Bristol’s tech and science ecosystem gets its own ‘R&D playground’ as UWE’s incubator extension opens

June 7, 2024

The newly opened extension at Future Space, the innovation hub on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus, will create a “research and development playground” for the city, according to its director.

Matt Freeman, who took up the role nine months ago, has spent much of that time overseeing the development of the 10,000 sq ft new incubator space. 

Now it has gone live, he is looking to attract new occupiers to join Future Space’s existing community of tech and science start-ups and scale-ups.

The new seven new labs and 12 new offices offer space for up to 130 more people – increasing the centre’s capacity to support up to 70 businesses and bringing new jobs and opportunities to Bristol.

It is also forecast to add an extra £1m annually to the West of England economy, adding to the approximately £2.5m Future Space, part of UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone, already generates every year.

For Matt, the expansion gives the centre, which is managed by Oxford Innovation Space, the chance to refine its offering and refocus its role in Bristol’s tech ecosystem.

When it opened nearly eight years ago, the 40,000 sq ft centre was one of the few tech and science-focused incubators in the region.

Its laboratory space and proximity to academic and research-led facilities, such as the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the pioneering centre partnership between UWE and the University of Bristol which shares the same building, made it a magnet for ambitious businesses.

Many of them used it as a springboard for growth, attracting millions of pounds of investment and creating hundreds of high-value jobs.

But since its launch, a raft of new specialist space has come on stream in Bristol as operators seek to tap into the city’s tech start-up culture.

“We’ve now got the chance to position ourselves as different,” said Matt. “We’re promoting ourselves as an R&D playground.

“We want future space to be about collaboration. We’re developing stronger links with the university so our businesses can tap into the expertise here in areas such as applied science and engineering.”

Matt Freeman, who joined Future Space from Bath Spa University, where he spent just over eight years, most recently as Professor of Digital Media and Research Lead, Film & Media, also has experience of co-founding his own R&D-led marketing consultancy for the immersive sector,

He added: “This expansion demonstrates our commitment to providing top-notch facilities for our thriving community of hi-tech businesses inspired to work at the forefront of their sector.

“All new businesses will get access to our award-winning innovation support, including our new university-partnered approach to R&D and business support, allowing them to thrive in partnership with UWE Bristol, one of the region’s leading universities.”

Tracey John, UWE Director of Research, Business and Innovation said: “This expansion signifies more than a new building – it is the start of a fresh approach to nurturing innovation and R&D here at Future Space.

“This environment fosters collaboration, sparks ingenuity, and propels businesses to new heights through its partnership with the university.

“Together we support businesses throughout each stage of the scale up journey, allowing students unique access to the business world, and giving businesses unique access to new talent and exciting research.

“We’re excited for the journey ahead at Future Space and keen to see where it goes next.”

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