donut they sell in the Origin coffee shops, and the fact that I have a staff discount so I can really go mad on them.”


Gloria Bertussi, Innovating for Growth Project Coordinator


Gloria’s role looks after our start-up group; anyone who wants to start a new business or who just has a business idea buzzing through their mind. Gloria guides & advises them on what can be offered to get the most out of our programme. It’s a great way for them to take their first steps into the business world with our delivery partner & reference team experts.

“Obviously I’m biased, but my favourite resource is by far our Get Started workshop. It runs monthly & is divided into two parts. It’s very detailed (six hours in total!) & you get a good grasp of what you need to do to start your own business, as well as networking, which is always useful. Our delivery partner is a very knowledgeable entrepreneur, who is able to tailor the workshop flow, depending on who is taking part. This is a great service, packed with useful tips and advice; we always get great feedback. The next workshops are on Tuesday 8 & Wednesday 9 December.

My best piece of business advice is: “Don’t wait to be ready, just take a chance and go for it.”

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is I love discovering so many different businesses & entrepreneurs, it’s really inspiring to hear the stories. Another thing I enjoy about working at the @britishlibrary is the peace & quiet of the Reading Rooms. I’m an avid reader, so to be in a library it’s already special. I love the sense of peace I get whenever I enter the doors, even when it’s bustling with people, it still feels quiet and to think that we’re in the heart of London, that’s quite rare!

Outside of work, you’re most likely to find me behind my sewing machine! I taught myself how to sew a few years ago & have never let go of it. I have a (very) small business called Tiny Studio London, I make accessories with the most beautiful fabrics, so every bit of free time I have is spent sewing & designing new products.”


Jen Scott, founder of Hustle and Heels

Jen Profile Pic

Jen founded Hustle and Heels (H&H) a social enterprise set up to support underrepresented entrepreneurs to start, improve or grow their business. This is done through events, workshops and programs that provide the tools and resources needed to make better business decisions and increase their own chances of success. Jen has also been delivering our Start-ups in London Libraries Marketing Masterclass across our ten partner boroughs.

“I have personally started and stopped running several businesses of my own over the last 15 years which has helped me to learn a lot about what not to do and how to grow from your mistakes. Hustle & Heels is the product of all those experiences and the foundation on which we now help others to start and grow their businesses.

H&H was set up 5 years ago with my business partner Jamie Tavares to create a space for ambitious professionals to learn, connect and socialise their way to success with other ambitious start-ups in a more laid back, relaxed way.

Entrepreneurship as a whole is my thing! Helping people turn their ideas into a viable business and see their growth as they overcome their challenges is a definite passion and interest of mine. There is so much information available online and for many business owners it is a task in itself to sift through what’s relevant. I take pride in simplifying seemingly difficult areas of business and making them relatable to those just starting out. We focus on helping start-ups to understand what steps to take and which strategies, processes and systems are right for them. 

After 5 years of running our lunch and learns for early-stage start-ups, guest numbers started to decline as the needs of our community began to change. As a small business ourselves we quickly realised the need to adapt or die essentially, so I began to seek out new ways to diversify our income streams. I was told about the public sector supply chain and how we could provide our business support services to local authorities who wanted to outsource certain projects. The very first opportunity I came across and applied for was the British Library’s Start-ups in London Libraries 2-Day Workshop, but not having had any prior local authority experience our proposal was unsuccessful. Undeterred, we continued the search and was able to secure a few opportunities to provide business support with Independent retailers in Waltham Forest shortly after. Several months later, we were invited to apply for the British Library Marketing Masterclass contract which I confidently applied for as we had the experience needed by then to be considered. One creative proposal and an interview later, the rest as they say is history… 

One resource I think any budding entrepreneur should know about is the marketing funnel, also known as the sales/purchasing funnel is a great tool that every start-up should use as it helps business owners to map out their customer journey from initially finding out about the business to them converting into a customer. So many start-ups struggle with understanding how to attract customers and how to keep them engaged enough to buy so we find that the funnel is the most effective and simple way to map out the marketing activity required at each stage. We break this down further in the Marketing Masterclass, showing business owners where to find people that would be interested in buying and how to convert them into customers. 

Something thought-provoking that I often share with start-ups is… 

“The only thing between you and success is what you don’t do, and who you don’t know” 

As business owners we often make excuses about not being able to progress because we don’t know what to do or who to connect with, but these are the very reasons that stop us from progressing in business and in life. We created Hustle & Heels to overcome this and intentionally design our programs and workshops to allow people to learn what they need to while connecting with who they want to. 

A big highlight has to be all the different people you get to meet at the Marketing Masterclass. We make a point of starting each session by asking everyone what they do and to talk about their journey in business so far to ensure everyone has an idea of who else is in the room. 

My favourite part is watching the attendees connect with one another during and after the session, exchanging details, contributing valuable suggestions and resources they have found useful to help others overcome their current challenges. There is always such a buzz in the room, people are so passionate about learning and the odd character in some sessions can make things very entertaining at times.

Our Hustle & Heels Monthly start-up Meet-ups at the Microsoft Store in Oxford Circus is my favourite place to be. You’ll find me there every month squeezing as much knowledge as possible out of the industry experts that join us as guest speakers at each event. We have also included a pitch competition that gives three entrepreneurs two minutes to share their start-up story for a chance to be crowned the Hustle & Heels ‘Entrepreneur of the month’.

A fun fact about me is that I am addicted to the salt popcorn from Tescos!


If you are interested in learning more about the BIPC and the resources available to you, visit our website:

07 March 2021

A week in the life of James Seager, Company Director of Les Enfants Terribles

Les Enfants Terribles is the pioneering theatre company behind the groundbreaking immersive productions “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, “Dinner at the Twits”, “The Game’s Afoot” and “Inside Pussy Riot” as well as original and innovative stage shows ‘The Trench’, “The Terrible Infants” and “The Vaudevillans”.

Run and co-owned by James Seager and Oliver Lansley, the company was formed in 2002 and together they have pushed the boundaries of immersive theatre, alongside their unique take on more traditional stage shows, always challenging the audiences’ perception of theatrical productions. They took part in our Innovating for Growth programme in 2020.

Their artistic policy is simply to make theatre they love and that excites them. With a large and loyal following for their spellbinding work, Les Enfants Terribles continues to captivate audiences in the UK and internationally.

James is the lead producer and creative director of the company and he also co-directs many of the shows.  Currently he is the director for Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure, which is an immersive online show designed to bring the Les Enfants Terribles magic into people's homes. It has just opened and you can find out more at He shared what a week in the build up to the opening of this show looked like...


The start of a big week – well most weeks are pretty big at the moment due to us launching our new immersive on-line show Sherlock Holmes:  The Case of the Hung Parliament, but this week is a biggie!  We’ve been tirelessly working on this show for three months now and working to build a unique ‘game’ for people to experience.  Working in entirely new ways is always very exciting but it has surprised us how similar this on-line show has been in its creation to how we usually plan our immersive shows like Alice’s Adventures Underground which was similarly built on spreadsheets and computers.  The beauty of course is that the audience are never aware of the complicated tech behind these shows (nor should they) and just enjoy the show as a narrative creative experience.  However, when you are genuinely doing something new you’re bound to hit hurdles and unfortunately our Sherlock show has been slightly delayed due to an issue it took the tech team three days to find and 3 minutes to solve!  Of course, this waiting has been quite stressful as we have many sold out shows and an expectant audience for next week when we go live so we have to deliver the ‘game’ by next Thursday.

James Seager & Oli Lansley_┬®Rah Petherbridge Photography
Les Enfants Terribles Directors James Seager and Oli Lansley

I start my day going for a run - I started this routine every morning since lockdown one last March and have kept it up for a year and do you know what?  I still hate it and it still is not any easier!  However, it does I suppose, clears the cobwebs and gets me started for the day.  I am lucky that I have a small outdoor office in my garden which psychologically has been great to ‘leave the house’ and try and leave work when I ‘come back home.’  Running a company is stressful at the best of times but in lockdown and trying to create a new show – its doubly so!  Monday’s we have a team meeting on zoom which we try and keep to an hour and half but it always runs over.  It’s a good chance for the office to connect when we are all apart working remotely and to see what is on everyone’s plate for the day ahead.  The big question of the day is when do we expect delivery from of the final product for the on-line show  – we hear from the tech team that it will be this week and we remain cautiously optimistic and excited.  The ‘rushes’ we’ve seen so far look extraordinary.  At 2pm I have an interview with the FT about the technology and about creating theatre in a pandemic.  I hope it will be a good piece as we chatted on zoom for an hour and half!  Hearing myself speak it really dawns on me how challenging it is for all the office to create a piece of theatre when we are all apart and a piece of online immersive theatre that is genuinely different.   The rest of the day I’m looking at schedules for the actors (16 of them) who will be in the show and then I join a zoom about a writer’s programme.  The previous week was very stressful but it looks like we have turned a corner and as my head hits the pillow I hope for good news tomorrow.


Ugh another run – still as hard as it was a year ago!  We get news from the tech team that they have sent over the first pass at 9.45am which is great.  The day ahead looks likely to be a testing day to see if it works for us as we start the morning with a few issues.  My team have a call with the tech team at 11am and so we hold off scheduling the actors for rehearsals until we are all happy.  The tech team spend most of the day trying to make the small issue go away which is like waiting in a delivery room reception in a hospital!  I spend the day trying to put it out my my mind by working on a creative pitch for a large company who want us to create an immersive charitable experience for them at the end of the year.  It is based on a book and I spend the day listening to an audio reading of it while creating the immersive idea for it – once finished I send it over to my co-director to get his thoughts.  5pm we are still waiting news on the technology from the tech team who have reported they have fixed the final problem and they need to test it further.  The deadline looms!  At 7pm I receive a version and have to test it for most of the evening – it’s a late one..

Alices Adventures Undergound_Les Enfants Terribles
One of Les Enfants Terribles' previous productions 'Alice's Adventures Underground'


Raining this morning for my run – double ugh.  The show development has hit a snag as its only playing 65 minutes and cutting off the final 9 minutes of the show for some reason so its back to the tech guys to see if they can solve the issue before we roll it out next week.  We spend the day in zoom meetings discussing options and plans in case we don’t hit the deadline but we hear good news at 5pm that the system is responding well to some ‘care’ and we should be able to test it again on Friday.  A long day!


More updates from the tech team and its more waiting our end to see if the changes they have made will work – they need 24 hours so we will get our final update tomorrow.  I spend the day on zooms discussing options and then we realise a 6 second piece of video is missing from the content – not crucial – but still missing.  I get my daughter to film it as we need a hand holding some birthday cards and then I send it over the editor!  Back to working on some head of terms agreements for a secret project that we are hoping to launch next year and we’ve been planning for a further three years.

Sherlock Holmes from the Les Enfants Terribles production of Sherlock Holmes: The Online Adventure


It looks like we will be able to launch the show next Friday which is great news.  We intend to change a few things and then rehearse all the actors next week before going live with the show on Friday.  We are all very excited and can’t wait to unleash the show to the public and hopefully give a bit of theatre to people who have really missed it over the last year.  The whole day is spent planning rehearsals and logistics.

Saturday and Sunday

I try and not work weekends but that’s tricky!  Especially when you are launching a show in a week so I spend some time with the family on a long walk and long lunch and sometime in my office shed preparing for the week ahead.  It’s been a busy week but as expected and we can’t wait for the show to open on Friday.

Find out more about Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure and book your tickets by visiting