Unit 9, a biomedical incubator managed by University of Birmingham Enterprise, has won the prestigious ‘Place-based initiative of the Year’ award from PraxisAuril, the UK’s professional association for Knowledge Exchange and commercialisation between universities and businesses.
PraxisAuril awards recognise the contribution made by Knowledge Exchange practitioners, who bring together academic researchers and commercial companies to ensure that innovation is successfully translated into products and services that provide widespread benefit.
Unit 9 launched in 2022 to provide much-needed space for Birmingham’s biomedical innovators, and directly supports the region’s aspirations to accelerate the growth of a HealthTech and MedTech cluster of excellence in the region.
Unit 9 has strengthened our innovation ecosystem. The team has worked closely with the local stakeholders to fill a known and highly specific need for ‘smart’ incubation space. Birmingham’s researchers deliver a high level and quality of innovation, and Unit 9 provides something new that delivers the support needed in the early stages of company’s life.David Coleman, CEO, University of Birmingham Enterprise Ltd
Unit 9 was the brainchild of Angie Reynolds, Chief Operating Officer at University of Birmingham Enterprise, Andrew Cruxton, Head of Enterprise Development and Collaboration, and Andrew Shortt, of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) Growth Hub (now Senior Innovation and Growth Specialist at Innovate UK Midlands).
The trio all work with and in the public sector services that support innovation and are aware of the many challenges involved in bringing new products or services to the market. One of the most critical is the need for specialist space, equipment and facilities that enables medical research, proof of concept and prototyping activity.
However in the early years, many innovative young companies do not have the cash flow to commit to a long-term lease, or buy expensive laboratory equipment. Moreover, the innovators in this sector are usually scientific researchers who have never run a company before.
Angie Reynolds, whose team manages Birmingham Research Park, teamed up with Andrew Cruxton and Andrew Shortt to get funding to cover the costs of converting office into laboratory space. The GBSLEP Growth Hub soon came on board with the project with funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Innovation Programme , and a vacant unit at the Research Park was identified as ideal for an incubation space.
The Unit rapidly filled to capacity and now has six early-stage companies, who have formed a community that shares networks and business knowledge on areas as diverse as patenting, tax, and employment law.
Companies joining Unit 9 benefit from a business support programme provided by University of Birmingham Enterprise and GBSLEP, the location at the Research Park, as well as meeting facilities, an equipment-sharing agreement with the University of Birmingham, and facilities for cell culture or microbiology work which are available at the co-located BioHub Birmingham®. The unique facility is a collaboration between University of Birmingham Enterprise, the GBSLEP and the GBSLEP Growth Hub and West Midlands Combined Authority.
David Coleman, CEO of University of Birmingham Enterprise, said: “Unit 9 has strengthened our innovation ecosystem. The team has worked closely with the local stakeholders to fill a known and highly specific need for ‘smart’ incubation space. Birmingham’s researchers deliver a high level and quality of innovation, and Unit 9 provides something new that delivers the support needed in the early stages of company’s life.”