[prev] …environmental issue, rather than it being simply part of their corporate responsibility. So, not just ethical businesses but those really dedicated to making an impact.
Can you give some examples of the kinds of businesses you now have here?
Wide and varied… At one end of the social enterprise spectrum we’ve got a company called WonderGears, which works with homeless people or those finding it hard to engage with society. They use bicycle repair and maintenance as a way of engaging them back in, giving them a sense of purpose and meaningful employment whilst also offering a service to a wider audience. Then we have Stepping Out, which is a consultancy company that supports public sector organisations who are reinventing themselves as social enterprises. On the environmental / cleantech side we have DZP Technologies Ltd working in the emerging field of printed and plastic electronics; Makism 3D – an innovation in new 3D printer manufacturing technology; Trident Energy Ltd which is an independent developer of enabling technology for the offshore renewable energy industry; and Autofina Ltd which works on open source robotics for developing world applications. Another tenant is Sustainability East – a brilliant organisation to have on board and one which fulfils both criteria in that they are a not for profit social enterprise as well as a focal point for activity around climate change and sustainability in the Eastern Region. As well as our social venture tenants a number of anchor tenants provide support services: Method Creative, an exciting and dynamic creative design agency; Grace Solutions Ltd, an IT support company, and Watermill Accounting, which is specifically for small businesses. We also have the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, a franchise set up by Peter Jones from Dragon’s Den, run by Cambridge Regional College, which enables students to come and develop their own businesses ideas with a view to working on the development of their own small companies.
It sounds like there’s great scope for collaboration and cross-fertilisation here…
That’s the dream and the ambition of the centre, and we’ve already started to see that happen with companies sharing ideas and contacts and finding ways to collaborate. The building itself has been designed to encourage as many of those ‘water cooler’ opportunities as possible. In addition to the informal contact, there’s a whole programme of events – from networking and guest talks to sessions where tenants can get feedback on any issues they may be having. From my perspective as Centre Director, there’s a great opportunity to introduce individuals and companies to one another where it seems there might be opportunities for collaboration.
What was your personal journey here?
My background is business strategy and development, sales and marketing. Prior to joining Allia I’d been at Anglia Ruskin University as Business Development Manager, working within the creative and cultural industries and setting up Creative Front – a membership organisation for those industries, with a view to helping galvanise the sector and establish itself as being an important economic contributor to the Cambridge business scene. I left to have twins when someone sent me a link to the job advert for the Future Business Centre director. I’ve had to learn the facilities management bit but I have a great team and a super Advisory Board chaired by Walter Herriot with help from Miranda Edwards at St John’s Innovation Centre, and Stewart McTavish, ideaSpace Director at Cambridge University. Seeing how we develop businesses and being able to facilitate that is something that I get very excited and passionate about. It is gratifying to know that, after nearly a decade developing the idea and concept, Allia has given me the task of delivering the vision… It’s really satisfying to see that ambition realised in such a fantastic way.
Future Business Centre
King’s Hedges Road
Cambridge CB4 2HY
0845 456 2432
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