THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

29 March 2017

Tech to boost your growing business

Technological advancements have now made it easier for small businesses to grow than ever before. The ability to find solutions to age-old problems using technology has meant that businesses can realise their potential and reach a wide audience at an affordable cost. An example of this can be seen 100 feet below the streets of Clapham in South London, where something quite unusual is happening. Read on to discover how Microsoft’s cloud-based Office365 package has helped to create a commercial urban farm in a very unconventional setting.

Entrepreneur Richard Ballard and his business partners have transformed old disused underground tunnels into places of creation. ‘Growing Underground’ is a commercial urban farm unlike any other – growing sustainable micro greens and salad leaves 33 metres under the busy streets of Clapham, in an environment which is water-efficient, energy efficient and pesticide-free.

Unlike traditional farm owners, Richard can maintain complete control over his environment, so every leaf tastes equally amazing and these mouth-wateringly fresh products can be delivered to markets, restaurants and food retailers around London within four hours of being picked and packed. In such an unusual location, control and communication are vital for success and, as the business looks to expand further into the tunnels increasing product range and output, Microsoft technology has been helping them to keep close contact, stay agile and be ready for anything.

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Goal – Stay connected from any device, in any location

An average farm day is systematic and follows a predictable pattern, but the 4-strong Growing Underground team has to be in many different places working in a variety of different ways. In the tunnels, there are no phone lines but contact must be maintained with the office, where enquiries are handled. Regular updates on the farm’s climate need to be readily available to everyone, even those who travel extensively between customers and suppliers and those working remotely.

When the business started, there was a wide variety of PCs, laptops and devices in use so sharing information was not always straightforward. Richard wanted to make the day-to-day running of the business as efficient as possible. He came across Office 365 and the Windows 10 Surface Pro tablets from Microsoft which sparked a journey to explore the power of the cloud.

Richard recalls “It’s important that we can get information about the farm to everyone wherever they are and share documents freely. As a small business, having servers onsite wasn’t realistic from a space or cost perspective but we needed a system that everyone could log onto and use, no matter what type of device they had. Office 365 seemed like a very attractive option for us with a mix of Windows and Apple users.”

Solution – A platform for real-time information sharing

Growing Underground, invested in Office 365, lightweight Microsoft Surface Pro 3 devices and Lumia Smartphones, powered by Windows 10 - an integrated suite of Microsoft cloud services and devices that help them to communicate freely, as well as create and share real-time data at any time through any device. OneDrive for Business and SharePoint combine to form a central location where documents are saved and where the team can edit the same document, at the same time, without worrying about whether they have the latest version. Previous telephony and communications challenges have disappeared thanks to Skype for Business. Instant messaging helps the farm and the office to share quick updates about the environment, while remote and mobile users can talk to one another and customers using audio and video calling.

Remote workers no longer need to carry weighty laptops; armed with sleek Surface Pro 3 tablets and Lumia smartphones, they can enjoy a unified user experience using their favourite apps on powerful yet lightweight devices perfectly suited to any working environment. Richard comments “As a small business, we just can’t operate with everyone in the same physical location but with Microsoft technology, we can be synchronised wherever we are. We can work together on the same documents from different places and we’re always connected and up-to-date with what’s happening on the farm. Without that immediacy, we couldn’t have taken the business so far, so fast.”

Could your business also grow with Office365? If so, click here take advantage of the Business & IP Centre’s exclusive offer and make a 16% saving today.

17 March 2017

Dry Patch - A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour

Dry-Patch-logoSo many people think running a business has to be a serious matter. So it is refreshing when an entrepreneur proves the opposite.

I guess the most well known recent brand with a funny-bone is Innocent Drinks. They have included grass covered vans, a banana phone and slides in their offices, and a whole range of humorous labels on their bottles such as this one:

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I first met Chris Gomez founder and CEO of Dry Patch a couple of years ago in an Advice Clinic here in the Business & IP Centre in London.

He immediately made an impression with his passion for the product, his professionalism, and understanding of his customers' needs. He also recognised he was addressing a niche market with his first product the Moto Seat Cover below. As a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I could see there was a lot of potential in his ideas.

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Once his website was up and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much humour Chris had used to promote his brand. Here are a few examples:

  • With a focus on innovation and lifestyle, our premium products will keep you and your stuff dry... from the bottom up
  • We're not hairy bikers or Tour de France wannabes. We don't wear leather or Lycra to and from work but we do love the freedom of 2 wheels.
  • We're not going to ask you to start hugging each other at the traffic lights, but we are all 2 wheeled commuters and suffer the same conditions - from both the weather and other traffic.
  • We know that we are just little pin pricks in the bottom of the 1.5 million 2 wheel commuters in London, but we dream of being big pricks.

I also love the way Chris spells out his brand values in such clear terms:

When it comes to our products, we have 4 key values:

  1. it's kit you want (more on this below).
  2. it is 100% functional - our kit works really well and is made of the best materials for the job.
  3. it has to look great - there's too much stuff out there that works brilliantly for commuters on 2 wheels, that just doesn't look very good.
  4. our kit will always be innovative - we believe innovation is the key to developing brilliant new products that disrupt the rest of the market.

And even better Chris makes fantastic use of the Dry-Patch blog and social media channels. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

 Written by Neil Infield on behalf Business & IP Centre

14 March 2017

Specialist advice for your growing business

Innovating for Growth is designed to help established businesses scale up and grow by offering over £10,000 worth of specialist business advice. In the last four years, the Business & IP Centre has helped over 300 businesses, with 70% of them seeing an increase in turnover within a year.

The Innovating for Growth programme consists of one-to-one advice sessions and workshops which focus on your specific business needs. Covering areas such as maximising your intellectual property, developing a growth strategy and building your brand, you will be able to pinpoint the unique challenges for your business and then focus on the solutions with Innovating for Growth’s business experts.    

Our current cohort has been able to benefit from this bespoke business advice and will now be following in the footsteps of Innovating for Growth’s previous graduates. Read on to find out who they are.  Maybe your business could be next?

3D FilaPrint

3D FilaPrint was founded in early 2013 and is a company that specialises in 3D printing. They offer the widest range of 3D printing filaments in the UK and trade globally.

Academic Underdogs

Academic Underdogs is an educational company that aims to ‘transform average or poor academic performers into outstanding achievers’. The company has helped over 30,000 students worldwide and has sold over 18,000 books.

Bradt Travel Guides

Bradt Travel Guides was founded in 1974 and is one of the world’s leading travel publishers. Specialising in expert travel advice, readers can benefit from over 200 travel and wildlife titles.

CarTap

CarTap is a technology company that provides software as a service for car-sharing. CarTap aims to increase the utilisation of vehicles, reducing emissions and improving the urban space. The company was developed with the help of InnovateUK and in 2016 won the ‘Smart Urbanisation’ competition.

Feed Me Light

Feed Me Light specialises in the creation of bespoke animation for its clients. Covering areas such as creative briefs, storyboarding, illustrations, filming and print, they are able to find creative solutions using their varied expertise. 

Hit Products

Hit Products Ltd was established as a launchpad to develop a range of innovative products designed to solve everyday problems. The ‘CouchCoaster’ is the first offering from the company and is billed as ‘the ultimate drink holder for your sofa’.

Huntsmore

Huntsmore is a property project management firm based in West London. Its team of specialists, including, architects, interior designers, structural engineers, builders and contractors, offers a complete ‘Design & Build’ service for people wanting to renovate, extend or upgrade their home.

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Lavolio Ltd

Lavolio is a boutique handmade confectionary company. Its sweets are made from real pieces of fruit, nuts and jellies wrapped in chocolate and spices. In 2015 The Grocer magazine named Lavolio’s founder, Lavinia Davolio, as one of its ‘Top New Talents’ for 2015.

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Letter Box Hamper

Letter Box Hamper makes small hampers of luxury British food and drink, beautifully wrapped and sent through the post with letterbox delivery. The hampers consist of produce from independent British suppliers that you won’t ‘find in any old supermarket’.

Lomakatsi Ltd

Lomakatsi was founded in January 2015 in order to help mental health patients in the UK. Their programme combines a range of artistic therapeutic systems to produce a coherent rehabilitation model, which is being used by the NHS and the private health sector.

London Research International Ltd

London Research International is a provider of international research, consultancy and marketing services. Their focus is working with clients on projects outside their own countries and they have expertise in energy/environment infrastructure development and IT.

Love Smoothies Bike & Being Good

Love Smoothies Bike & Being Good deliver exciting and affordable smoothie bike hire packages, interactive arcade games and pop-up smoothie bars to events across the UK. These fun products also help to promote the serious messages of wellbeing and sustainability by generating electricity through the use of their smoothie bikes.

Roger Mears Architect LLP

Roger Mears Architects was founded in 1980 and aims to create ‘beautifully crafted buildings, using our clients’ styles and personalities, within a historic context’. The company has developed expertise in the alteration, extension and repair of historic buildings during its 35 years.

SDR Upholstery Ltd

Shoreditch Design Rooms offers a highly skilled and innovative upholstery service from its SDR studio. It is also officially recognised as a training school for the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) and offers courses for a diploma qualification.

Smartify CIC  

Smartify provides its users with instant information about works of art in museums and galleries with modern technology. Using advanced image recognition and Augmented Reality (AR), the SMARTIFY app provides instant access to inspiring commentary, straight to your smartphone.

 The Victoria Chart Company 

The Victoria Chart Company was founded in 2004 and is a leading innovator in practical simple solutions for busy parents. Their products engage and motivate children in a fun, interactive way so they can reach their full potential.

Theatre Workout 

Theatre Workout is an award-winning theatre and events company based in London’s West End. They run workshops for over 8,000 people a year, delivered by highly trained and experienced performers, artists and practitioners.

Apply now for your chance to receive over £10,000 worth of free business support today.

The Innovating for Growth programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

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