Reflecting on 2018

Paul McEldon

By Paul McEldon, Chief Executive

As we look forward to Christmas, it’s natural to look back and give thought to the year past… and what a year it has been!

Dominated by the as yet unresolved Brexit debates it is not surprising that businesses are becoming increasingly frustrated as we approach the end of the year and uncertainty about the future is still the mantra. The only way it seems that businesses can ‘take back control’ is by planning for every eventuality and so it is encouraging to see organisations like the North East LEP and NEECC providing information and support to help businesses get Brexit ready. Businesses will always find opportunity even in adversity and I am confident that with planning and an innovative approach, businesses in the North East will survive and adapt to whatever challenges lie ahead.

But one good reason to look back is to see how far you have come and we have lots of reasons to be cheerful in 2018.

When we look at our core business activity – flexible and growth workspace – the North East BIC ends on a high with occupancy levels across our three business centres (in Sunderland, Darlington and Washington) exceeding all expectations, and we are delighted to have reached 92.5% occupancy.

This year we have also spoken more openly, and with great pride, about the BICs’ status as a social enterprise, acting commercially but reinvesting our profits to support the development and growth of entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. Our focus has always been to create the perfect workspace to inspire and support entrepreneurs and to discover new ways to make their dreams of success a reality. And, as well as a full programme of events, networking opportunities and on site business advice, this year we have trialled a new added value service for our tenants – the BIC Leadership Programme – a fast track course designed to maximise business impact whilst keeping time away from the business to a minimum. We are excited to roll this out next year to more of our customers.

Evidence suggests that social enterprises and cooperatives are playing an increasingly important role in economic growth… and so when we were presented with an opportunity to grow our business, we jumped at the chance to launch a new specialist advice service for aspiring social entrepreneurs and social enterprises that want to grow. We are already delivering projects in partnership with a number of Councils across Tyne and Wear and looking forward to continuing to support a new generation of businesses choosing the social enterprise way.

Building on the success of the last two SME Innovation Programmes, in September this year we announced that we had secured a further £900,000 to support 70 SMEs through the provision of innovation related advice and funding, which is fantastic news. Over the next 3 years, we will continue to improve the innovation capacity of SMEs, as well as increase the level of innovation and investment, ultimately generating additional sales or profits in these businesses and creating a positive impact in the North East economy.

Looking forward, we are excited to have a number of projects on the horizon to be launched in 2019 to include a contemporary incubator creating a new kind of business ecosystem, with access to a shared office, expertise and facilities to accelerate the success of more innovative start-ups in the years to come… so watch this space.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank each and every member of the BIC team for their hard work, dedication and professionalism during what has been one of our busiest years. And also to extend a huge thank you to all of our partners, too many to mention, without whom the  BIC team could not deliver the range and quality of services and support to the business community.

On behalf of the BIC team, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy new year as we look forward to 2019 with optimism and resolve to make it a great year!

2018 in pictures

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