Those universities - in Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey - are quite unique in the UK in that they collaborate to provide specialised business incubation resources to entrepreneurs among their students, researchers and the private sector in their South of England region.
Over the last 13 years, I am proud to say that SETsquared has steadily built its reputation as one of the leading providers of deal flow to investors looking to invest in high-tech, high-growth start-up businesses in the UK.
The reputation of SETsquared was acknowledged last year when an international league table of more than 1,200 university business incubators positioned us as the global number one of its type. What we do is world-leading.
The development of a next generation mobile telecommunications research centre at the University of Surrey in Guildford, for example, has provided the opportunity for us to reach out into the region, into new pools of entrepreneurial talent among technologists and innovators looking to exploit the next generation standard of mobile telecoms called 5G.
By working with the UK Space Agency, SETsquared’s Space Accelerator Hub offers bespoke business support services for innovative start-ups, developing downstream space technology solutions, including those using satellite data, and comms, GPS, navigation and timing services. In response to its steady success at the five universities, SETsquared worked in partnership with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to expand our incubator services to a hub in Basingstoke.
Basing View, in the heart of the town, is a vibrant business development area which has attracted many major technology companies. The 65-acre business park is currently home to more than 100 businesses including major companies such as Sony, Thales and Axa. Basingstoke was a natural choice for us to establish the first incubator which was outside the university towns, cities or campuses.
SETsquared launched in Basingstoke with a series of networking events in the winter of 2014 to build an eco-system of entrepreneurs, professional service advisors and investors, connecting them together around the incubator. We also ran a series of bootcamps – the award-winning SETsquared’s Entrepreneurship Programme which attracted entrepreneurs who believed they had an idea that was ripe for a new tech innovation business. We helped them to articulate that idea as a potentially investable proposition. Some of the best entrepreneurs from these programmes were selected to join the SETsquared hub as members and then, under the careful guidance of our entrepreneur-in-residence, Adrian Braine, they were helped to develop their own business plans that were attractive to investors.
Currently, the Basingstoke hub has 14 member start-up companies (of SETsquared’s total of 263 member companies). They’re all working towards growing their businesses and raising investment that will allow them to do this quickly and to start to sell their technology solutions nationally and internationally. These start-ups are working in sectors ranging from cyber security to digitally-assisted transport, and SETsquared provides them with the on-going support, expert mentoring and access to programmes that will help to develop their business plans and find valuable funding strategies.
SETsquared’s various programmes puts the entrepreneurs in front of real investors in a pitching environment and provides them with the opportunity to exhibit their businesses to corporates looking to adopt new technologies. We are very pleased that the first success story in terms of investment has been made by a Basingstoke company, RazorSecure, which has created a real-time cyber security monitor designed for small-scale networks.
After taking part in SETsquared’s entrepreneurship training programme, RazorSecure participated in SETsquared’s Open Innovation and Investment Showcase events, which sees start-ups exhibiting and pitching to both corporates looking for technology to adopt as well as investors.
It recently raised a significant six-figure sum to help grow its business from Breed Reply, an incubator that invests in solutions involving the Internet of Things, with £150k of funding contributed by the Enterprise M3 LEP. We’re delighted for RazorSecure, but not at all surprised that the potential for this company and its technology have been recognised by investors. We’re confident that Alex Cowan, CEO at RazorSecure, will continue to do well and that others will follow in his footsteps.
This is the first example of the economic impact a small intervention has had – and we’re looking forward to seeing many more success stories like this as we continue to run entrepreneurship training programmes in the region.
Another company supported by the innovation hub in Basingstoke is EV Nav, which started life as a sat nav app and changed business model thanks to advice and guidance from SETsquared. EV Nav now operates as a data broker for electric vehicle data and attended an Open Innovation event with Ford, organised by SETsquared, earlier this year.
What we have seen in our incubators and what is going on in the global market for connected digital products services, for example driverless cars, telemedicine and smart energy meters, indicates to us an explosion of innovation in this sector.
SETsquared is preparing to rise to this challenge and we are looking for opportunities to further expand our incubators in the region. This would allow us to continue and to emulate the success of the Basingstoke hub, to make the support of our entrepreneur-in-residence and access to investors available to more digital entrepreneurs.
The Basingstoke innovation hub has gone from strength-to-strength, and SETsquared is at the forefront in helping to build the next generation of technology companies with the talent pool in the area. This will generate new jobs and ultimately deliver economic growth for the region and the UK.
Independent research carried out by Warwick Economics estimates the economic impact of SETsquared member companies to be £3.8bn over the last decade, with the creation of 9,000 jobs, and that these companies will go on to deliver a further £8.6bn of impact to the UK economy in the decade ahead.
Simon Bond, innovation director at SETsquared
People wanting to apply to SETsquared’s Entrepreneurship Training Programme can do so at: www.setsquared.co.uk/enterprise