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Challenges and opportunities for the Business and Innovation Centres

There is a lot of talk in town about the power of coworking and coworking spaces being the places where new ideas lead to new start-ups. The European BIC Network(EBN) having recognised the strength and potential of this trend launched the first issue of its paper series (EBN Technical Notes) analyzing the complementarities between incubators and coworking spaces.

The Technical Note surmises that the environment created by well-defined coworking spaces can actually help incubators generate higher and qualified deal-flow, while providing the existing incubatees with more opportunities to find talent and, even diversify.

Using experiences from all over the world, the authors question how coworking spaces can actually be integrated in to existing structures like incubators. Hybrid coworking seems to be the model of choice, and the BICs in Europe, are now starting to employ this strategy. Three interesting examples have been proposed, and while these are not exhaustive, they are certainly indicative. The consensus is that it is all about collaboration. The BIC Gategarching in Munich, Germany, has defined coworking as the ability to share knowledge and collaborate with other companies, and as the means to lower barriers to enable sound internal animation activity. In Sunderland, UK, the North-East of England BIC, coworking is fostered by providing a new layer of business support service as a BIC. As David Howell, director of operations states, “It is no different from any business we support, and we need to move with the needs of the market place and engage with clients on their terms and requirements.” La Cantine network of co-working spaces has been collaborating with Toulon Var Technologies from 2010, the year in which the BIC decided to open a coworking space, and as a result has leveraged on new opportunities brought about by the more informal, chance connections.

The paper concludes that coworking and incubation are not competitive, but complimentary forms of start-up support, where the former can become a powerful force that helps generate new ideas and ventures, while the latter provides structured professional support and services. The community effect that a coworking space can help achieve makes it a valuable addition to an incubator’s architecture as the range of integrated SME support service on offer. Philippe Vanrie, CEO of EBN sums it up by stating that the need to embrace coworking (as any innovation finding its way in the incubation industry), comes from the need to “break with dogmas and reinvent the way we manage innovation. Past models delivered greatly in the past and often still do. However, times, technologies, management approaches and values are changing. So are we.”

A must read for anyone interested in the field of incubation, as it highlights the evolution of the incubation industry using real-life examples.

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Published on 16-10-2012 06:00 by David Tee. 1156 page views

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