£10m Bristol tech investment fund launched as Engine Shed unveils its Boxworks expansion

December 4, 2015

Bristol tech businesses are to have access to a £10m specialist investment fund launched in the city this week.

Great Western Ventures will back small, fast-growth tech firms with seed funding – so plugging a widely acknowledged gap in the city’s otherwise high-quality business support ‘eco-system’.

The fund, backed by Bristol-headquartered national law firm TLT and London-based Downing Ventures, was launched this week as the Engine Shed – the city’s phenomenally successful enterprise hub next to Temple Meads station – celebrated its second birthday and officially unveiled its Boxworks expansion phase.

Boxworks, made up of re-imagined shipping containers, expands the Engine Shed by 30%. Engine Shed is home to Bristol SETsquared Centre, recently named as the world’s number one business incubator.

Last month Downing Ventures highlighted Bristol as one of Europe’s most attractive places for investment in start-up companies.

Since its launch just over a year ago, Downing Ventures has invested almost a third of its entire portfolio in start-ups based in the Bristol area.

Engine Shed director Nick Sturge said Engine Shed had made a surplus from day one and was now channeling some of that surplus into an enterprise fund to seed local projects.

“We have already put some work into stimulating the somewhat barren local investment eco-system,” he told guests at the Engine Shed second anniversary celebrations.

“I am pleased to launch Great Western Ventures this evening.”

The fund, which will take advantage of tax breaks offered by the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme), will be targeted at local corporate and private investors to invest solely in local tech businesses.

It will strongly complement the recently announced University of Bristol £2m seed fund.

The Boxworks containers have been transformed into custom-designed workspace for the creative, digital and hi-tech industries.

Among the first tenants are community investment company The EcoMedia Collective, which is made up of radio, social media and community enterprise professionals who use online audio and video to drive positive change in society.

Looking around the container – which includes two rope swings at one end – EcoMedia’s Kyle Hannan said: “We’re thrilled to be the first tenants. Engine Shed really is a centre of innovation and so it’s great to be part of its innovative expansion.”

Karl Belizaire from Social Enterprise Works, which is in the same container, said it he was delighted to be able to create a new social enterprise hub in the heart of Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, the Bristol and Bath Social Enterprise Network and Engine Shed.

“We’re looking forward to hosting our monthly social enterprise surgery in our innovative new offices and working closely amongst the vibrant high tech communities to help demystify social value and the various profit with purpose and social business models available,” he said.

Boxworks is designed as a ‘meanwhile’ project for up to two-and-a-half years while Engine Shed’s ambitious plans for a second building nearby take shape.

It has been designed, built and will be operated commercially by Frome-based business space firm Forward and will provide space for around 120 entrepreneurs.

Forward CEO Gavin Eddy CEO said: “Boxworks is designed to be different – inside and out. Not only is it a great location but the space is eye-catching, flexible, affordable and fun.

“It is a diverse community of start-ups, early stage small businesses and those requiring grow-on space.  Boxworks reflects the breadth and ambition of businesses emerging in Bristol.”

Boxworks has been sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group. Peter Capon from the bank said: “We know that having affordable office space in the early stages of any business is crucial to its success, so we’re proud to support Engine Shed.”

Jo Davis, regional senior director of property agents Bilfinger GVA said Boxworks reflected Bristol’s success in starting up and attracting entrepreneurial businesses.

But it also pointed to the severe lack of new space available for businesses.

Just 185,000 sq ft of prime office space was available in the city compared to Manchester which had 1.5m sq ft under construction.

“The innovation, creative and start-up sectors are really important not just to the Bristol economy but to the UK economy.  These industries drive into new market sectors and create opportunities that spin off wider regional benefits. Engine Shed and now Boxworks provides Bristol with the platform to be at the forefront of industries, a strong innovation and start-up sector is vital for the future concept of a knowledge sharing economy.  For the Enterprise Zone the success of both initiatives is a game changer to securing new private sector investment into the area”

Bristol Business News will feature a gallery of photos from the Boxworks launch and Engine Shed second anniversary party in next week’s e-bulletin.

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