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An innovation hub has been launched at the old broadcasting centre in the Here East space at the London Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Covering 68,000ft2, the hub, named Plexal, was launched by serial entrepreneur Claire Cockerton, who previously co-founded financial technology (fintech) backer Innovate Finance, and founded innovation strategy firm Entiq and startup accelerator Level39.
Cockterton said the hub’s aim was to provide the type of collaboration and community environment her team feels is fundamental to creating successful businesses.
“Together with our members and partners, we will deliver the UK’s next technology and innovation cluster, a launchpad for scaling ﬁrms and a soft landing pad for companies coming to London for the ﬁrst time. We will shape new industry verticals that will make life better for everyone,” she said.
Advancing technology innovation
The Plexal innovation centre is focused on developing technology innovation in areas such as applied sports, well-being, fashion and mobility.
Cockerton said the name is linked with the concept of human biology, because the growth of technology and the “fourth wave” of the industrial evolution has “changed what it means to be humans”.
“We have seen the East End of London embrace the industrial evolution and transform itself. We have evolved to keep pace with innovation,” she said.
The centre’s services will include a testing and prototyping lab, incubator and accelerator programmes, funding alternatives and networking opportunities.
By offering a potential 800 members on the site access to these services, the hope is to help develop the next generation of businesses and entrepreneurs who will improve lives through connected technologies.
Sharing is caring
As well as offering a co-working space, Plexal will have intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship educational courses to help those on the site to learn more about starting their own technology business.
Many firms now claim they cannot find graduates or potential candidates with the skills they need to walk straight into unfilled technology roles.
Cockerton claimed Plexal’s courses will help to “prepare for the realities of building a company” as well as provide “the grit and skills not taught on an MBA”.
Startups will work alongside corporates, developing a collaborative model where companies work across boundaries and share their skills.
The centre will act as a springboard for growing companies, and Cockerton’s team hopes the community aspect of the space on the park will help promote growth of sectors such as digital and data by helping members “leverage on the collective wisdom of the community”.
Since the Plexal site is so centred around collaboration and community, other organisations in and around the Olympic Park have expressed interest in working with the accelerator space.
David Goldstone, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, claimed the Olympic Park’s old broadcast centre was always marked to be a technology space once the 2012 games was finished.
University College London and London College of Fashion are also launching campuses on the park, and could feed into the Plexal pipeline in the future.
Liam Maxwell, national technology adviser to HM Government, spoke at the Plexal launch event to show the government’s support of digital and technology growth around the UK.
Maxwell pointed out that digital and technology products and services account for £35bn in UK exports and 1.4 million UK jobs, making up 12% of the entire UK economy.
“Tech and digital is the biggest part of our economy, and it’s also the part that’s growing the fastest,” Maxwell stated. “This will be one of the great growth centres for businesses.”
He said entrepreneurs and tech startups are “important to the government” and urged startup founders and entrepreneurs to tell the government how best it can help to develop tech skills, investment and intellectual property.
“We’ve not got this totally right – we’re very happy to admit that, so please feed back how the government can help you,” he said.
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