Brunel’s original Temple Meads station goes back to the future as platform for Bristol’s innovation

December 2, 2013

Bristol’s ambition to be a world-class city for innovation and creativity takes a major leap forward today when Brunel’s original railway station at Temple Meads re-opens as a hi-tech enterprise hub.

The Engine Shed, once Bristol’s gateway to the world, has been transformed into a modern centre to spearhead the city’s inward investment drive, create jobs and encourage a new generation of high-growth businesses.

The Grade I listed building, opened in 1841 as one of the world’s first railway stations, is now one of the its most connected enterprise hubs, acting as a ‘shopfront’ for potential investors in the region and a showcase for Bristol’s innovation.

The result of a £1.7m upgrade, thanks to a partnership between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), over the next 15 years the Engine Shed is expected to generate 5,000 high-value jobs in the in the high-tech, creative and low carbon sectors.

Minister for cities Greg Clark will this evening join Bristol’s Mayor George Ferguson and Professor Sir Eric Thomas, the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, to officially the Engine Shed.

The Mayor’s support for the project meant it got off the ground with unprecedented speed, moving from initial approval from the council in March to the completion of building work in November.

Mayor Ferguson said: “The opening of Engine Shed in record time demonstrates the innovation, ambition and collaborative working that exists here in the city. Once home to Brunel’s innovative railway, Engine Shed is now in the heart of Bristol’s Enterprise Zone and is home to creative and high tech companies developing the technology of the future. It is also key node on the GigaBit Bristol broadband network connecting buildings in the city, and developing the potential for new collaborative and creative working.”

The building will be managed by Bristol SETsquared – the University of Bristol’s double award-winning business incubator – which will take a third of the space to provide premium serviced offices for its early-stage technology businesses.

Engine Shed director Nick Sturge says the move will allow SETsquared to support more businesses than ever before and in turn create new high-value jobs.

“These are exciting times for the business community in Bristol. Thanks to Brunel, his Engine Shed once epitomised the cutting-edge of technology in the 19th Century, and now it will be a hub for new technology in the 21st Century,” he said.

“We believe that Engine Shed, both as a building and a concept, is the right vehicle to demonstrate that the West of England is the best place to start or grow a low-carbon, creative or high-tech business. Its uniqueness and strength lies in how many people and organisations are under one roof – academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, policy makers and business leaders. We like to think of it as a ‘living marketing suite’ for inward investors.”

A total of 18 SETsquared companies are based at Engine Shed already with a further 44 businesses using the business centre’s resources and facilities including hot desks, breakout spaces and meeting rooms. In total, there will be space for 160 people.

Also based there will be the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Invest in Bristol and Bath growth hub, the new WebStart Bristol internet incubator and DigiCity, operated by the University of Bath Innovation Centre.

Core to Engine Shed will be Brunel’s boardroom suite of meeting rooms for hire, a membership only business lounge and co-working and collaboration spaces for academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and business leaders.

A public lobby will provide an information point and innovation showcase to highlight the enterprise activities taking place across the West of England.

Accountancy firm Baker Tilly has supported SETsquared since its early days, providing a bi-weekly ‘accountants in residence’ service to members. Its Bristol office is co-sponsoring today’s Engine Shed launch.

Office managing partner Ruth Foreman said: “Brunel was a visionary who dared to disrupt, to challenge and to innovate, so there couldn’t be a more fitting home for the tech start-up members of the SETsquared partnership. We are proud to play our part in helping to build the technology business stars of the future.”

Engine Shed forms part of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, which will span 173 acres of land around Bristol Temple Meads train station and includes plans for a long-awaited indoor arena, new public spaces and a vibrant business, commercial and shopping district. Temple Meads station will also be completely redeveloped as part of a plan to grow and modernise the railway in Bristol by the end of the decade.

It’s anticipated that the new Enterprise Zone will create 17,000 new jobs in total and bring 400 new companies to the city over the next two decades.


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