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

09 December 2014

Giving young people a taste for business with Citrus Saturday

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Citrus saturday logoThe simple aim of Citrus Saturday is to introduce young people aged 11-15 to the challenges of running their own business in a fun, safe and organised way. It provides the young people taking part with the materials and locations to make and sell lemonade for a day and provides them with support, mentoring and training to help them to make business decisions that can lead to them making a profit that they can choose to keep. 

Citrus Saturday started life as a small-scale initiative by UCL Advances in Camden in 2011 but events have since taken off on an international basis. In 2012 Citrus Saturdays were held in Dublin, Edinburgh and Somerset. In 2013 they expanded to Belgium, Swaziland and Mozambique and, in 2014, Spain, Germany, France and Greece were added to the list.

The reason that has this been so internationally successful is that the organisers have developed a range of resources, checklists and templates which makes running the events easy with particular attention given to the practical and legal issues arising from working with young people.

Citrus Saturday at the British Library

It has also benefitted from being part of the Interreg IVB funded Open Innovation Project which has meant that it had the support of other project partners in North West Europe who hosted many of the events outside London. The British Library Business & IP Centre is also a partner in the Open Innovation project and we were delighted to be able to host a Citrus Saturday stall on the BL piazza as part of the 2014 London Citrus Saturday.

Citrus Saturday AfricaPlans for the future are ambitious and Citrus Saturday are looking to run a programme for 2,000 children in Swaziland and have created a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

 

 

 

 

Nigel Spencer on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

25 November 2014

An umbrella with style and strength - the Senz° XL storm-proof

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Senz umbrellaIt's looks alone were enough to demand the attention and curiosity of my colleagues. And it was certainly easy to spot amid the forest of standard umbrellas, drying in a corner of the office after a particularly wet morning commute.

And I have to admit one of the reasons for buying the XL storm-proof umbrella from Senz°  was its unusual shape. It reminded me of a stealth fighter jet or perhaps something Batman might pull out if caught in a downpour.

The other reason - and the cause for the umbrella's striking silhouette - was the company's claim that it is capable of withstanding winds of up to 70mph without turning inside-out - or inverting to use the technical term. This was backed up by an impressive and, at times, hair raising demonstration video, which indicates it would handle anything that our weather here in London could throw at it. Although I do not recommend that anyone try the test at 1.48 minutes.
 



Senz° joins a long line of anti-inversion brollies (a quick keyword search for "windproof umbrella" in Espacenet found close to 200 patents), each with their own take on how best to resist the elements. Senz°'s offering is unique in that its asymmetrical, aerodynamic shape channels wind flow across its surface: preventing wind resistance that would flip a normal umbrella inside-out. It will also automatically twist into to the best position for it to battle the wind - as long as the handle is not gripped too tightly.

The invention was the 2004 brainchild of Dutch industrial engineering student, Gerwin Hoogendoorn. In classic inventor style, he decided there had to be a better way after the frustration of experiencing three broken umbrellas within a space of a week.
 

The dream of making Senz - IDE TU Delft from IDE TU Delft on Vimeo.

Having made the initial drawings and producing a prototype on his grandmother’s sewing machine, Gerwin approached fellow students of Delft University of Technology, Gerard Kool and Philip Hess, to brainstorm bringing it to the market. Within nine days of the umbrella’s launch in 2006, they had sold all 10,000 of their initial production run.
 
It has since won numerous awards, including:
•         Red Dot award for design 2007
•         Dutch Design award 2007
•         IDEA (gold) award 2008
•         Good Design award 2008
•         Gold International Design Excellence Award 2008
•         ICSID Star of the Observeur award 2009
•         iF product design award 2009

Sexy Senz

So much for the theory, but how has the XL storm-proof umbrella served me against London's ever changeable weather? After six years (by far the longest any has lasted) and some fairly testing storms later, it has held up well with only a few scratches on the top cap from the times that I had used it as a walking stick (which Senz° explicitly state in their care instructions I should not do... sorry). More significantly, it has not inverted once during the six years I have owned it.

So a case of style and substance, rather than style over substance? In this instance I would say definitely yes.

William Davis on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

18 November 2014

Book Review - Salvation in a start-up? The origins and nature of the self-employment boom

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The digital publication of this book by Benedict Dellot, published by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on May 2014, attracted my attention when it was featured last month on the “Small Business and Entrepreneurship” section of the Management & Business Studies Portal. It is a research study report, available for everyone as open-access material and there is no need to be registered as user of the portal to access it. 

Salvation in a start-up

The report looks at the reasons behind the rise of self-employment and microbusinesses in the UK, and is a very interesting report to read as it highlights the profiles of the main users of the Business & IP Centre.  It is an output of the project named “The Power of Small”, which seeks to better understand the growing community of self-employed and microbusinesses, and was launched by RSA in collaboration with Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items.

Six tribes of self-employment

The report focuses on the individuals involved in the self-employed community, trying to answer questions such as why so many people are turning to self-employment and what this means for them personally. It segments the self-employed community into six “tribes”, from Visionaries all the way through to Dabblers (see Figure 1), presenting a typical case for each “tribe”. The author considers this typology crucial for policymakers who can then create effective interventions and policy solutions that will improve the livelihood of the self-employed community.

 The report highlights the following main research findings and recommendations:

  • Most people choose to be self-employed for greater freedom, meaning and control, defying the myth that those who started up in the recessionary period of the last five years did so to escape unemployment.
  • The biggest increases in self-employment have been in professional occupations (one of the highest skilled groups), defying the myth that most of the newly self-employed are low-skilled odd-jobbers.
  • Very few that started up in the last 5 years have taken employees, so there is need to stimulate growth and recruitment in the self-employed;
  • Despite the majority agreeing that the economy is getting better and the country is heading in the right direction, very few agree that the government adequately supports the self-employed and that the welfare system is fair to people in their position; there is need for urgent review of government policy on self-employment, from welfare and taxes, all the way through to education and housing.

 In the next phase of the Power of Small project, attention will be focused on the wider economic and social implications of the growth of the microbusiness community. This report – the first of three -  gives a good understanding of what it means for the people directly involved, but questions remain about the impact of a growing microbusiness community on major issues that affect us all, such as productivity, innovation, jobs growth, inequality and living standards.

Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre London