Timothy Barnes, IDEALondon Partner

UCL join with Cisco and DC Thompson to deliver the future of start-up workspaces

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Tech giants Cisco have teamed up with University College London and DC Thompson to create IDEALondon, the newest addition to Tech City’s workspace revolution.

In a move that paves the way for an influx of fresh talent into Shoreditch’s expanding skill cluster, Innovation and Digital Enterprise Alliance London offers “a fancy name with a simple aim.”

The workspace, which it is estimated will house between 10 and 12 digital and media start-ups in a ‘hot house’ environment, will provide networking and mentoring programmes to help fledgling companies find their feet in Tech City. Unlike existing workspace initiatives, the collaborative effort will see start-ups approach IDEALondon with an existing company and, uniquely, a problem.

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These issues may differ from start-up to start-up depending on their field, but crucially, the partner institutions at IDEALondon must be able perceive an area in which they can add value.

The open application process, a mixture of received submissions and proactive engagement, allows UCL and their partners to determine which start-ups have the potential to benefit from the programme.

Timothy Barnes, Executive Director of UCL Advances and Enterprise Operations, discussed IDEALondon, its development and unique position within Tech City. He explained how unprecedented ambition of UCL and its partners to take a hands on approach to assisting start-ups differs from accelerators and incubators.

“Imagine an army setting down in a new area.They set up temporary buildings and infrastructure, but they won’t build any paths. Then, after a few weeks, they will go and look to see where paths have been trodden down, and use those as the blueprint”.

It is hoped that the project’s pioneering start-ups will help guide IDEALondon in its own growth an development. The development of IDEALondon will also provide an interesting commentary on the current state of Tech City.

During its formative years, Tech City’s start-up community was preoccupied with securing investment. In 2013, with household names relocating from across the globe to join the skill cluster, money is no longer the primary stumbling block.

Timothy Barnes suggests the current problem is now “start-ups not being ready to take the money… Investment should be the means, rather than an end objective”.

In essence, IDEALondon will be driven by the needs of its inhabitants, rather than the demands of the providers. UCL, Cisco and DC Thompson will choose to ‘champion’ start-ups who apply to join the project, but there is no expectation of financial investment or equity being taken from the companies who join. Instead, the founding organisations will highlight companies they believe could benefit from the support and guidance of a much larger organisation.

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For a new wave of start-ups, IDEALondon provides access to the expertise and knowledge of global leaders in computer science, technology and digital media. Sharif Zu’bi, a recent postgraduate in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL, said the project offered “an incredible opportunity to start-ups who have the potential, but need the guidance”.

Unlike traditional accelerators and incubators, IDEALondon brings together market leaders with distinct but complementary expertise in their fields, in an environment of support and, where appropriate, assistance. Should the IDEALondon venture prove a success, Tech City could witness a scramble for similar partnerships to be struck up between cluster participants.

With the project’s enormous ambition being matched by vast potential, Shoreditch Office Space will be closely following IDEALondon’s fortunes in the coming months.

If you would like to find out more about what we do here at Shoreditch Office Space, or would like to arrange a meeting to discuss how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at katie@shoreditchofficespace.com

(Special thanks to Timothy Barnes, Executive Director of UCL Advances and Enterprise Operations)