The STEAMhouse building, Birmingham City University (BCU)’s new centre for innovation, will offer innovative, exciting and collaborative opportunities for growth for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Clayton Shaw, Programme Manager at STEAMhouse, discusses the space and what it will provide to businesses, creatives, students and more.
Preserving our past and building our future
The STEAMhouse building occupies 100,000 square feet. Five storeys of state-of-the-art facilities aimed at a community of small-to-mid-sized enterprises, larger businesses and students.
We have lovingly restored the main part of what was a listed, though fire-damaged derelict Victorian factory built in 1899, which served initially as the headquarters of the Eccles Rubber and Cycle Company.
Here, we have a new centre which builds upon STEAMhouse Phase One, which was located in the creative quarter of Birmingham, formed in partnership with local artists’ organisation Eastside Projects.
It also builds upon STEAMhouse Business Incubator, originally located in BCU’s Millennium Point building, which supports startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The centre is unique in that it brings the worlds of education, business, creativity, research, and engineering all under one roof.
A place of principles
STEAMhouse brings people from a wide spectrum of disciplines and sectors together to collaborate and innovate, inspired by bringing Arts into STEM.
At STEAMhouse, we adopt a series of principles – conversation, collaboration, exploration, openness and newness - and we encourage our growing community of members to take these on board when signing up.
This approach creates a methodology which is supportive, seeks to break down siloed working and as a result, enables incremental or even radical improvements for our members’ businesses.
Connecting the arts within the membership community
There are four membership types aimed at a variety of needs.
We have the Incubator to support startups and small businesses, as well as STEAMhouse Create, an ERDF-funded programme to help a wide range of businesses to innovate through expert product and service support.
We are also developing an Affiliate Membership model, which provides all existing membership services excluding any permanent desk access. Finally, we offer the Artists’ Studio membership, which is made up of dedicated workstations, as well as access to making and prototyping facilities together with access to technical expertise.
All members are encouraged to collaborate through a newly developed online community platform, a LinkedIn-style service for STEAMhouse members to connect with other people and businesses.
We do bespoke
We want local businesses, from sole traders to large enterprises, to grow and thrive. However, we know that business support cannot work as a one-size-fits-all approach.
Beyond collaboration and open innovation we’ve been mapping out and developing bespoke consultancy services to support businesses of all sizes, whether they’re looking to develop products and services, or simply to strategise and take their business to the next level.
Additionally, as part of these services - and in partnership with the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (IKE) - we provide accredited training programmes and workshops to businesses that can inspire a whole new set of products, strategies and ways of thinking.
What about the tech?
At STEAMhouse, helping businesses to innovate is in our DNA.
Our Production Space provides a fail-fast environment for the physical prototyping of new products, as well providing new methods to create artworks and experiment with emerging sustainable materials.
Our technicians and facilities help people to prototype quickly by (for example) 3D printing of component parts via our Bureau service.
We can also guide members through a course of learning to develop skills in areas such as biomaterials and CAD design for product development. Members can also use and hire the latest VR equipment.
During the next phase of growth for STEAMhouse, we will see a newly-installed immersive media suite called the Digital STEAM Innovation Hub, which will combine industry support and academic research to create an environment for innovation across the realms of virtual, augmented and mixed realities.
All of this ensures STEAMhouse removes those critical barriers that can often block the next step of creative or business growth and help turn ideas into reality.
The STEAMhouse building will officially open in October 2022. To find out more, please visit https://steamhouse.org.uk/.
Image credit: © Birmingham City University