January was an exciting month for the British Library. We launched Living Knowledge, a new vision setting out our strategy to guide us towards our 50 year anniversary in 2023. We were also celebrating the end of phase one of the Business & IP Centre rollout, with the launch of two new Business & IP Centres in Sheffield and Liverpool Central Libraries.
Innovation around the country
The Business & IP Centre network, now comprising seven Centres in total, supports entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs by providing business and intellectual property information and expertise. This enables them to research markets and protect ideas both at home and abroad. Together with a range of business experts, the Business & IP Centres also run workshops, events and one-to-ones on a variety of business topics.
Following the success of the Business & IP Centre in London, Newcastle City Library launched a pilot Centre in 2012 with support from the Intellectual Property Office. In May 2013, following the announcement of support from Arts Council England and Department for Communities and Local Government, the Newcastle team launched their fully fledged Business & IP Centre. Hot on their heels in 2014 Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham launched similar Centres.
On 22 January, Sheffield Central Library’s Business & IP Centre opened for business, with local entrepreneur, and British Library success story, Guy Jeremiah giving a talk about his journey as an entrepreneur. Sheffield born and bred, Guy initially used the British Library’s Centre for patent advice when setting up his business Ohyo, manufacturing and selling collapsible water bottles. Over 600,000 bottles have now been sold worldwide at outlets including Boots and Marks and Spencer. Guy also talked about how the British Library helped him to protect his idea, back at the start of his journey:
It gave me confidence in my idea and without it I wouldn’t have invested so much time and effort into the business.
A week later on 29 January, Liverpool Central Library also launched their Business & IP Centre. They announced an exciting new partnership with Liverpool Vision and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and also announced that Councillor Gary Millar, Cabinet Member for Business is their first Entrepreneur in Residence, running weekly drop-in sessions.
It’s been a busy few years!
Libraries support economic growth
Libraries throughout the country from Newcastle to Norwich offer a range of workshops, advice clinics and one-to-one support to help you on your business journey. The PatLib UK network, recently expanding to include Hull and Northampton libraries, has experienced and qualified staff offering advice on a variety of intellectual property rights.
The Enterprising Libraries programme is showing that libraries are hubs of community learning and are succeeding at reaching out to diverse communities. The latest report shows that 54% of users are female, 24% of attendees are from Black and Asian Ethnic Minority Groups (compared to a UK population average of 15%) and 18% are unemployed or looking for work.
Libraries are showing that they play an important contribution to the economy by supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups. As a result, libraries are becoming the obvious choice for delivering enterprise and innovation support activities.
Are you with us?
With the launch of Sheffield and Liverpool’s Business & IP Centres marking the end of the first phase of the rollout, we are now looking at what comes next. At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned the British Library’s vision Living Knowledge.
The new vision includes our ambition to work with major public libraries across the UK to help transform them into hubs of innovation and economic growth. By 2023 we believe that there should be a network of some 20 Business & IP Centres, which are within easy reach of around 75% of the UK population. The libraries will be supported by branch libraries and provide a range of online services, including webinars, webcasts and online chat facilities.
We hope that others will join us along the way to tell Government, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and anyone who will listen, that libraries play a vital role in the economic recovery and wellbeing of the UK.