Supporting Innovation

The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has been supporting the region’s business community for 24 years. Board member Kevan Carrick tells North East Times the time is right to broaden its reach.

Kevan Carrick

When it comes to recognising the potential for regeneration in the right place, at the right time, few professionals have a better track record than chartered surveyor Kevan Carrick.

A key figure in the establishment of the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation in the 1980s and a trusted expert in the commercial property sector, it’s little wonder he was approached to join the board of the BIC in 2016.

Kevan’s experience and insight make him the perfect pick at a time when BIC is seeking to expand its reach and build on the success of new ventures beyond its traditional Sunderland base.

In the last four years, the BIC has extended its workspace to include business centres in Washington and Darlington, creating a proven model that delivers consistent and attractive results for building owners and property managers alike.

“We are looking to expand our managed workspace if the right opportunity comes along,”confirms Kevan. “The BIC has a very high occupancy rate – more than 90 per cent. That’s very helpful in terms of maintaining a stable revenue stream, but it also suggests there’s a need to evolve and expand.

“We’ve already partnered with Darlington Council to create Business Central in the heart of the town and that’s going extremely well in terms of new occupancy relating to fresh start ups and growing businesses.”

“We also manage the Hub in Washington and that’s proven hugely successful. Our skills at the BIC are good management and a knowledge of how to operate a service centre that facilitates business growth and helps businesses to run smoothly and successfully. There’s no reason why those skills can’t benefit other regional sites.”

Kevan Carrick

The North East BIC was established in 1994 and grew rapidly from one building, housing 30 light industrial units and 11 offices, to a 14-acre site in Sunderland boasting eight buildings and 200,000 square feet of lettable space. During that time, more than 700 companies, creating in excess of 7,000 jobs, have benefited from tailored BIC support.

That support manifests itself in managed and serviced office, industrial and laboratory space for companies ranging from start-ups to established businesses. Sectors which have benefited from being part of the BIC family include pharmaceutical and scientific, marketing and design, software and high-tech, finance and logistics. So why choose BIC to boost your business’s growth?

“The BIC manages your workspace but it’s so much more than a landlord,” adds Kevan. “First and foremost, it tries to set a rent that’s economically fair – it’s not necessarily the highest rent or even the market rent. It’s what’s required to keep the premises operating in the longer term.

“Beyond that, the BIC fosters good business practice and encourages growth. I don’t think business centres per se can provide that. They certainly don’t have access to the funding that the BIC has, as was proven by the successful application for almost £900,000 in European Regional Development Fund money secured last month.”

That money will support 70 SMEs through the provision of innovation-related advice and funding and Kevan adds: “It’s fantastic news. In Sunderland, the BIC has created a community of like-minded start-ups and SMEs which often work together and tap into one another’s expertise. It has a café which doubles up as a hub for people to meet and exchange ideas and discuss best practice. There’s a wonderful community spirit, fostered by the effective and innovative workspace management at the heart of the BIC’s ethos.”

Sign up to our newsletter