A Farewell to Future Space
As you may have heard, I’m moving on to a new role within Oxford Innovation as Business Development Director. That means helping OI to win new innovation centre management contracts.
I started the role at Future Space in May 2016 and we’ve had some ups and downs in that time! It’s been a blast though, and I have loved seeing more people join the community, mingle with one another, and even working together in some cases. It’s also been refreshing to see how many companies come here because of the opportunity to work with or get support from UWE; we hear from other Universities that it’s difficult to make that happen, so it’s great to see that activity starting to have an impact here.
Ultimately, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning – creating something more than just plain old office space. Anyway, I won’t be far away, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next era of Future Space will bring.
And as I bid farewell, I thought it would be nice to reflect back on a few memories during my time here, so here are my top 8 (sorry, the other two were censored…!):
1. My first visit to the University Enterprise Zone
Some of you might have heard me tell this story before, because it still amazes me what an amazing job the architects and building team did to create this space. My first visit to the UEZ was a bit of a shock – I stood where the BRL incubator is now, and looked across this dark scruffy warehouse and thought ‘what the hell are we doing?’!!
Over the next couple of months, I visited regularly for sales tours, and every time I saw it, it had moved on. The next pics are taken in early summer and the offices were starting to take shape and the holes had been cut in the ceiling of the Hub - it was starting to look a bit more real.
2.The doors are open for business (kind of…)
Sadly I don’t have a picture of this, but when we first opened, there were still various parts of the building that hadn’t been finished, so the H&S people decided that it was still deemed to be a construction zone. That meant that we had to still wear hard hats and hi vis jackets. After several months of this fetching getup, we didn’t really mind, but I felt a bit awkward asking our brand new customers - Reach Robotics and Open Bionics – to do the same! It wasn’t quite the professional business environment we were aiming for, for the first couple of weeks!
3. Venturefest and THAT flood
When Invest Bristol & Bath decided to launch Venturefest at Future Space in Feb 2017, we were really chuffed. And a little bit nervous! It was our first big event, and over 400 people were expected. Well, it was awesome! It was a really great showcase of all the great tech in the region, and we were very proud to be able to show Future Space off to that many people.
The event was on a Friday, and on the following Sunday, I got a call from the UWE security team. There had been a flood from a faulty pipe. Thanks to the UWE team, it was all cleared up very swiftly and no serious damage was done, but I still have nightmares now, thinking about what we would have done if it had happened a couple of days earlier….!
4. Global reach
In May 2017, we welcomed our first overseas company, TMSUK. They are a Japanese robotics company who have developed a robotic dental training aid and an autonomous wheelchair. They had explored a number of locations in the UK, but the proximity to Bristol Robotics Lab and the cluster in the South West were too much to resist and they decided on Future Space. I’ve chosen it as one of my top memories because it reminded me what a great proposition we have here.
5. A right royal knees up
We were very excited when we heard the news that that BRL had successfully secured the Hub as a location for the Pitch @ Palace On Tour series in July. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was all hands on deck to get the place looking spick and span, pulling together some great companies to showcase, and putting on an event fit for a Prince!
My favourite memory from the event was seeing Dave from Esoterix come out of his office, just as the tour party came past. We were running very late and we’d also had to get everybody checked by the Palace prior to the day, so I shooed him back in to the office. But Prince Andrew saw me shoo, and being the rebel that he is, chased Dave in to the office to have a chat. I think we were only about an hour behind schedule by the time we made it back to the Hub to start the event!
6. A bittersweet goodbye
In November 2017, we said goodbye to one of our first customers – Reach Robotics. It’s always sad to see nice people leave, but we were so proud to play a small part in their amazing journey. It started with Silas studying robotics at UWE and setting up his own company within Bristol Robotics Lab, they moved in to Future Space to grow their team, and by the time they moved out, they had about 20 staff, a significant amount of investment, and their gaming robots were on sale in Apple stores. They are going from strength to strength, and now have over 50 staff. Now how’s that for a journey?!
7. Meeting the neighbours
The build up to Christmas 17 made it to the shortlist because it was the first time that all of the bits of the building were encouraged to get together. The December customer get together saw the launch of our Beer & Pizza theme, as well as it being the first time that we had opened it up to our neighbours – Launch Space, Bristol Robotics Lab and the Health Tech Hub. There were festive jumpers galore, Christmas tunes and mulled wine – hooray! It went down so well that we do it more regularly now, minus the festive jumpers – they are banished until at least December 1st.
8. Summer 2018 BBQ
I really enjoyed our BBQ this year. I enjoyed last year’s too, but because I knew that this would be my last as Centre Director, I took time to appreciate it more than usual. The sun was shining, the tunes were playing, the drinks were flowing (thanks to Bristol Private Equity Club) and everyone was smiling. I feel very humble to be part of such a great community of awesome people – everyone is so friendly, intelligent and inspiring. Sometimes I wish I could have a ‘change the world’ business idea, but then I realise that being a small part in so many inspiring journeys is just as satisfying.
By Elaine McKechnie
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