Incubator Guide: Start-ups and entrepreneurs in the creative sector



Incubators offer start-ups and entrepreneurs a valuable opportunity to position themselves in well-equipped office space with all the necessary amenities to run a business, alongside access to support functions in the form of business advice and industry knowledge, which gives fledgling businesses the best chance of becoming a success. There are hundreds of different incubators across the UK, with some catering for specific industries in order to provide a more specialised service. Within the creative sector there is a range of offerings, many formed by universities or in conjunction with local councils. With some tailored for the fashion industry or music and drama, and others for any new and innovative creative concepts. We take a look at these various offerings below.

STEAMhouse at Birmingham City University

  1. Location: Birmingham
  2. Entry criteria: Demonstrable interest in creative or design thinking
  3. Duration: 2 years
  4. Funding offered: Limited number of grants of £2,500 available for IP and prototyping

STEAMhouse is Birmingham City University’s incubator offering, which was created in partnership with Eastside Project and is funded by Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund. This incubator has been designed to encourage the collaboration between the science, technology, engineering, arts and maths sectors. The programme is available for sole traders, micro-businesses and SMEs. In addition to co-working space, they also provide free workshops and events, and access to industry experts in a variety of fields from manufacturing to marketing.

More information about STEAMhouse incubator can be found here.

Incubator Programme at MeWe360

  1. Location: London
  2. Entry criteria: No criteria, but there is a focus on assisting ethnic minority groups
  3. Duration: 12 months
  4. Funding offered: Some bursaries are available and assessed on a case by case basis

MeWe360 is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2011 that offers entrepreneurs in the creative and arts industries office space alongside consultancy and investment support, networking and mentoring facilities. They operate on a membership basis and their focus is particularly on supporting ethnic minority groups in this field. This programme offers access to industry contacts and industry advisors in a variety of fields. They currently operate two spaces in the vibrant area of Soho which provides members with an easily accessible central London location.

More information about MeWe360’s incubator programme can be found here.

Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs at Guildhall School of Music and Drama

  1. Location: London
  2. Entry criteria: None
  3. Duration: 12 months
  4. Funding offered: £1,000 - £3,000

The Guildhall School have joined up with Cause4, to create a 12 month business incubator specifically dedicated to performing arts. Created in 2013, it is currently the only incubator in the UK to cater solely for this industry. This programme is structured in two parts, with 50% of the time devoted to teaching the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and the other 50% to give individuals time to dedicate to growing their network and launching their business. Ideally located in Central London to provide entrepreneurs with a prime location as well as access to events, mentoring and coaching within the space.

More information about The Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs incubator can be found here.

UBC Creative Fashion and Textile Hub at Leeds Beckett University

  1. Location: Pudsey, Leeds
  2. Entry Criteria: Unknown
  3. Duration: Unknown
  4. Funding offered: None

Leeds Beckett University have partnered with AW Hainsworth & Sons Ltd, a market leading textile specialist company to create an incubator for creative businesses. This offering is open to graphic designers, photographers and fashion designers to name a few examples. Alongside office space based at AW Hainsworth, a range of facilities are available including free Innovation Network events and Leeds Fashion Network events. Access to free legal and financial advice is available through the universities business partners.

More information about UBC Creative Fashion and Texile Hub can be found here.

Tontine by Glasgow

  1. Location: Glasgow
  2. Entry Criteria: Uknown
  3. Duration: Max. 3 years
  4. Funding offered: None

Tontine is an incubator supported by Glasgow City Council, which is part of the £1.13 Glasgow City Region City Deal also supported by the UK Cabinet Office’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In addition to the more conventional facilities offered in flexible workspaces, Tontine also offers access to dedicated Business Advisers, community events and activities both within Tontine and externally.  The space is positioned in a prime location in Glasgow’s Merchant City, and offers creative sector businesses a collaborative and innovative working environment.

More information about Tontine can be found here.

InnovationRCA at Royal College of Art

  1. Location: London
  2. Entry criteria: Must be a student or graduate of Royal College of Art
  3. Duration: 12 months
  4. Funding offered: Varying levels of funding offered

InnovationRCA has been designed for students and graduates to offer business coaching combined with workspace in their efforts to launch their businesses. This programme caters for organisations with design-led technologies who are in the early stages of start-up. To assist with imparting useful knowledge and advice, and to give start-ups greater exposure a variety of events are organised for students. One of the key features of this incubator is the patent support offered to those with commercial inventions, both in securing funding and business mentoring.

More information about InnovationRCA can be found here.

Enterprise Place at University of Sunderland

  1. Location: Sunderland
  2. Entry criteria: Must be a student or graduate of University of Sunderland
  3. Duration: Up to 12-months
  4. Funding offered: £16,500

The University of Sunderland offer a programme for students and graduates setting up a business, which provides hot desk space based at the Hope Street Xchange building on the university campus alongside a range of business support functions. These include access to business mentoring, free entry to business awareness sessions and networking events. Their membership is open to organisations from a variety of disciplines and there is also the potential to access funding.

More information about Enterprise Place incubator is available here.

Formation Zone at University of Plymouth

  1. Location: Plymouth
  2. Entry criteria: Be able to demonstrate innovation
  3. Duration: Maximum 2 years
  4. Funding offered: None

Formation Zone provides organisations in a range of industries from the creative, environmental and advanced engineering sectors with a vibrant workspace, high quality support and the opportunity to network and collaborate with like-minded start-ups. This incubator provides occupants with access to the knowledge from experts at the University of Plymouth, support from business advisors and monthly advice clinics. Prior to committing to their full time offering, a pre-start option is available which provides two support sessions, access to start-up online resources and the opportunity to attend networking events.

More information about Formation Zone is available here.

The Ideas Factory Incubation Centre at Norwich University of the Arts

  1. Location: Norwich
  2. Entry criteria: Uknown
  3. Duration: Uknown
  4. Funding offered: Uknown

This incubation centre at Norwich University of the Arts caters for creative digital businesses from graphic designers, film makers and writers to UX specialists. They provide a collaborative environment in which start-ups can connect with like-minded organisations. An events programme is run by The Ideas Factory, tailored specifically for businesses based here, which include business mentoring, finance and legal clinics and advice on marketing and funding. Additionally there is a business team dedicated to providing support on an individual basis.

More information about Formation Zone is available here.


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