The University of Southampton Science Park was recently named as Workplace Environment of the Year in the South Coast Property Awards 2017. So what makes it an effective working environment for almost 100 companies based there?
Good work for all
The publication in July of a review into working practices in the modern economy revealed sweeping changes in the way the UK’s population now approaches working life.
The recently published Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, prepared to advise the UK Government, suggested that there should be a national strategy to provide ‘good work for all’, taking into consideration: wages, employment quality, education and training, working conditions, work life balance and consultative participation and collective representation. It stated that the UK needed to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health to benefit companies, workers and the wider public interest. In addition, he highlighted the requirement for individuals to develop their skills through formal and informal learning and ‘on the job’ and ‘off the job’ activities.
Peter Birkett, CEO of Southampton Science Park couldn’t agree more. “We are as focused on people as we are on property here and that is at the heart of our success. Our aim is to provide an attractive, sought-after workplace environment for high-tech businesses in the south through excellent physical space design and by encouraging a vibrant business community where entrepreneurial businesses can thrive,” he said.
A model for success
The Science Park has been recognised for creating an unrivalled workplace environment that promotes business growth and economic success in the region. The latest development at the Chilworth site, 5 Benham Campus, is a good example of how it does so. With inviting breakout spaces, meeting rooms with a roof-top terrace and a central coffee shop, the core of the building is an attractive shared space where people can meet and business can happen.
Elsewhere on the Science Park, there’s open-plan ‘incubation space’ which encourages peer-to-peer learning and provides shared office space with hot desks and breakout areas. There’s also flexible laboratory space to bring down barriers for small businesses in terms of moving their science forward. The health and wellbeing needs of staff are well served through an on-site coffee shop, nursery, health club and attractive conservation area for lunchtime walks.
“For us, it’s all about facilitating serendipity: creating a physical environment where entrepreneurs can meet, interact and collaborate,” continued Birkett. “Many networks intersect here to create a whole innovation ecosystem, brought together physically through an active events programme and informally over cups of coffee.”
Connections to the University of Southampton give businesses access to world-class research and students high-quality career opportunities, helping to retain talent here on the South Coast.
Business support and coaching is incredibly important too. As an entrepreneur, you’ll be an expert in the product or service that you wish to bring to market, but you cannot, and should not, expect to be an expert in all areas of running a business. The Science Park offers business support and mentoring to early stage companies via its hugely successful Catalyst programme.
Furthermore, the co-location of companies working in similar market areas leads to the formation of clusters. Whether through collaboration or competition, these clusters promote genuine productivity gains for the businesses involved.
Neil Aries, managing director of Critical Software UK, based at the Science Park concurs. “Being in a community of technology-focused companies contributes to an environment that encourages the growth of our business,” he commented.
Work on your workplace
If you’re an early-stage business or start-up, it might not be high on your priority list, but creating an effective workplace environment from day one will help you to bring your ideas to market and attract investment faster. As a more established business, keeping in touch with the evolving needs of employees, customers and investors is important. Ask yourself: what is it that your current and future employees, customers and investors are looking for?
Life sciences company Promega will shortly build a bespoke new UK headquarters on the site at Chilworth so that it may continue to benefit from all that the Science Park has to offer while enhancing capacity for business expansion. The new premises will house a staff gym and a learning and development facility which it hopes will benefit employees and the local community.
General manager of Promega UK, Derek McCall, said: “Our vision is to create a working environment, from both an appearance and sustainability viewpoint, which our employees are proud to work within. More than this, our new laboratory and training facility will enable us to reach out to the wider community in terms of local colleges and schools to provide training on applications and technologies in biological research. We hope to enthuse the next generation of life scientists.”
To find out more about what makes Southampton Science Park stand out, visit the website: