Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

118 posts categorized "British Library"

09 April 2024

National Siblings Day: On building businesses together with Cultureville

To celebrate National Siblings Day we caught up with Ronke Jane, who founded fashion business Cultureville in 2018 with her sister Adeola. The African-inspired fashion brand specialise in hand-crafted clothing and accessories that feature bold African wax prints in contemporary designs. Cultureville utilised BIPC Greater Manchester to get support for their business, particularly through their social media workshops, and have also been receiving mentorship on our Get Ready For Business Growth programme.

What made you decide to set up a business with your sister?

Getting into business with my sister was a very practical decision: Adeola was in Nigeria and could be really hands-on with our production team and I was living in the UK and could take charge of our distribution. Our skills were also very complimentary - I was great with the technology aspects of our business which was invaluable for digital marketing and e-commerce whilst Adeola's background as a lawyer was vital for  managing the commercial side of things, so it worked out well!

What is it like having a sibling as a business partner?

Like most things, it comes with its benefits and challenges, but for us the positives far outweigh the negatives. I get to work with my best friend which is amazing and even in the difficult times I know she will always have my back. On the flip side we spend a lot of time together which can be overwhelming and it's hard to switch off from work when we're together. Furthermore, family issues can really impact the business because they impact you both at the same time. Ultimately working together has actually brought us closer, we understand each other better and our conflict resolution has improved. 

312494486_535202281944915_6122172265295624868_n

Is it hard to separate family time and work time?

Definitely! I'd say separating work and family time is one of the most challenging parts of going into business with your sibling, you have to make sure you're spending quality time just as siblings outside of work which can be hard because you already spend a lot of time together. 

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to go into business with a family member?

Communication is really important, don't make assumptions on what they are thinking, feeling or doing based on your relationship - having regular meetings where you can lovingly and honestly address your grievances really help with this. Keep it professional - you may be family but work is work so don't bring personal issues into the mix. Understand that you're a team: don't spend energy fighting each other when you can spend it on pursuing your goals. 

Sound like something you could do? If you'd like to look into setting up a business with a family member, a friend or even on your own, visit your nearest BIPC and find out how they can help today.

12 February 2024

Show small businesses some love

February is a month in which high street shops are adorned with hearts and flowers, and products are often tailored to reflect the theme of love. However it can be more than just a time for romantic gestures, and also a chance to treat yourself and your loved ones while also showing your local business community some love.

Below you can find a selection of luxurious products from the entrepreneurs supported by our Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) across the UK. Whether you're looking for self-care treats, or thoughtful gestures for friends and family, you’ll also help support our vibrant community of small business owners.

Give something scent-sational

perfume bottle

Sarah McCartney, who used our scale-up programme Get Ready for Business Growth, has always had a passion for making her own scents. Her award-winning fragrance, Goddess of Love & Perfume, is dedicated to Aphrodite and how she imagined the perfume she would be wearing if she descended to the North York Moors. Treat yourself or your loved ones to this luxurious perfume, a blend of all the fruit and flower materials we love best: rose, violet, raspberry, blackcurrant, bergamot and Mandarin.

Cost: £60 for 15ml,  £150 for 50ml

Where to find: 4160 Tuesdays

A sweet surprise

Gift guide 2

Vicky Armitage used BIPC North East to research the trends in healthy eating and chocolate, and her business produces raw cacao bars made from organic and nutritious ingredients. With flavours ranging from roasted almond to orange and raw caramel, these bars create a healthier alternative to chocolate that is just as delicious. All ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced and the packaging is recyclable, so you can give a gift that does good!

Cost: £4 each (10% off if you buy 4 or more)

Where to find: Meraki cacao

Wrapped up in elegance 

370395247_772720094859798_2207399417717638171_n

Get Ready for Business Growth participant Rory Hutton's products are perfect if you're looking for some luxury. Rory is an award-winning, Cambridge-based artist, print maker, and historian. Drawing upon many inspirations, including architecture, theatre, opera and dance, his collections of silk scarves are testament to the strength of his passion for beautiful things and creative flair. With designs inspired by Shakespeare's First Folio and beautiful manor gardens, these scarves hold a timeless beauty that will add a touch of elegance to any outfit. 

Cost: £45 - £200

Where to find: Rory Hutton

Good enough to eat 

326124406_753277599524558_447382314195834127_n

Amarachi Clarke completed our Innovating for Growth programme (which has now been succeeded by Get Ready for Business Growth) and used the BIPC resources to research the chocolate market. After teaching herself to make chocolate at home she learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands. From a selection of tasty chocolate bars to Belize cacao infused gin, Lucocoa offer high-quality, delicious products that will make the perfect gift.

Cost: Chocolate bars start at £2.75

Where to find: Lucocoa Chocolate

12 January 2024

2023: Our business journey continues

As we embark on another exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we are looking back at just some of the highlights from 2023, both for the Centre and among our network of users, supporters and partners. From the launch of our Democratising Entrepreneurship 2.0 report to the opening of more BIPCs across the UK, it certainly was a busy year!

The London Network continues to grow

photo from start up wandsworth launch

January saw the launch of Start Up Wandsworth in York Gardens Library, who also opened another business hub in Putney Library later on in the year. This is part of our BIPC local offering that brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs, also including Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham and Waltham Forest.

Start-Up Day never goes out of style

start up day one to one event

Start-Up Day returned in February with events taking place across the National Network. This jam-packed day consisted of speed-mentoring, informative talks, free IP support and networking opportunities aimed at helping creative businesses thrive in the arts and culture sector. We finished off the day with our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - The Changing Face of Fashion event at the British Library, in which a panel of industry experts, including Patrick Grant, discussed the latest trends in the fast-paced fashion industry.

Kickstart Your Business is born

kickstarting the london economy launch event

In February we also launched Kickstart Your Business, our programme designed to deliver grass roots business support and expert advice in libraries across London through two-days of free workshops, supported by JP Morgan. We delivered over 30 workshops in 2023, and we look forward to continue to support entrepreneurs across the capital this year.

Championing women in business

bipc devon

We celebrated International Women's Day in March across our network of libraries. BIPC Devon launched their 12-week Women in Business programme, delivered by Devon-based Business Women to empower others to realise their full potential and pursue their dream careers. Our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Disruptors and Influencers event took place at the British Library and focused on the 2023 Women's Month theme of Embracing Equity; topics discussed included shifting the image of women in business, and how we can best embrace and encourage diversity and inclusion in business for colleagues and peers from marginalised communities. 

Success for the National Network 

342193051_195826733219170_3428000557791246627_n

In April several of our National Network BIPCs, made up of 22 regional and 90 local BIPCs across the UK, secured additional funding from UKSPF, ensuring they continue to be a vibrant hub of support to small businesses until March 2025. Entrepreneurs and innovators in various regions can count on continued access to resources, expertise, and opportunities provided by their local BIPC, find yours.

 Serving up more events

348570254_783055156540993_8975423685702922826_n

Our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - The Business of Food: From Farm to Fork event took place in May, as part of the British Library’s Food Season celebrations. We were joined by culinary experts Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, The Black Farmer, and Thomasina Miers OBE, founder of Wahaca, who discussed emerging trends in the food industry, the changing image of food on the high street and the ways we can be more sustainable with our food choices.

Honouring women's enterprise 

women enterprise week event

We held an event in June to honour National Women's Enterprise Week, led by our ambassador Alison Cork. The panel discussion featured four exceptional women we have supported throughout their entrepreneurial journey - Cultureville, #ChalkandBlade, Pageful Productions and Skin Solace. They shared their first-hand experiences, discussing the realities, benefits, and challenges of being women in business and provided invaluable insights to empower other women navigating similar journeys. We are immensely proud to have supported not only these extraordinary women but also over 92,000 individuals since 2020. Among them, 63% are women, 32% of whom were from a Black, Asian and ethnic minority and 13% disabled - reflecting our commitment to fostering gender equality in entrepreneurship. 

Double celebrations

11351 BIPC Stats infographics PPT NN+London_1

July gave us lots to celebrate as the British Library turned 50, and we launched our independent Democratising Entrepreneurship 2.0 report at the House of Lords. The report shows that Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding between April 2020 and March 2023 has helped grow our Network from 13 to over 100 libraries. 

Art meets business

bipc liverpool

BIPC Liverpool City Region teamed up with Liverpool Art Fair throughout the summer in support of businesses in the art industry, in which they held Entrepreneur in Residence Clinics and hosted a number of events which gave support and advice to artists and others in creative industries. The 6-week exhibition culminated with an interview with BBC Radio Merseyside’s Claire Hamilton and Faith Bebbington, nationally renowned sculptor who is living with cerebral palsy and has survived cancer. She has since become a BIPC Liverpool client, and we have provided her with one-to-one support on her legal contracts and marketing. 

Our BIPC local turns one

376803277_790305446434596_1151592567015207985_n (1)

September marked the 1st anniversary of our BIPC local in Lewisham. To celebrate we ran an out of home awareness campaign, supported by Lewisham Council, with over 50 outdoor placements to promote the BIPC services in Lewisham. We also published this blog where we caught up with our Lewisham business ambassadors and heard about their journey with us.

Black History Month celebrations

saluting our sisters

To celebrate Black History Month in October we hosted our seventh Inspiring Entrepreneurs event of the year: Saluting our Sisters, honouring Black women in business. Our panel of visionary women shared their journeys to success, how they overcame challenges and discussed the evolving business landscape. We ended the evening with a fireside chat with Sabrina Dhowre Elba, CEO, Model and Activist. 

The National Network expands

Processed-2964626E-20FC-4014-B742-18A1CFA91121

In November BIPC Nottinghamshire opened a business hub in Nottingham Central Library, and enjoyed a launch event to celebrate their new space. Our interactive map also went live this month, which allows users around the UK to locate their nearest BIPC: you can find yours here.

BIPC takeover

Addy

Throughout November and December we ran a large scale out of home campaign in London to promote our overall BIPC services at the British Library and the Kickstart Your Business workshops taking place in our London Network libraries. This involved advertisement at bus stops, underground and rail stations, and other outdoor placements across the capital.

Wrapping up the year

winter market

We ended the year on a festive high with Winter Markets taking place in some of our libraries around the UK. This featured local businesses coming together to showcase and sell their products just in time for Christmas. We also curated our annual BIPC Festive Gift Guide, sharing gift ideas from small businesses around the UK who have used BIPC services.

25 October 2023

Sonal Keay: A Silk Road to Business Growth

Every quarter, the Get Ready for Business Growth programme carefully selects 25 high-growth creative businesses to embark on an exciting journey. This initiative, funded by the Arts Council England, is specifically designed to empower entrepreneurs to re-evaluate critical aspects of their business, from marketing strategies, innovating products/services to the entire business model.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Sonal Keay, the brilliant mind behind This Is Silk, who has recently completed this transformative program. Sonal graciously took us on a compelling journey, sharing the inspiring story behind her business's inception and her ambitious vision for its future.

"I’m Sonal, Founder of This Is Silk, a company that harnesses the healing and renewal properties of Silk for our skin and hair. I started the business with silk pillowcases in 2018 after experiencing these healing powers for my own rare skin condition and in 2022 we launched silk skincare and haircare after working with a leading cosmetic scientist.

A headshot of Sonal, the entrepreneur in front of a brightly coloured painting

It represented a personal and professional highlight for me to be back at the British Library for their Get Ready for Business Growth programme, because I had spent many happy hours researching there when I first started the business.

Our youngest daughter had just been born and every spare hour was dedicated to research and reading about Silk. It was at the British Library that I first poured over dermatological and scientific literature detailing the use of Silk as a wound-healer and it was through a mentor there that I’d obtained a start-up loan to start the business.

Five years after that time, This Is Silk was now the UK’s most awarded silk company, winning prestigious beauty industry awards for ‘Best New Luxury Skincare Product’ for our Silk Overnight Oil, coveted Beauty Bible awards and more. When the application for the programme caught my eye, we had just finished working with a leading university to develop a proprietary silk protein. As a sole, largely self-funded founder with no prior business or corporate experience, it is critical that the decisions I make to deploy our precious resources are well thought through and researched, especially on the cusp of scaling the business.

a hand dipping into a pot of moisturiser

So when I found out I had been accepted onto the Get Ready for Business Growth programme I was overjoyed - it felt like I was coming back home. It was a tough deep dive into both the business and into my own strengths and weaknesses and I took something very valuable and very personal to the business away from all the sessions with the experts. I will implement at least one headline recommendation from each of the experts.

Some of those sessions opened my mind up to possibilities, some emphasised the urgency of making changes and others gently corrected conventional thinking and challenged the status quo.

One of the best things I learned was about myself. There is a lot said about authenticity in the industry, and I had always assumed that as I had come to the power of Silk through my own, painful skin condition that that was the end of the matter. But Mike Waller, Professor of Design & Innovation at Goldsmiths University, helped me to realise that what I had done, and what I feel most comfortable doing is innovating. I am obsessed with the science of Silk and what it can do for our skin and hair, and that is my ‘happy space.’ Mike made me realise that the ability to innovate is a rare thing and that I should comfortably inhabit this space and that the multiple awards the silk skincare has won is a sign I am good at it. So I should make the most of it! To that end, I am hiring to free up more of my time to focus on this.

Mike also encouraged me to use lateral thinking when approaching issues in the business. We are in the middle of applying for B Corp certification and Mike had some incredible ideas about how to weave social good into the company’s foundations.

Another wonderful expert, Uday Thakker, urged me to focus on export and PR as significant levers for growth and I am treating his advice as a business plan to be actioned. Silk has traditionally always been an internationally desired product (the ancient trading routes known as the Old Silk Roads are so called because Silk was desired so much it crossed continents to reach its devotees) so looking abroad, especially in countries that already have an understanding and appreciation of Silk, whilst I build that education here in the UK.

This Is Silk serum

Suzie Campbell urged me to keep a very close eye on my numbers, especially during a growth period, and to keep an open mind for the right investor, who would suit both the business and me and I received excellent advice from Andy who reminded me to communicate everything I know and love about Silk not only to my customers but also to retail buyers at trade shows.

This is an amazing programme I would recommend to anyone looking to scale their business. The roster of experts there take their time to research and analyse your business and their 121’s are stuffed full with incredible advice and the support from Rosie and the team is wonderful.

It is now for me to implement all of this advice and I will report back from the next stage of business growth. I hope to do the programme and the experts proud."

 

Applications for the next intake of our Get Ready for Business Growth programme are now open, if you'd like to get involved email us at [email protected]

12 September 2023

BIPC Local Lewisham's one year anniversary

This month we are celebrating the one year anniversary of the Business & IP Centre Local in Lewisham. Building on the legacy of Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL), our previous programme in partnership with local boroughs that helped many start-ups throughout the capital, our BIPC London Locals makes this support a permanent offering. Over the past year Lewisham Libraries have played a major role in supporting over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses in the borough through expert led workshops, one-to-ones and networking events. We are proud that since opening, they have welcomed people from all walks of life, including 67% women, 73% from a Black, Asian and ethnic minority background and 13% who are disabled, demonstrating the BIPC's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Lewisham_BL_2019_00915

'I thoroughly enjoyed supporting businesses on a local level through SiLL, and I am proud that Lewisham Libraries continue to build on the positive working partnership with the British Library to deliver business support, developing exciting and dynamic ways to engage and provide the community with information as proud members of the BIPC network. Through BIPC Local Lewisham's business forums, one-to-one support sessions and digital market research tools it has increased access to resources for local businesses and residents. This success will continue to grow the local business support offer and expand reach for an inclusive economy. As we celebrate BIPC Local Lewisham's first anniversary I’m proud of everything that’s been achieved in the past year and I'm looking forward to what’s coming next.' - Mark Berbeck, Principal Business Officer at Lewisham Council

Meet our BIPC Local Lewisham ambassadors

These are business owners based in the borough. Some of them benefited from business support during SiLL, as well as BIPC services in Lewisham and the British Library, and we are now passing on their experience to local entrepreneurs. 

BIPC_Esther_03_815

'When I first came across the SiLL offer in Lewisham and attended one of their workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs I was lucky to meet with other aspiring business owners, engage with them and find out more about their businesses. It was a great opportunity to network, expand and build relationships with each other. Fast-forward and I am now a Business Ambassador for BIPC Local Lewisham and my business Authentic Worth Publishing continues to increase in legacy, awards, influence and inspiration for creatives, authors and business owners to authentically share their stories and turn them into published books.' - Esther Solomon-Turay, founder of Authentic Worth

BIPC_Jennifer+Fiona_05_113

'The workshops we attended through SiLL helped us take the right steps to position ourselves for success. Ongoing access to business support and networking opportunities through BIPC Local Lewisham has expanded our coaching business's reach, allowing us to connect with a diverse client base and share our expertise more effectively.' - Jennifer McLean and Fiona Wedderburn-Graham, founders of Amaze Associates

BIPC_Hannah_04_321

'BIPC Local Lewisham has provided such valuable support for my business over the last year. Through my work as one of their Business Ambassadors I've been able to connect with a wide range of other local small business owners, who I wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to meet and it's great to know that thanks to their network of libraries across the borough, access to meeting rooms and other business resources is always available to me in a convenient location, whenever I need them.' - Hannah Drakeford, founder of Hannah Drakeford Design

BIPC_David_06_032

'BIPC Local Lewisham has helped me build awareness for my business, Buddies for All, throughout the Borough. I have been able to access the various services they offer such as the Cobra database and GrantFinder, which has definitely been beneficial for my business journey. Buddies for All has also benefitted from being promoted on the BIPC website as well as being featured on their bookmarks, posters and flyers.' - David Bourroughs, founder of Buddies for All

BIPC_Mel_03_135

'BIPC Local Lewisham has me helped connect with other inspiring business owners and community project founders pan-London, and has also provided vast business resources such as financial planning tools as well as finance to do various activities with the book club. The funding we received from the BIPC also helped 4 of the boys complete an aviation short course, followed by flying lessons.' - Mel Nichols, founder of CHAYSES BOYS BOOK CLUB

Lewisham_BL_2019_00020

Part of our National Network, now in over 100 regional city or local libraries around the UK, our BIPC London Locals are based in Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth, and we aim to have 10 boroughs offering BIPC services through their high-street libraries by 2025. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to develop your business, they offer tailored support, free resources, training and events, both online and in-person to help you on your journey. In addition to that, you can take advantage of two days of free workshops that will give you the insight and skills to kick-start your business, supported by JP Morgan.

You can find the BIPC Local in Lewisham in their hub libraries in Catford, Deptford, Downham and Lewisham. They're free to join and open to everyone, so come by and say hello!

24 August 2023

BIPC Oxfordshire – helping young people to succeed in business

It’s been a whirlwind year for our Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Oxfordshire. Although it’s still relatively new, we’ve already supported over 1,500 people with their start-ups and ideas, and all of our hard work was recently recognised in the form of an award from Libraries Connected.

We’re delighted that our work helping young people in enterprising activities and supporting them into business has been recognised by Libraries Connected - a membership organisation representing the public library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - in the form of the Children's Promise Award. 

BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected
BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected

Of course, the BIPC doesn’t only support young people, but we’ve been particularly focused on younger generations here in Oxfordshire, partnering with local and national organisations to nurture their ambitions, and give them the skills to build their enterprise.

For the past two years we’ve been partnering with Oxfordshire Young Enterprise to host the end of year showcase. Last year alone, we had 75 students from 14 schools all over the county attend a special learning event where they pitched, exhibited and were interviewed on their projects.

We’ve additionally hosted individual school visits, including those for children special educational needs. This includes introductions to resources including our free market research databases including COBRA, which provides how-to guides on starting hundreds of different types of businesses.

For people making the first steps into business, we appreciate there can be barriers to accessing the knowledge that is mostly gained from experience. Having the tools to navigate the market is critical in so many sectors, and being able to offer access to some of these is something that makes us unique here in Oxfordshire. This is also why we’re also looking at cross-organisational approaches to link up with colleagues in Target Youth Support services to help young people who may not ordinarily have this access to get involved and gain skills they need, while also signing them up to benefit from a library membership more widely.

Beyond this, we’ve also been looking at how we can support companies or help people to create companies that support young people in education, wellbeing and other related activities.

Among the organisations to benefit from our services is GetFED. GetFED provide barista and business training for young people at risk of exclusion and exploitation. Through bespoke training sessions, the organisation supports young entrepreneurs with the basics of running a small business, developing barista skills and even project managing their own events.

Tim, founder of GetFED
Tim, founder of GetFED

The Drone Rules is another organisation that has been working closely with the BIPC. This unique organisation provides education for individuals and educational providers on all things drone-related – a technology that will be no doubt of interest to a lot of people.

William, founder of The Drone Rules
William, founder of The Drone Rules

BIPC Oxfordshire is certainly opening the doors for many young people and we hope we can continue to tap into the undiscovered skills of many more.

If you want to find out more about the work of BIPC Oxfordshire visit their website or head to the Centre, you can find them on the second floor of the Oxfordshire County Library in Oxford, with Locals in Bicester and Blackbird Leys Libraries.

Ryan Johnson – BIPC Engagement and Marketing Manager at Oxfordshire County Council

22 August 2023

An innovative history of the historic patent collection at the British Library

Sir Isaac Newton, once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” A few generations after, the Newtonian revolution in physics along with other discoveries of the time heralded in a new age of innovation, engineering and industry. Patents are the primary records of that step process in innovation. They’re a fascinating and invaluable ‘time capsule’ of brilliance (and occasional eccentricity).

Today, the British Library’s historical patent collection has become a world leading collection of historical IP documentation; not only from the UK, but from over 150 countries worldwide. No other collection at the Library captures better the progress of technology and commerce from the early 17th century to the present day.

And now, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre also sits on the shoulders of this gigantic treasure trove of patent, design and trademark information. In fact, it’s almost 170 years since it was first made available to the general public as the Library of the newly formed Patent Office. It really is a library within a library. The history and development of the collection offers us an intriguing insight into how much this information was prioritised managed valued, for researchers then as it is now. One report, by the US Commissioner of Patents in the 1860s described it as a ‘technological library unequalled by anything in America’.

I believe it still is.

The Alexander Newton statue outside of the British Library

Why a patent library?

From a practical point of view, a patent library is an essential part of being able to find (and provide evidence) that a new patent application is indeed an innovative step on what’s preceded it. One can view the history of these patents almost like a family tree of technical steps and developments, each building on the other.

Hot off the heels of the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852, establishing what we know as the Patent Office (the Intellectual Property Office today), came the Patent Office Library. It opened on the 5th March, 1855. Its formal title was ‘The Library of the Great Seal Patent Office’. To be clear, there were patents and records of them before 1852, managed by Court of Chancery, but the nucleus of the library were 388 books from Bennet Woodcroft, the Superintendent of Specifications and Indexes, and 707 books from Richard Prosser, an engineer closely associated with the Act.

The site was on 25 Southampton Buildings, off Chancery Lane. A site it would occupy in various forms and alterations until the 1990s. In 1891, due in part to an increase in the number of visitors to the Library, plans were drawn up to rebuild the entire site. This was undertaken in stages between 1893 and 1912, with the Library moving to temporary accommodation in 1898. A full library service was maintained during this time. The new Patent Office Library was designed in the cathedral style of library architecture by Sir John Taylor.

Patent office

War and Post-war

The Library continued to offer reading room services during the First World War, albeit with reduced hours and staffing levels. Visitor numbers predictably fell. And with the later onset of the Second World War, the library experienced a few near misses from incendiary bombs and a V1 flying bomb in 1944.

All during the war years, the need for a comprehensive scientific and technological network in the UK was apparent. And post-war, while widespread support was seen for a national library of science and technology, there was considerable debate on whether the British Museum or the Patent Office collections would form the basis of the new library. The debate was settled in 1959, when a Working Party on the issue recommended the new library should be based on both collections, and put under the control of the British Museum Trustees. And this, in hindsight, was what took it a step closer to the custodianship we have today.

In April 1966, the Patent Office Library formally transferred from the control of the Board of trade to the British Museum and became the National Reference Library of Science and Invention, (NRLSI Holborn division). In the late 1960s it was decided that there was a need to create better links between the UK’s major lending and reference libraries. To that end, the National Libraries Committee was formed in 1967, which recommend the creation of a national library system in 1969.

The British Library is founded

And so, the British Library was created on the 1st July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act which was enacted in 1972. Under the Act the following institutions were administratively combined to form the British Library: the library departments of the British Museum (including the NRLSI), the National Central Library, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology.

The NRLSI was renamed the Science Reference Library upon joining the British Library and then in 1985 it was restructured to become the reference arm of the Science Technology and Industry Division (being renamed the Science Reference and Information Service (SRIS) in the process).

The British Library under construction

1998

The next most significant turning point was the opening of the St Pancras site of the British Library and the rehousing of the patent collection. The collection had its own floor (level 2 where the Newsroom currently is). But it wasn’t until 2006 that the Business & IP Centre as we know it today was formally opened. It was a unique opportunity to merge two distinct, but related collections; business & intellectual property under one umbrella. And so came a physical alteration to the space that included meeting rooms and the well-used networking area space.

All this was with an aim to offer a comprehensive range of resources, workshops events and services to support small businesses from the first spark of inspiration to forming and growing their business. Inspired by how the New York Public utilised its Science, Industry and Business collection it was a model that resembles how the Centre operates today at the British Library and now across a national network of over 20 Business & IP Centres.

But today, there is a very special merger that’s not only about business and intellectual property. It’s connecting the past with the present. Our current intellectual property advice and expertise would likely not exist were it not for the historic patent collection. So as we look ahead to what a tumultuous 21st century could bring, it’s somehow reassuring that the firm anchor of the past will continue to guide the innovators, problem solvers and entrepreneurs of the future.

Woman in the BIPC reading room at the reference desk, being helped by a member of staff

 

Co-written by Jeremy O’Hare Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC and Steven Campion, Subject Librarian at the British Library

17 August 2023

A few of our favourite things about the British Library

Did you know that the British Library is home to over 200 million collection items? Occupying over 746km of total shelving, growing an extra 8km every year, our St Pancras site houses inventions that date back thousands of years, as well as new technology from our digital age.

To continue our celebrations for the British Library's 50th anniversary, we asked our BIPC team what their favourite facts about the Library are, as well as their favourite inventions.

Here's what they came up with:

Meron

  • ‘My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s an unusual and uniquely built building that resembles a ship. Prior to becoming an architect, Colin St John Wilson was a naval lieutenant... This now makes sense!’ - Meron, Reference Specialist 

Bill-nino-gteH4r8SSqM-unsplash

  • 'My favourite invention is the Starship delivery robots in Milton Keynes. I love the innovative solution for local deliveries. They are completely autonomous and the robots can sense when they need to move out of the way. Since they can deliver a small grocery shop, it’s a great solution particularly for people less able to leave their homes. Also, they’re surprisingly cute!' - Claire, Head of Reference Services 

Jeremy

  • 'I find it amazing that as you walk through the British Library there are four levels of football pitch sized floors of information beneath your feet; the lowest basement sitting beneath the Piccadilly line. I find the historical patent collection just an endless treasure trove of incredible inventions that have changed what is even possible. My favourites are the aviation patents. The Wright Brother’s and Frank Whittle’s aviation patents. Like so many of us, I took one of these ‘flying machines’ to go on holiday somewhere warm and didn’t even consider the marvel of it.' - Jeremy, Research & Business Development Manager

Isabel Oswell5

  • 'I have thick and often unruly hair and couldn’t live without my trusty Tangle Teezer™.  Shaun Pulfrey, inventor and founder of the eponymous company, came to the Business & IP Centre when it had recently opened to see if he could protect his innovative design and now, over 15 years later, he has patented the brush in over 30 countries. Each brush design is also protected by design rights and the name Tangle Teezer™ is also protected as a trade mark.  Shaun also took part in our scale-up programme, now called Get Ready for Business Growth in 2014-15 and in 2021 he hit revenues of £43.5 million and sold a majority stake to Mayfair Equity Partners for around £70 million.  This is an incredible achievement by Shaun and his team and we like to think that we made a positive contribution to their successful business journey.' - Isabel, Head of Business Audiences

V2 10834 BIPC National Network Presentation map_2022_3

  • 'Apart from the amazing free business support the BIPC National Network provides, the most impressive aspect is its geographical spread. It would take just over six days and 458 grueling miles to walk from the most southern point of the BIPC National Network (BIPC Devon Local in Paignton) to its most northern point (BIPC Glasgow in the Mitchell Library).' - Billy, Project Administrator

1

  • 'My favourite invention is the printing press. The democratisation of text ushered in the second information age in Europe by allowing for the mechanical mass production of books and broadsheets. With greater demand for written materials, the invention also fostered translations of popular texts that could be disseminated to the public rather than remaining within the church or royal courts. The British Library’s Treasures exhibit displays one of Gutenberg’s bibles, the first book printed with moveable type in Western Europe, as well as a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton, the first book printer in England.'  - Amy, Growth Programme Service Liaison Manager

Simon

  • 'My favourite invention would have to be either the Printing Press, or the Electric Guitar!' - Simon, MI and Project Coordinator

Jordan

  • ‘If you see five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the Library's collection.’ - Jordan, BIPC Workshop and Events Administrator 

Exterior_7

  • ‘Our science blog recently posted some interesting facts about the hidden 'wild' features of the British Library: "the British Library hosts a permanent show of animal fossils, hiding in plain sight. As you cross the Piazza on a visit to the Library you tread on limestone, formed in the early Cretaceous period (145 and 100 million years ago - Ma) in a warm, shallow sea, teeming with life. You can also find fossilised sea sponge outside the Conference Centre, as well as calcareous algal pellets and various fossil shells on the floors inside the British Library".' - Alyssa, Project Coordinator 

FNk7e1AWQAEvaLN

  • ‘The British Library collects words, written and spoken. Its sound archives collect oral history to bring back stories and accounts, like for the BBC programme Aids: The Unheard Tapes. I felt proud of the British Library’s contribution to the programme, which brought personal stories back to life, turning the programme into compelling viewing.’ - Elisabetta, Project Administrator

 

12 July 2023

50 Books for 50 Years of the British Library

As we celebrate 50 years of the British Library, home to over 13 million books, we’ve put together a reading list with recommendations from entrepreneurs we’ve supported from around the UK.

1. “My favourite books are slow-paced and reflective. Michael Cunningham's A Home At The End Of The World is the first book I remember reading as an adult that gave me that comforting, peaceful feeling I now associate with reading, which I do a lot." - Sam Hutchinson, co-director of b small publishing

2. "A book that impacted me is Small Change by Nabeel Hamdi." -  Jan Kattein, director of Jan Kattein Architects

3. "I would recommend Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – ever since I read it and made the changes mentioned, my business has been in profit and I can see it!” - Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

4. "A book that has significantly impacted me is Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal, a revolutionary collection of exercises and approaches to using theatre to rehearse for challenging situations in real life." - Jon Dixon, director of Dramatic Theatre

5. "One of my favourite books is Henri Charrière's Papillion. It is a story about grit, determination and the ability to stick to stuff you feel strongly about. Something I believe is so important about being an entrepreneur." - Doug Marshall, CEO of Altaura

6. "A book that has impacted me is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.” - Jessica Mello, co-founder of London Sculpture Workshop

Shot_06_0407

7. "It may be old school, but Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge influence. When reading this as children it offered so much hope. Quentin Blake (who created the illustrations) inspired us to pursue a creative career from a young age." Chloe and Abigail Baldwin, founders of Buttercrumble

8. "Frankenstein by Mary Shelley impacted me because I have such a vivid memory of being in primary school and finding out that the author had to publish the book anonymously because she would have been unable to do so otherwise, as she was a woman. I remember being so shocked by this revelation and discovering that women, people of colour and basically anyone that wasn't a white male, often wrote under pseudonyms due to them not being granted the same privileges. Mary Shelley is now infamous world-wide for being one of the first science-fiction writers. I just think it inspired me because it goes to show that in life, there will be obstacles in the way and people may tell you that you aren't capable; but if you are passionate enough and persevere, you can achieve anything.’ - Rachel Sampara, founder and director of Wings & Radicles

9. "A book that has impacted me is the Mechanical and Metal Trades Handbook. This is the English translation of a German engineering bible. Engineering textbooks are often impenetrably dense, but this book is accessible to all." - Nick F, founder of PipSqueak 3D 

10. “I've been inspired by Leading an Inspired Life by Jim Rohn" - Constantin Cornel Paunoiu, co-founder of Wine Chateau

1 Jasmine Richards photo credit Josimar Senior  and Black Writers’ Guild’ (1)

11. "Aziza's Secret Fairy Door by Lola Morayo - it was the first book I sold from my production company and thus my proof of concept that this business idea had legs!" - Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix

12. "A book that impacted me is The Source by Dr Tara Swart. The book talks about the power of mind and visualisation backed by neuroscience. I find the concept of neuroplasticity inspiring. Our brains have an amazing ability to change and adapt at any age. It’s never too late to reach our potential!" - June Mineyama-Smithson, founder of MAMIMU 

13. "One of the best books I found for anyone starting a creative business is The Practice by Seth Godin. It’s made up of lots of small ‘blog’ type posts which are ideal to just pick up for an instant shot of motivation and focus."- Helen Cross, founder of Helen Cross Jewelry 

14. "The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber was the first ever business book I read, the month I started out. It’s about understanding starting a small business, why most don’t work and what to do about it. It really impacted me and made me want to succeed all the more." - Victoria Eggs, founder of Victoria Eggs Ltd

15. "I enjoyed reading Suitcase by the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov. The novel, published in the 1980s, is a collection of stories, each one inspired by an item he took in his suitcase when he left the USSR for exile in the USA in 1978." - Laura Sheeter, co-founder of Chalk + Blade

16. "A book that impacted me is Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. It’ll help you stop procrastinating and focus on your biggest frog (tasks) first. Being a Virtual Assistant I am constantly juggling a million and one tasks, how do you identify what your most important task is when everything is important!?” - Keira Simpson, founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant

17. "A book that's impacted me is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg." - Adam Chandler, founder of Reel Film

Credit_Tony_Antoniou_DSC04847

18. "The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson impacted me because it shows that small, consistent activity is the key to forming habits that make people successful." - Danielle, owner of Wise Owl Tuition 

19. "While many books have influenced me, none compare to the Bible. Growing up Catholic, I find solace and wisdom in its stories, even during the busiest of times." Brian Danclair, founder of Fish, Wings & Tings

20. "The book that has had the biggest impact on my life is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen R Covey. In 1994, I was fortunate enough to attend a management course which was entirely based on Covey’s principles of the book. Two of the key symbols for Covey were the clock and the compass. Covey explained; the clock represents what we do with and how we manage our time. The compass represents what we feel is important and how we lead our lives. I was so inspired by Covey’s philosophy, it was the reason why I named my business Clock and Compass Coaching." - Daniel O’Connor, founder of Clock and Compass Coaching

21. "I've been inspired by a wide variety of books - reading James Joyce’s works like Ulysses while studying him at University in Ireland had a huge influence on me in understanding European connectivity. Also anything by Roald Dahl, who I’ve always loved!" - James Seager, company director of Les Enfants Terribles

22. "I’d have to say Brian Johnson’s Optimize. What’s fantastic about this series is that each episode condenses multiple business books on areas such as leadership, productivity and habits, taking the best bits and presenting them in 1h podcasts." - Zachary Pulman, founder of Zachary Pulman Design Studio

23. "A book that has had a great impact on me is Drinking from the Fire Hose by Christopher J Frank and Paul Magnone. Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded by information and data. This book helped me focus on the data I need and leave the rest aside." - Mario Spiridonov, co-founder of Santa Sofia

24. "I've been impacted by S.U.M.O by Paul McGee. I don’t usually read self-help, however, I found S.U.M.O. very relatable, easy to read and thought provoking, with plenty of humour thrown in for good measure. The book helped me learn some self-awareness, to look at myself honestly and understand how to make positive changes. I would recommend it to anyone who’d like to improve their confidence or find some motivation to change their path." -  Tracey Purcell, founder of Beautiful Ethical

1. NorthamptonBIPC__1599_Refill_fin_lr

25. "My favourite book is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It taught me that life can change at any moment, and if it does to keep going and do it with a sense of humour." - Laura, founder of Higham Refill

26. "I have been inspired by Natives by Akala." - Danson Njoka, CEO of Kugali Media

27. "I love to read motivational books and books on improving myself in all areas, and I spend a little time each night with a book. One of my favourites is Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W Clement Stone. It is a brilliant reminder that mindset is key, so this is one I turn to often to pull me back on track." - Maria Grachvogel, founder of Maria Grachvogel London

28. “My recent favourite books have been Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi." - Sadia Ahmed, founder of Oliver's Cupboard

29. "A book that has inspired me is Zero Limits by Joe Vitale." - Mary Otumahana, founder of The RecordShop

30. "A book which has impacted me has to be The Art Of Effortless Living by Ingrid Bacci. I read this book in 2010 and it started me on the most amazing journey with myself! This led me to start my business in 2013." - Rose Hill, founder of Co-Creative Connection

31. "The books that has impacted me the most is Dream Big Journal by Bob Goff." - Adeola Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

32. "A book which has inspired me recently is Sitopia by Carolyn Steel. It felt almost prescient reading it just before lockdown, discussing how we all need to reconnect with growing and making our own food in order to live healthier lives and save the environment.” - Frankie Fox, co-founder of The Foraging Fox.

33. "A book that I find inspiring and fits with my philosophy is Paul Jarvis’ Company of One: Why staying small is the next big thing for business.” - founder of Becky Griffiths, founder of Mother's Ruin

2023_03_02_BL_BIPCYorkshire0550

34. "We've been impacted by The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton." - Andrew and Sarah du Feu, founders of The Slow Vinegar Company

35. "Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman has been a huge influence. Not only is it an incredible story, it’s also one of the simplest ways of illustrating how unfair racism is in our society." - Eleanore Richardson, founder of Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic

36. "Ancient Wisdom Modern World by the Dalai Lama has made a huge impact. My mum’s had this book since she was in her 20s and gave it to me when I was 19. It started my path to Buddhism, which led to me adopting the vegan lifestyle, which led to Heart Street.” Evie-May Ellis, founder of Heart Street

37. "A couple of years ago a good friend of mine bought me In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney which has inspiration and advice from over 100 female makers, artists and entrepreneurs. On those difficult days in business it shows what you can achieve when you pursue your passion, giving you the courage to follow your dreams.” Kate Underdown and Rachel Walker, co-founders of The Fold Line

38. "I am passionate about cities. One of the most important books for me captures all the intensity, excitement and ambition inherent in building one of the great cities in the world. It's Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan by Rem Koolhaas." - Jan Kattein, founder of Jan Kattetin Architects 

39. "I recently read The E Myth by Michael Gerber again. I think all entrepreneurs should read this to help plan their way forward. Working ON the business, rather than IN the business.” - Bhavin Shah, founder of Central Vision Opticians

40. "The book that has impacted us the most is Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass." - Savvy and Stevo, founders of Savvykraut 

AShot_04_0131_crop

41. "I've been inspired by Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes" - Ronke Jane Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

42. "A book which has impacted us is Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Great insight into the underbelly that is the commercial kitchen." - Sam and Sarah, founders of Marla's Sandwich Shop

43. "I read to escape and switch off, so crime fiction is my favourite. I love Mary Portas' How to Shop with Mary, Queen of Shops. I have a signed copy after I met her at a book event and she told me she loved my boots while I waited in line - it was a true fangirl moment when I told her they were from our shop Finale and we chatted about it.” - Faye, founder of Finale Shoes and Accessories

44. "I enjoy books about food, local recipes, and the history and social stories that accompany food. One of my favourites is Taste Ye Back: Great Scots and the Food that Made Them by Sue Lawrence. Here a number of well-known Scots reminisce about their younger days and the food they enjoyed as a child. Everyone’s favourite dish comes with a special story, recipe or family tradition and always a huge dollop of nostalgia. When I read this book, it gave me reassurance that a Clootie Dumpling website was not a completely mad idea."  Kirsteen Oliver, founder of Granny Beaton's

45. "Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of international brand Patagonia. This book changed my outlook on corporations as it challenges the culture of consumption that we find ourselves in. It looks at the crisis we’re facing in western society and how to deal with it as forward thinking leaders and change makers. It’s had a hugely positive effect on not only the way I run my business, but equally how I live." - Hellen Stirling-Baker, founder of We Are Small Stuff

King's Library_George III

46. "All books impact me, regardless of their genre - for example, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens." - Tas Jennings, founder of Very Craftea

47. "A book that's impacted has impacted me is Creativity, Inc. - Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration by Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull. It's a book about running a creative business from the founder of Pixar. It's entertaining but also packed with really useful insights into how to run a business well for and with creatives." - Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson, founders of Happenstance Films

48. "One of the first books I remember reading is Fluke by James Herbert. It was totally captivating. I’m not sure I understood everything at the time but it’s the story of a dog who remembers being a human in a past life. I love reading fiction as it takes you away from the everyday. If I’m not reading fiction then I am looking at cookery books – another great passion of mine.” - Alli Briaris founder of Drinks Kitchen

49. "A book that has impacted me is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as I truly feel that if you are living in the moment then there can be no stress and you can be inspired effortlessly to what you need to be doing." - Julie Silver, founder of The Vitality Fairy

50. "A book that has inspired me is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It can be likened to a new business starting out, slowly and steadily working your way through your business plan and the process of what you need to do, getting everything in place bit by bit, before the final launch of your new business and spreading your wings." - Tracey Sharman, founder of Crescent Research

21 September 2022

Gold and the alchemy of Intellectual Property

Our obsession with one metal has inspired some of the greatest art and creativity in history. Why are we so enamoured with it?

Gold is rare, malleable, remoulded and reinvented into countless forms, throughout many different cultures and civilisations. It is also incredibly beautiful.

We extract it from the earth to form objects that are coveted and often become more valuable over time until they become treasures. This process inspires great innovation and creativity. All in the pursuit of one, precious metal.

The British Library’s Gold exhibition showcases its own collection of golden treasures. On display are manuscripts, treaties and book covers of varying ages and from different places, cultures and civilisations from all over the world.

Here we see how this valuable commodity, when combined with innovation, creates new objects that can be protected, valued and resold. As we’ll discover, it’s a kind of intellectual property alchemy.


Innovation to extract beauty


Over the centuries there have been various places where people have literally, ‘struck gold’. These have become renowned; from the ancient mines of Egypt, India and Anatolia to parts of Europe, where explorers obsessed over a mythical place in the new world called El Dorado, the city of gold. More recently, it is the 19th century that springs to mind, with its gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand and North America as well as Canada’s famous Klondike gold rush in the Yukon province, immortalised in novels and film.

Each gold rush generated new migrations, economic development and new technology. It’s here that the patent system gives an interesting snapshot into what was going on technologically as speculators were investing in sophisticated ways to extract more and more from the same mine.

A patent is an intellectual property right that will protect new and original inventions and processes. The British patent GB1853 no.997, Apparatus for Washing Earths containing Gold, is one such example. Here, two mining engineers from France sought protection for a new technique to ‘dredge’ and ‘wash’ earth and materials derived from rivers to extract more gold. We can see an illustration of how their patent worked in practice here:

Detailed black and white sketch of an invention used for mining gold

There were many other such patents at the time related to mining and metallurgy to keep up with the demands of the industrial age’s hunger for minerals and metals.


Innovation in transformation


Once sufficient quantities of gold are gathered, they can then be transformed into objects of various kinds. How the gold is used has inspired many different techniques over time that have lasted through to today. The use of gold leaf is over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians developed techniques to hammer gold into a thin layer, which created just the same appearance as the solid material but with a more economical use.

Gold leaf can also be finely ground into gold paint combined with a pigment to create ‘shell gold’. Again, another economical use of gold which means that the gold, in its leaf and shell forms, can be used in as varied works as wooden sculptures to gilded porcelain to illustrated manuscripts; such as the British Library’s Harley Gospels.

But the value is not just in the commodity, it’s in the artistic creation. Many jewellers have registered designs for unique pieces made of gold and other precious metals. A well-known brand like Bulgari have a number of watches registered as a design, presumably as they are unique signature pieces of great value to the brand and its design heritage. Here is one such UK registered design:

Extravagant Bulgari gold watch with diamonds


Main illustration for design number 80800720005000


Registered design is an intellectual property right that gives companies or individuals the right to protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape or pattern. These are ordinarily for more than one piece that is in production.

But what about one of a kind creations using gold? Can they also acquire extra protection and value?


The golden rule of copyright


Each of the works on display in the Gold exhibition is a unique work of craftsmanship and art. Among the most modern is an Art Deco binding by Pierre-Émile Legrain (1889– 1929) of Colette’s La Vagabonde Paris, 1927. Like nearly all of Legrain’s work, they are one-off, original creations and so are automatically protected by copyright at the time of creation. You can call it the golden rule of copyright: if you create an original work it’s automatically yours to own (or sell). However, as Legrain died over 70 years ago, his work is now in the public domain so can be copied and reused. However, this doesn’t lessen the value of his originals, which sell at impressive prices at auction due to their recognised skill and scarcity.

Intricate art deco style artwork using circular shapes. Gold in colour with accents of blue and white.

Pierre-Émile Legrain binding on Colette, La vagabonde Paris, 1927. British Library, C.108.w.8


All that glitters isn’t exactly gold


Gold is so valuable and treasured that anything associated with gold, almost unconsciously takes on this value, conveying a meaning that taps into our shared cultural experience and memory. This is where the modern world of branding has lifted this golden association and taken it into new places, in every kind of trade conceivable!

What do you think of, when you hear ‘golden arches’?

A search on existing registered trade marks is a fascinating look at how everybody wants to be associated with all that’s golden. There are over 1,000 trade marks that begin with the word, ‘gold’. From estate agents to media companies, the tourism sector to restaurants, to name but a few.

This goes to illustrate just how we love all things golden, that the value of a trade mark and its reputation is enough for businesses to invest in their brands with the hope of one day selling or licensing their name. This is IP alchemy taken to another level!


Why gold will always hold its value


But it’s not just the value of gold as a commodity, it’s the versatility of gold that exponentially increases its value. Its value may be in a beautiful jewellery design, a one-off work of art that features gold, an invention to find more gold or the power of association that makes us love a brand or business.

Gold carries a symbolism seen in every culture and time. It’s been considered sacred and it’s been considered profane. It’s inspired the best of our creativity (and sadly the worst of our greed). It is truly timeless and its varying forms are endless.

So next time you see anything golden, remember there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to its value. There’s creative alchemy, and sometimes a little IP.

Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert

 

Innovation and enterprise blog recent posts

Archives

Tags

Other British Library blogs