Located on the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus at the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, it opened its doors in June – and likeminded tech entrepreneurs, startups and ambitious individuals are starting to call it home.
The centre will support the growth of tech initiatives from the ground up, and function as a gateway for companies looking to utilise the cutting-edge research and resources available at the University of Essex.
We spoke to centre director Daniel Smart to find out more about the space and tech in the region.
Why is the East of England an attractive destination for tech entrepreneurs?
Daniel Smart: As Tech Nation Report 2019 revealed, the Essex region is attracting more tech activity and investment than ever. Colchester is one of the biggest hubs in the area, and we aim to contribute to its development as a vital tech cluster.
Our partner, the University of Essex, has been collaborating with the business sector since its founding in the sixties. They continue to provide access to world-class talent and research expertise. The University’s Studio X, which is home to several exciting independent game studios, is also based in the Innovation Centre.
Colchester is very near to London, Stansted Airport and Harwich, which allows businesses here to establish great links to the wider tech landscape. We also have a strong creative digital sector, and we have good connections with the local agencies.
What kinds of businesses are based at the Innovation Centre?
They include digital marketers, digital asset companies, Biotech, InsurTech, IoT, cybersecurity, software designers, researchers and digital architects. The diversity within the sector is the key our success here. They all bring something to the table which will stimulate collaboration and breed innovation.
What does the space provide for its members?
Providing businesses with all the resources they need to allow them to flourish, it provides flexible workspaces, meeting and conference facilities, networking opportunities and business support tailored to its residents’ needs.
We’re always keen to collaborate and invite people into our space. Tech East is launching its Workspace Passport in the Innovation Centre, Knowledge Gateway, so we look forward to welcoming their members to our collaborative spaces.
What does your community care about?
Having been a resident of Colchester all my life, it was clear to me that the support network for entrepreneurs and startups in our region needed a boost. Oxford Innovation and the University of Essex have collaborated to offer this essential space to support budding ideas and grow the emerging technology sector in the region.
We offer an understanding based in experience of what early-stage businesses need and appreciate. If you’re a tech business looking to settle in the area, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more focused, flexible and engaging space to do business.
What’s the most fun/challenging thing about what you do?
It is fantastic to come into work and be excited by what is going on within the centre. There are some amazingly creative and brilliant people already in the building. As our businesses are so diverse, every day offers a different challenge and experience. But it makes it a really inspiring and enjoyable place to work.
What’s on the horizon for the centre?
The Innovation Centre will help to retain and attract business to Colchester and the eastern region and offer them a new and exciting place to work and collaborate. Having this resource in the growth stages of any business will be key to those innovative companies looking for their next steps.
Partnering with the University of Essex and being based on the Knowledge Gateway offers exciting collaboration opportunities for companies who, by utilising the knowledge, skills and equipment of the university as well as our in-house Innovation Director, will gain valuable support and resource in developing their business.
The collaboration with like-minded businesses and the wealth of knowledge on our doorstep will lead to the Innovation Centre, Knowledge Gateway being the region’s go-to for innovative companies.
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