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Rotherham confirmed as UK’s best location for incubation and enterprise services

posted 31 Mar 2011, 03:18 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 31 Mar 2011, 03:20 ]
Its official – Rotherham has the best integrated incubation and enterprise services in the country. 

That’s the view of UK Business Incubation (UKBI), the leading professional body on the development and support of business incubation environments that support high growth and technology centres as well as those focussed on regeneration. 

They presented Rotherham Investment & Development Office (RiDO), the regeneration arm of Rotherham Council with the Incubation Champion Award for 2011, at their annual international incubation awards held in Manchester last week. This is the second time that Rotherham has won the award in recent years, having previously held the title in 2005.

Key to Rotherham’s success was the recognition by UKBI, both of the Council’s commitment to providing incubation services through their business centres over the last ten years but also how an enterprise culture is being embedded across the borough, through an integrated package of support and activities.

Paul Woodcock, Director of Planning and Regeneration for Rotherham Council was pleased to win the award;

“It is terrific to be recognised by the UKBI for the work that has been undertaken over the past ten years, and continues to be undertaken in Rotherham around providing incubation and enterprise services.” 

Over the last ten years the Council’s business centre programme has supported over 400 businesses and helped create nearly 1000 jobs. And with survival rates of over 80% for business centre clients in their first three years of trading (against a national average nearer 60%) the merits of the support offered by the business centres has been proven.

The Council’s work in the areas of incubation and enterprise was born out of the decline in its traditional industries of coal mining and steel production in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was decided that support should initially be given to help local people in the Dearne Valley, and Century Business Centre was opened in November 2000 at a site in Manvers. The Centre, designed for small and new start business, offered a range of office and workshop units.

Since it opened the Centre has been home to over 200 businesses, and many of its former tenants have gone on to become larger, established businesses, operating in global markets. One of these Martek Marine have grown from one workshop unit to a world leader in the manufacture of safety and environmental emissions monitoring systems for the global marine industry, turning over in excess of £7 million per year.

The achievements at Century led the Council to expand the provision for small business incubator premises, and RiDO now has four centres, located across the borough at Century, Moorgate Crofts, Templeborough and Dinnington providing over 200 office and workshop units.

In 2010 RiDO Business Centres became the only business centres in England to join the ranks of the National Business Incubation Association's (NBIA) Soft Landings International Incubators. RiDO now works with other NBIA members in the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, France and the Netherlands to identify companies that are considering exploring the UK market, or are looking to use the UK as a base for further European activities.

The numbers have only been part of the story. Arguably the more valuable result of the business centre programme has been its role in helping alongside other related projects to embed this spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise across Rotherham.

The Rotherham Enterprise project, by helping people considering self-employment or starting up their own businesses within their own communities, helps people begin their business, often when they are not yet in a position to consider moving from a home based business into a business centre incubation facility. The project’s awareness sessions, drop-ins and clinics also bring the enterprise message to the public, and at times inspire those who may not have previously considered self employment.

Going forward the enterprise culture in Rotherham is being further strengthened by the work of the enterprise education programme, Rotherham Ready inspiring children about business as soon as they start school and Rotherham Youth Enterprise (RYE) providing all the support young people need to make their business dreams a reality. 

The development of this thriving enterprise culture in Rotherham was also recognised last year when the Borough was crowned ‘The Most Enterprising Place in Britain 2010’ in the Enterprising Britain competition. The nationwide competition run by Enterprise UK rewards cities, villages, towns and neighbourhoods that have tackled the economic downturn head on and are successfully creating jobs, boosting local business and nurturing entrepreneurial talent as the UK emerges from recession. 

Finally the importance of effective incubation and enterprise services, proven when the local economy was rebalanced in the 1990s, is been shown again in the current economic climate as once again the balance in the economy between public and private sector employment changes. A recent report from the chief economists unit at Yorkshire Forward states that Rotherham, along with Leeds and four other areas in the Yorkshire & Humber region are the only areas where the private sector is likely to create enough new jobs to offset any potential public sector contraction.

Although it is still early days in relation to the success of the overall incubation and enterprise programme, early indications are that a new generation of entrepreneurs are being inspired in Rotherham. There is already evidence that some people are looking to rethink their options, and in some cases look to establish their own businesses, and for these people the strong and comprehensive support available in Rotherham should provide them with the best possible start to their new careers.

For more information regarding the Business Centres, please click here.