We spoke with Gurpreet to get an understanding of how recent political events have impacted REIs sources of funding and property portfolio.
Insightive.tv: Has Brexit had any short or long-term impact on the organisation?
Gurpreet: Short-term, it’s pretty much business as usual — providing affordable office space in South London, supporting local businesses to grow and develop, and encouraging research and enterprise across our campus. Our three incubator sites are currently working at full capacity. Recently, we secured two European Regional Development Fund Projects where LSBU is leading on the delivery of business support services and a further 2 ERDF projects where we are partners. The only short-term impact of Brexit was a delay in getting these projects up and running.
In the longer term, as there is still an uncertainty around access to European funding post-Brexit, we need to start looking at alternative funding routes outside Europe to support some of our current activity. Our longer term ambitions to grow our portfolio of office space in South London hasn’t changed, however, I think the focus has become slightly more global, but I think that would have happened regardless of Brexit.
Insightive.tv: Can you describe the service packages that you offer across the estate?
Gurpreet: There are incubation programs for students and graduates (some providing funding), and fully serviced office space for established businesses. It is a mixed economy.
Students have access to boot camps, competitions, grants, mentoring and in-curricula programmes. Graduates have a more comprehensive training package (that is deliberately front-loaded) over 12 months, and access to enhanced mentoring and coaching, as well as access to loan funding that is subject to hitting key milestones. Both the students and graduates get access to our entrepreneurs in residence — we have five of those.
Established businesses get a full package that includes reception, concierge services, IT and maintenance; along with access to meeting rooms and catering at an additional cost. We also run various business support programs throughout the year that tenants can opt into. They can also gain access to some of our research and development facilities, academic expertise and our students/graduates, some carrying additional costs — specialist labs, wards etc.
These two operations play into each other further through the commingling of both groups — we can connect staff, student and graduate enterprise and innovation activity with real world enterprise.
Insightive.tv: In terms of your business model — do you see benefits to providing services within the workspace as an add-on, as opposed to a basic infrastructure provision?
Gurpreet: We charge a relatively low rent for a Central London office,that includes an internet connection and utilities, whilst we don’t include business rates we do assist with obtaining Small Business Rates Relief from the local Council. We find that most tenants want these basic services. Providing straightforward office costs is helpful in attracting and keeping tenants. We then allow tenants to opt into services beyond the functionality of their office.
Insightive.tv: At the graduate and student level — are demands changing in terms of what the new generations want from the workspace?
Gurpreet: I think that flexibility is the key thing. Providing access to flexible spaces and space into which students and their businesses can grow has been particularly successful for us. In our system, a student can go from a hot-desk environment to our graduate incubator, where they have a designated desk, to developing a company that rents our office space — going from a one person business to being a business with 25 -30 employees, and simply moving within a single building. I think knowing that they don’t have to move as their business grows is particularly attractive.
We also provide access to wrap around business service — capital investment, training, mentorship, entrepreneurs in residence. It is important to provide the services beyond a desk and bits of technology.
As a University, we attract a lot of our students from the local community. A lot are already locally based as a result of either family or work commitments. So, many have already decided that they are not moving from the area. One of our main goals is to make sure that there is enough enterprise and entrepreneurship provision that if students choose to start a business, they can do that within the local area. The other side of this is that if students decide to go work for a local employer — we have to look at what we are doing to work with the business community so that they can support graduating talent. Are we ensuring that local businesses are innovating and being entrepreneurial in the exploration of new markets? We take it as our responsibility to make sure we are supporting the creation of jobs for graduates within the local area. .
Insightive.tv: How big is the core team operating the Estate?
Gurpreet: It is three people. There is a Tenants and Facilities Manager, and a Tenants and Facilities Administrator. The two of them look after the three sites and about 90 tenants. The third person looks after commercial venue hire — facilities we operate to hire out for events or conferences. Currently, they are running a packed house as all of our facilities are at full capacity — the main reason we are looking to expand.
We are looking at sites in and around South London that we can take on to expand the office provision within our portfolio. Internationally, we are looking at how we can partner with other institutions that run similar types of initiatives. The future of innovation is international — we are not only looking to secure funding internationally but share ideas with enterprise institutes across the World.
Gurpreet Jagpal is Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation, and CEO of SBUEL. Gurpreet has worked within Enterprise Development for over a decade — most recently for University College London and University of Birmingham, he is also currently chair of Enterprise Educators UK. Currently tasked with establishing market-facing enterprise institutes and managing Research, Enterprise and Innovation (REI) teams.
South Bank University Enterprises Ltd (SBUEL) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London South Bank University. Through housing student enterprise programs and graduate schemes in the same building as businesses renting serviced offices, it brings together student innovation and market-driven enterprise. The organisation also undertakes its own research, enterprise and innovation projects.
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