Innovation and enterprise blog

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


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

27 March 2015

Self-service photography comes to the Business & IP Centre

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Self-service photography was introduced to the British Library at the beginning of January this year, and since Monday 16 March it has been extended into the Business & IP Centre here in St Pancras.

You are now able to use your own smartphones, tablets and compact cameras to make copies of collection items in the Centre. This arrangement only covers printed items and does not include taking photos of any of the databases on our computer screens.

Before taking photographs you should watch these videos on photography and collection handling and read our guidelines on self-service photography.


You should be fully aware of Copyright and Privacy Laws:

• If an item is still in copyright you can only copy a certain amount. We recommend you only copy a book chapter, an article, or no more than 5% of an in copyright work for your own private study or non-commercial research purposes.

• You may copy more if you have permission from the copyright holder, but you will need to bring in proof.

• You may also copy more than 5% if copyright has expired.

• The Data Protection Act of 1998 and other privacy laws may apply to the use of any information obtained from our collections.

• You are responsible for any copies made which infringe copyright, data protection, privacy, or other laws.

This is a substantial change to existing practice in the Business & IP Centre, so please bear with us as we get to grips with the practicalities of the new arrangements. Please also show consideration for your fellow visitors by making sure your device is switched to silent mode before you start snapping away!

If you have any queries about the new service or, or comments about how it is being rolled out you can tweet @BL_Ref_Services or speak to staff in the Centre.

20 March 2015

Five tips for understanding intellectual property

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Every business has intellectual property (IP) of some sort. However, when working out how to manage and protect it, it can be hard to know where to start! Below are some of our tips for businesses who want to begin understanding and managing their IP.

1.       Understand the different types of intellectual property

There are many different types of intellectual property protection, covering areas from art to inventions. The main ones are copyright, trademarks, patents, and designs, but know-how and trade secrets are also forms of IP commonly found within businesses. Your business may have more than one of these types, so understanding how they work, how they’re protected and the differences between the different types is essential.

2.       IP audit

Conduct a basic IP audit of your business. What IP do you have, is it protected, and how long does that protection last? Do you licence any of your IP to other people? Is there any associated costs/income? Putting this information together in one document will help you to plan your IP strategy, and keep track of your assets.

3.       Check your agreements and licences

IP use is often governed by contracts and licences. If you are commissioning work, is IP covered in your agreements with the contractor? If you licence other people’s IP, do you keep records of the licences? Employment contracts often also include an IP clause, and you may have non-disclosure agreements to cover trade secrets. An overview of your paperwork will help ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

4.       Embed IP within your business strategy

IP doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of your business. Whilst IP can be a business asset, applying for protection often has associated costs, so it’s good practice to assess your IP strategy as part of your overall business plan, rather than separately.

5.       Seek help!

There are plenty of resources for businesses looking to find out more about intellectual property. Here at the Business & IP Centre we run a number of workshops and webinars covering IP topics. Our next webinar ‘Intellectual Property for Business’, funded by the Intellectual Property Office, is coming up on the 27 March 2015, and will give you a good understanding of the basics.

The Intellectual Property Office also has a number of tools to help businesses, including the ‘IP Health Check’ and ‘IP Equip’.  

For legal advice, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Institute of Trademark Attorneys are good places to start. We strongly advise you to ask a patent or trade mark attorney before proceeding with using or applying for rights.

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

12 March 2015

A business boost for libraries

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Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Guy Jeremiah at the British Library Business & IP Centre

The Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England announced that they will dedicate £400,000 funding to support the British Library’s ambition to transform UK city libraries into hubs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The British Library will also make a contribution of £253k in cash and non-cash resources.

The funding will provide a boost to enterprise in Exeter and Northamptonshire, enabling Exeter Central Library and Northamptonshire Libraries to pilot a Business & IP Centre service to support local entrepreneurs.

It will also enable the British Library to consolidate the network of Business & IP Centres already operational in six cities across the UK, and reinforce the important work the Centres do to engage local communities and disadvantaged groups in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow: the London Centre has helped to create 2,775 businesses and an additional 3,345 jobs in new and existing businesses from 2005-2012. Overall, these businesses increased their turnover by £153 million, which in turn made a contribution of £47.1 million in GVA to London’s economy[1].

Libraries also have a strong record of attracting communities from a wide range of backgrounds; an estimated 41% of Enterprising Libraries participants are women, 38% are from BAME groups and 10% are currently unemployed.   

In the six Business & IP Centres already open around the UK (in Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield), local entrepreneurs can receive face-to-face advice and training on how to start, protect or grow their business, and can access market research databases and other information out of reach for most SMEs.

Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Marsha Brown at the British Library Business & IP Centre

Entrepreneur and recent success story of the Business & IP Centre network, Marsha Brown, used existing Northamptonshire business services (Library Plus Enterprise Hub and Northampton Enterprise Partnership) to set up her dress-making and design business ‘Solo Flair’ in 2012. As a result of the support she received, Marsha successfully expanded her customer base and now employs 3 part-time staff, while working around her family.  She now supports other new business start-ups and gives talks to local schools about starting a career and following your dreams. 

The British Library’s vision is that there will be a UK-wide network of Centres in libraries by the end of the decade, supporting local economic growth and innovation and providing free business support across the country.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said

Public libraries are of huge value to local communities. As familiar and trusted public places, and access points to vast amounts of free information, libraries also have powerful potential as engines of innovation and growth.

As outlined in the Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, our ambition is to open 20 Business & IP Centres in public libraries across the UK by 2020.

It is hugely exciting to welcome the library teams in Exeter and Northamptonshire into the Business & IP Centre network, and I extend our thanks to both the Department of Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England for enabling us to take another key step towards our goal.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The formal business environment can be an intimidating place, but it needn’t be. Enterprising Libraries give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to go and get free expert advice from their library, and receive the support they need to make the most of their great ideas.

“Local communities are untapped business resources – filled with capable and bright individuals who just need a helping hand. By extending the Enterprising Libraries funding today, we can help grow Britain’s ever expanding pool of entrepreneurial talent and ensuring that local economic growth is supported across the country.”

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, said:

 “Libraries are an important part of all our lives, bringing communities together and also providing a vital hub for knowledge and information exchange. The success of the Business & IP Centres illustrates their important role in providing business support to those communities and we are pleased to be able to continue to support this work. This additional funding will build on the success of the Enterprising Libraries programme, sustaining the impact of this project to support more entrepreneurs across England.

1. Source: Adroit Economics, based on Seven Up Census, April 2012