Over 100 workspace operators, local authorities and property owners came together on 5th October to attend Future of London’s second Workspace Matching Event at the Coin Street Conference Centre in central London. This exhibition-style event gave workspace operators with capacity to take on new spaces an opportunity to meet public- and private-sector property owners looking to procure workspace providers.
In addition to networking, two breakout sessions featured speakers on public-sector policy and strategy and different approaches to providing workspace on the ground, highlighting new strategies and opportunities to link workspace and regeneration for the benefit of London’s communities and local economies.
In the afternoon’s first session, speakers from the GLA, LB Haringey and LB Lambeth spoke about how they are supporting small businesses and protecting workspace at a time when there is pressure to release employment land for housing.
Sadiq Khan has been vocal in his support for the creative industries, and Mhora Samuel, Senior Policy Officer, GLA, gave an update on what this support will look like in practice. The GLA is in the process of designating Creative Enterprise Zones – backed by £5m funding – where local authorities will work with partners and GLA support to encourage cultural production. Mhora emphasised the importance of culture to London’s economy: it accounts for a sixth of jobs and around 9m visitors a year.
Tottenham is a hub for the types of creative industries that the GLA wants to keep in London, and Keith Trotter, Tottenham Town Centre Growth Manager, LB Haringey, gave some insight into how the council is attracting businesses to set up in Tottenham.
In 2016, Haringey launched the Opportunity Investment Fund, a £3.6m revolving fund that provides loans to businesses to set up or expand within Tottenham and reinvests the loan repayments to help other businesses. In return for funding towards relocation costs, businesses pledge to deliver social value, for example through training or apprenticeships. To date, the fund has supported 13 businesses, created 230 jobs and secured 70 apprenticeships, and has a 100% repayment on loans with a 6% interest rate.
In Lambeth, the council is reviewing its Local Plan and considering how to accommodate growth in the focal areas of Waterloo/Southbank, Brixton and West Norwood. Duncan Brown, Regeneration Delivery Lead, LB Lambeth spoke about how workspace provision in council-owned properties can help spread the benefits of growth more fairly.
The new Lambeth Now website has examples of how council-owned spaces in Brixton are being used to support workspace; another example is Granby Space on Lower Marsh. An old library building has been converted to SME workspace for two years while awaiting redevelopment; Lambeth offers further support to SMEs in the form of business rates relief and a hardship fund.
In the second breakout session, workspace operators shared ideas for supporting small businesses through workspace provision.
At Meanwhile Space, entry barriers for small or new businesses are lowered by not requiring a deposit and only charging 40-80% of market rates. In return, tenants sign an agreement to provide services for the local community, such as a language school or mental health services. Eddie Bridgeman, Director at Meanwhile Space, said that building links with existing traders in an area is important and benefits both the old and new businesses.
Project00 sets up Hub coworking spaces which support social enterprises and creative SMEs. It takes 1-3 years for a coworking space to become established and self-sustaining – the Hub in Brixton initially received support from the local authority but is now self-sustaining and pays market rent.
Sinead MacManus of Project00 explained that the practice has been exploring how coworking models can transfer to other industries, and has recently opened Health Foundry by St Thomas’ Hospital to provide coworking space for healthcare businesses.
Bathtub2Boardroom provides support to early-stage businesses that are less than a year old. Currently based at Tech City College, tenants receive mentoring and business support to grow and create new jobs. The organisation helps to build links between start-ups and students at the school, including through work placements.
B2B Acting CEO Tajinder Lachhar noted that positive experiences at college can give students a better sense of the range of options outside of university education.