Jun 2016

Bristol has a lot to shout about when it comes to innovation. Let’s explore what makes the southwest city so cutting-edge, and how enterprise hubs like the Engine Shed play a vital part…

From Aardman to Banksy, Bristol is a city synonymous with creativity. In fact, it has been identified as one of the country’s top creative hotspots, boasting growth of over 100% in its creative industries since the 1990s. But it’s not just about the creative sector – which, by the way, is 50% more productive in Bristol than in the UK as a whole – the city is also at the forefront of technology. It’s home to the country’s fastest growing high-tech sector outside of London, as well as the world’s most respected micro-chip design hub that isn’t in Silicon Valley.

And the accolades just keep on coming… Bristol was last year awarded European Green Capital status (the first British city to receive this honour) for its pioneering environmental efforts and was just a few weeks ago named as one of only two UK Smart Cities, along with London, for its commitment to innovation. That’s quite a pedigree!


Innovation dies without encouragement, so it makes sense that behind Bristol’s thriving startup scene is a wealth of support. 2012 saw the launch of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, one of the UK’s largest urban regeneration projects. The ambitious project has so far created over 2,000 jobs.

And this brings us to the Engine Shed. When looking for a space to house Bristol’s most innovative, up-and-coming businesses, the old engine shed of Bristol Temple Meads station (originally designed by pioneering architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel) was a natural choice. As part of the Enterprise Zone project, the area has been transformed into a vibrant shared workspace, allowing like-minded businesses to operate under the same roof.

The Engine Shed is now home to a whole host of exciting, high-tech, fast-growing companies. One of its most notable tenants is surely SETsquared, the world’s no.1 university business incubator, whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs and startups grow to their full potential.


Within its first year, the Engine Shed reached full occupancy and contributed £7m to the economy. Understandably, expansion was fast-tracked!

Forward, one of the UK’s leading operators of shared workspace, took a vacant piece of land behind the Engine Shed, 20 shipping containers, and voila, Boxworks was born. It launched in December 2015, increasing the Engine Shed’s office space by 30% and giving more companies a chance to join the coveted community – including Carbon Law. The buzzing Boxworks environment is the perfect place for our enterprising Partners to do business.

The startup-friendly enterprise hub of Boxworks and the Engine Shed is doing wonders in encouraging collaboration among Bristol’s best and brightest. It’s proving to be a magnet for savvy companies who want to be a part of the dynamic community, and Engine Shed 2 is already in the works!

Gavin Eddy, CEO of Forward, says “Boxworks has been a very exciting project for us. It was conceived and delivered in just six months and now sits as a beacon of aspiration and intent right at the heart of the Temple Gate Enterprise Zone.”


So what does the future hold for innovation in Bristol? Well, for a start, the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone is aspiring to create a whopping 17,000 jobs over its 25 year lifespan. The impressive local talent pool – 51.7 per cent of the area’s workforce are classified as highly skilled – is far from dwindling, as Bristol boasts one of the country’s highest rates of graduate retention and is frequently named as one of the UK’s best places to live.

The 2015 Startup Cities Index crowned Bristol the best area outside of London to start and grow a business – a title we think it’s unlikely to lose any time soon.