Set to open in April, the £8.5m centre in Northampton’s Enterprise Zone will provide office accommodation and support services for small businesses and organisations with social innovation, impact and entrepreneurship at their heart.
With 42 flexible office units, a cafe and conference space, the centre offers the opportunity for organisations to grow in a supportive environment alongside like-minded businesses. Tenants will also have access to specialist University of Northampton business support to help them measure and develop their social value.
A flagship for the social enterprise sector, the Innovation Centre itself is run to deliver social impact and social innovation, delivering measurable social value. The University of Northampton has been internationally recognised for its commitment to social innovation and entrepreneurship by being designated a ‘Changemaker Campus’ by Ashoka U – the global association of the world’s leading universities supporting social entrepreneurs – and was the first in the UK to be awarded this honour.
Helen Willmott, Marketing and Project Manager for Commercial Services at the University, said: “The Innovation Centre exists to support enterprises to develop and operate their business in a socially responsible manner and deliver social benefits, which will benefit Northampton and the wider region.â€¨â€¨
“I would encourage those involved with, or thinking of starting, any business venture that delivers social impact to contact the team at the Innovation Centre, to find out more about the benefits of taking a tenancy here.”â€¨â€¨
Nine organisations have already signed up for a space in the flagship building, which benefits from a well-connected location in the town centre, opposite Northampton’s railway station. One of the first tenants is Enterprise Solutions Northamptonshire (ESN), an independent social enterprise and co-operative development agency. It helps people set up and develop co-operatives and social enterprises and supports voluntary and community organisations.
Mike Tiller, agency manager for ESN, said: “While we weren’t actively seeking to relocate, as soon as we visited the Innovation Centre we knew it was the perfect place for us to operate from.
“The fact the centre has other social enterprises under the same roof is also very attractive to us – it’s going to be a real hub of activity.”â€¨â€¨
Another tenant is the charity Zimwomen Association, which aims to empower and support vulnerable women, young people and children. The success of Zimwomen, which helps around 5,000 people from the county a year, means it needs an additional office to co-ordinate its young people’s projects.
Its founder and chairperson, Rutendo Nyatsine, said: “Taking a space at the Innovation Centre means we can set up a dedicated one-stop shop for young people in a central location. We can use the meeting rooms to run workshops and training sessions which help young people secure employment.â€¨â€¨
“The presence of the other organisations under the same roof is also a huge positive for us. There may be scope for their staff to share their knowledge with the young people via workshops, and they may also be able to offer work experience and internships which could help lead to paid employment.”â€¨â€¨