Drive to encourage entrepreneurs after centre’s great success

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Harborough District Council’s drive to encourage entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups as part of a project to boost the district’s economy has been stepped up thanks to its major successes so far.

The authority has extended the management contract at Harborough Innovation Centre with a remit to encourage innovation and is also making more funds available to accelerate small business growth across the district.

Oxford Innovation’s contract to manage the centre has been extended for at least another three years with the potential for two more.

The council is also investing a further proportion of the profits generated by the centre to enable the centre’s business coaching team to run a new district-wide business acceleration programme called Pioneer10 Harborough.

It has its own dedicated website at www.pioneer10-Harborough.co.uk and will see up to 170 businesses receive support.

It is replacing the Spark Harborough programme last run in 2015.

Council leader Cllr Blake Pain said: “The Harborough Innovation Centre is a success story for our district. It now makes us a profit which we can reinvest into improving local services.

“This at the same time as providing much needed bespoke space for innovative early stage businesses, supporting the business leaders of the future and boosting the local economy through job creation and supply chain opportunities.”

The new arrangement will see a greater emphasis on encouraging and developing innovation in a bid to create more jobs.

The centre at the Airfield Business Park, Leicester Road just outside the town, was opened in 2011.

Its income started to exceed costs ahead of schedule in 2013 and has now fully covered the costs incurred by the council in setting it up.

In this financial year it is set to generate more than £180,000 for the authority.

Currently 209 people are employed at the centre with 109 positions having been created by resident firms. A total of 22 new businesses started at the centre and 24 companies have expanded or moved to a bigger office there.

James Briggs, who is chairman of the centre as well as Harboro Rubber, said: “The Harborough Innovation Centre is a shining light for the Harborough district and an example not just of business innovation but also of an original approach by the local authority.

“We are proud of what has been achieved so far but also determined to continue to see it flourish and prosper, and become further established as an enabler for start-up and early stage businesses.

“These will create the growth and valuable jobs needed in the Harborough area.”

Companies based at the centre include high tech software development firms ICON and Code String Ltd as well as education specialists Magical Maths and high performance business consultancy Sporting Edge.

Harborough Innovation Centre has 53 offices and studios plus meeting rooms, catering facilities and a business centre.