With an almost unrivalled 150 million books, journals, newspapers, manuscripts and other items dating as far back as 2000 BC, there is an unavoidable sense of prestige and grandeur about the British Library.
But nestled among the history and spectacle of the world’s second largest library, is the Business & IP Centre – a department dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start, protect and grow successful businesses.
The centre was inspired by the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) at the New York Public Library, and was officially opened in March 2006 to give entrepreneurs and innovators free access to the most comprehensive collection of business data and intellectual property resources in the UK.
The centre quickly became a hub for business support, with its innumerable resources, business offerings, workshops and networking events attracting 70,000 visitors in 2016 alone.
“Our aim is to be an accessible front door to business support in the UK,” Isabel Oswell, head of business audiences, told IPSE.
“People using the centre can gain access to incredibly valuable market intelligence and intellectual property resources that would usually only be available to large corporate companies; this allows small businesses to gain a competitive edge.
“In fact, an independent evaluation proved that businesses who used the centre when starting up were four times more likely to be successful by year three of trading.”
The centre’s expert staff are trained to help SMEs and entrepreneurs identify and find the information they need to develop their businesses. They also offer free one-to-one sessions to support business owners and help them make the most of the available resources.
“The mission is to help people start and grow their business,” Joe Faulkner, marketing executive, said.
“We are part of the national research library, so everything that is published, we hold. So you can imagine all the business information we hold, and this centre is free, so anybody can come and access it.
“If you are starting out in business, or want to grow your business, this is one of the places you should come, because any of the things you might need along the way, we have.”
Isabel added: “We are a one-stop shop for business support.
“Not only can business owners use the centre to access market intelligence, journals and databases, we also provide workshops and training on everything from searching patents and managing your cash flow to generating PR on a budget – all delivered by our in-house business information specialists and carefully selected partners.”
In addition to the centre’s packed schedule of workshops and training, there are also regular networking events, speed mentoring sessions and panel discussions, including the ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ series.
In ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’, the people behind some of the UK’s biggest business successes share their stories with the next generation of entrepreneurs, as well as giving insider hints and tips.
And the Business & IP Centre is not just for start-ups. Since 2012, the centre has also delivered its flagship ‘Innovating for Growth’ programme, which now has over 300 scaling businesses.
The programme gives ambitious small businesses access to £10,000’s worth of bespoke business consultancy in areas such as marketing, branding and product and service development.
One of the programme’s graduates, Warren Pole of sports nutritionist 33Shake, said: “A friend tipped me off about the ‘Innovating for Growth’ programme. We landed a place, and over the next three months, received bespoke, expert guidance, advice and reassurance as well as a priceless opportunity to step back from our growing business and understand our long-term focus.
“Our adventure is still only just beginning, but ‘Innovating for Growth’ has fast-tracked 33Shake’s performance by several years. The business centre’s resources – particularly the ones that help with market research and IP – are some of the most powerful tools in our business toolkit.”