Need To Know: Top tech incubators in the South West

Updated: Get the lowdown on the best tech incubators in the Bristol and Bath region, all in one place
29th August 2017

As the saying goes, everyone has to start somewhere. Yet when it comes to finding a space in which to nurture talent and develop new ideas, tech startups within the South West are spoilt for choice.

With new incubators popping up in every corner of Bristol, Bath and beyond on a seemingly weekly basis, we thought it was time we took a look at some of the best tech incubators in the South West.

Bath Innovation Centre

Bath Innovation CentreBroad Quay, Bath, BA1 1UD

Twitter: @Bath_Innovation

To make it to the top, you need the right connections. At the University of Bath’s Innovation Centre (UBIC), startups not only benefit from its modern office spaces but, crucially, links to some of the country’s leading industry figures and professionals.

Part of the SETsquared‘s university business accelerator (more on this later), it provides designated offices, drop-in rooms, a world-class mentoring scheme, business review panels and investment readiness training. UBIC is an ideal place for tech startups to hone their craft while they network because, after all, it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.

Rates: Digicity co-working (hot-desking service) £15-20 per day, Platinum Membership (flexible office space) from £295 per month, ‘Entrepreneur Visa’ bursary offered to graduates from the University.

Bristol & Bath Science Park – Innovation Centre

bristol-and-bath-science-parkDirac Crescent, Emersons Green, Bristol, BS16 7FR

Twitter: @bbsciencepark

Built for purpose, the Bristol and Bath Science Park (B&BSP) means business. Nestled within leafy, eco-friendly surroundings, the thoroughly modern Innovation Centre caters specifically to science and tech startups and is perfectly placed within an area renowned for its leading research, development and innovation. From hot-desking to laboratories, the centre gives new businesses and entrepreneurs hands-on advice and mentoring, as well as access to contacts and funding opportunities.

The B&BSP lays claim to having the highest concentration of PhD graduates in the UK, so startups can be sure they are in good company.

Rates: Virtual offices/hot-desks £85 pcm or £315 pcm for a dedicated desk within a fixed office space.

Bristol Games Hub

Bristol Games Hub77 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3RD

Twitter: @bristolgameshub

A non-profit group run for, and by, games obsessives, Bristol Games Hub provides affordable office space for the industry leaders of tomorrow. Based in the lively 77StokeCroft building, the hub is geared towards providing a low-cost cooperative space in which residents are encouraged to share their knowledge, pass on skills, and collaborate on new projects.

Added to this, they also hold numerous events and talks such as their ‘Anti-socials’ in which gaming fanatics meet to discuss new projects and network. Definitely one for those who enjoy mixing work and play, the Bristol Games Hub is the ideal place for a games developer to, well, develop.

Rates: A permanent desk space costs £110 pcm with all bills inclusive.

Bristol Robotics Lab

digimakers_nov_2013_04University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY

Twitter: @BristolRobotLab

When it comes to the Bristol Robotics Lab, it really does what it says on the tin. A collaboration between the University of the West England and University of Bristol, this facility brings together leading experts, businesses and innovative startups to spearhead multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

Featuring a state of the art laboratory and workshops covering 3,000 square meters, the Bristol Robotics Lab is a pioneering centre for service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering.

Find out more on how you can apply to study at or be involved with the programs at Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Engine Shed

engineshed02Station Approach, Bristol, BS1 6QH

Twitter: @EngineShed_BB

Despite the fact SETsquared (more on those guys later) has already helped to raise over $1 billion for the region’s high-tech startups, the Engine Shed is surely the jewel in its crown.

Comprising 17 offices, shared desk spaces, meeting rooms, and a business lounge, this Grade I listed building is an award winning hive of connectivity linking academics, startups and business leaders within its beautifully sleek ‘components’. And just to prove that it’s brilliantly connected, it’s parked right next to Temple Meads station.

Rates: Room hire varies between £40-60 per hour or £200-400 per day dependent on the space.

Entrepreneurial Spark

Trinity Quay, Avon Street, Bristol, BS2 0PT

Twitter: @ESparkGlobal

Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures, with hubs based in Bristol and across the UK.

The Bristol-based hub – run in partnership with KPMG – provides support, mentoring, networking and office accommodation for around 80 local start-up businesses.

Access includes physical office space with superfast internet, a start-up ‘bootcamp’, dedicated mentoring and regular events, workshops and training – all free of charge.

Want to supercharge your business? Apply to be park of Entrepreneurial Spark’s next intake.

Future Space

uwe-enterprise-zone-future-works

University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1QY

Twitter: @Future_Space_

Part of the University of the West of England‘s Enterprise Zone, Future Space is a 4,100 square metre innovation centre designed to promote university-business collaboration alongside access to specialist facilities, expertise and business support for companies specialising in robotics, life sciences, medical health and other high tech sectors.

As well as providing much-needed and brand-new facilities such as wet-labs, workshop, office and co-working space – there is dedicated business support and services from the University, Bristol Business School and partner organisations.

Network for Creative Enterprise

Bristol & Bath (various locations)

The Network for Creative Enterprise is collaborative network that aims to sustainably grow the creative startup community across Bristol and Bath.

Open to all who have an idea or business that falls under the creative or cultural umbrella, successful applicants receive free co-working space at one of the four within the network – including the Guild Hub in Bath and the Pervasive Media Studio, Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) and Spike Island in Bristol.

Startups also receive a package of business development support to help them grow their creative idea or business in the long-term.

If you’re looking to apply or have any questions – depending on your preferred co-working location – you can contact Charlotte Godfrey at the Guild, Ian Abbott-Stratford at KWMC, Elisa Kay at Spike Island or Zahra Ash-Harper at the Pervasive Media Studio.

Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator (OSCA)

Engine Shed, Station Approach, Bristol, City of Bristol BS1 6QH

Twitter: @OracleSCA

Currently residing inside the Engine Shed, Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator has taken a cohort of talented businesses from across the UK looking to expedite the growth of their company.

Startups who take part will spend 6 months with the world-leading cloud technology company’s research and development team. Along with similar support systems found in accelerators, startups can use Oracle’s renowned cloud services for free and receive access to 420,000 global enterprise customers.

Although applications to the Bristol program are now closed, you can still register your interest to the OSCA here to be alerted when they re-open.

Pervasive Media Studio

Persuasive Media Studios1 Canon’s Road Harbourside Bristol BS1 5TX

Twitter: @PMStudioUK

Housed within the multi-disciplinary arts centre WatershedPervasive Media Studio brings together artists, designers and developers who share a passion for exploring creative technologies.

Located on Bristol’s harbourside, the studio is an open and collaborative space that is occupied by over 100 companies, professionals and academics whose focus is on the future of mobile and wireless – including gaming, robotics and location-based media. Would-be members must apply to become a part of the studio but the good news is that, if accepted, a desk space is completely free.

If you think you’d like to be a part of this innovative arts centre, click here to find out more about joining PM Studio.

Rocketmakers

Rocketmakers5 Bartlett Street, Bath, BA1 2QZ

Twitter: @rocketmakers

RocketmakersDescribing itself as the UK’s ‘leading micro-incubator’, Rocketmakers provides financial and professional support to new businesses within the fields of web and mobile. The service caters largely to innovative software startups, and looks to take a good idea to the next level by looking beyond the technical details to assess areas such as design, user experience and project management.

Backed by a team of specialists in their respective fields, Rocketmakers are ideal for eager but new entrepreneurs taking their first steps into the world of business.

Is your startup in need of a boost? Click here to make contact with the team at Rocketmakers.

SETsquared

Engine Shed, Station Approach, Bristol, City of Bristol BS1 6QH

Twitter: @setsquared

Named the world’s number one university business incubator and with over a decade of experience incubating high tech, high-growth startups, SETsquared is a not-for-profit organisation that supports over 1,000 small businesses and raised over 90m of investment for startups in 2015.

A collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, it has a number of centres across the region that offer specialist support and knowledge to help get good ideas off the ground. These include the Innovation Centre in Bath and Exeter University, Bristol’s the Engine Shed, a centre at Southampton University’s Highfield Campus and the Incubation Centre within Surrey University.

There are numerous events and courses on offer, click here to view a more comprehensive list of SETsquared’s startup support offerings.

Simpleweb

Unit G, Albion Dockside Building, Hanover Place, Bristol, BS1 6UT

Twitter: @Simpleweb

Simpleweb are the web developers with a difference. Founded by serial-innovator Mark Panay, the company boasts a flat structure without bosses with an emphasis on supporting web startups turn their idea into a reality.

As well as supporting startups, they also invest in them – with previous successes including SPARKies double award winnersOLIO Exchange and growing order-ahead payment app Ordable.

If you have a prototype or you’re looking for a partner and you’d like to discuss investment, you can contact Simpleweb’s founder Mark Panay.

Not quite ready to take your idea to the next level? Why not sign-up to Simpleweb’s #GetStarted newsletter which provides resources to help entrepreneurs build success? Sign-up to the #GetStarted newsletter here.

Unit DX

Unit DX Internal view of Lab

St. Philips Central, Albert Road, Bristol, BS2 0XJ

Twitter: @Unit_DX

Unit DX is Bristol’s first ever incubator designed specifically for scientific innovation with the aim of providing the perfect environment for local scientists, entrepreneurs and academics to come together and create a cluster of scientific excellence, enterprise and collaboration.

Opened in March 2017, it’s home to all the practical facilities any tech or science startup would need, including 10,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art laboratory space, customisable lab benches, vast storage space for large equipment and on-site access to instrumentation, technicians as well as a network of business and technical support.

For when the lab coats come off, Unit DX also includes both shared open plan and private office spaces for between 6 and 12 people.

Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre

University of Bristol, Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TH, UK

Twitter: @qtecbristol

A collaborative initiative between the University of Bristol and Cranfield University, the Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre (QTEC) gives researchers the unprecedented opportunity to combine academia and business in the world of quantum tech.

The venture is revolutionising how we develop and manufacture quantum computing – as well as having a heavy focus on education; those who utilise the co-working space will leave with a business plan to implement their knowledge in quantum tech.

Sound perfect for you? If you’re a recent PhD graduate or a Post-Doctoral Researcher with a background in anything STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related, apply today!

*Coming soon* Bristol VR Lab

Bristol, UK

Bristol VR Lab is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England with Watershed and Opposable VR – organisers of VR World Congress to help local virtual reality startups and projects to develop and thrive.

Set to kick start in Autumn 2017 the lab will provide VR developer space, technology and advice to up to forty VR developers and designers.

Those are the places we are putting our money on, but have we missed a tech incubator you love? Tell us who you think deserves to be on our coveted list by getting in touch via our contact page.

This article is an update to one originally written by Dale Marshall.

Want to keep up to date with the latest tech news? You can sign up to our regular newsletter. If you like a bit of social media, you can follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn, add us on Instagram, pin us on Pinterest. Any other streams we’ve forgotten? Oh, we Google Plus as well. 

Alternatively, we exist in real life too! Why not come along to one of our friendly events? Join our Bath meetup group and/or our Bristol meetup group where you can often meet the people behind the projects, and TechSPARK’s roving reporters looking for tech things to shout about!