Celebrating 10 years of Innovation and Enterprise

Sue Cooke, CEO of the 3M BIC

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It’s hard to believe that we have reached our 10-year milestone. Since I took over the role of CEO at the 3M BIC over four years ago, it’s been fantastic to see the Centre go from strength to strength and the connections we have built along the way.

Ten years ago, we set out as one of the first innovation centres of its kind in the UK to bridge the gap between businesses and universities. Our mission was to open doors to opportunities and showcase the potential of industrial to academic collaboration.

It has been an interesting journey over the last decade.

Fifty-five businesses have spun in and out of the 3M BIC, with businesses residing at the centre for an average of 6.5 years. We have also seen 100% of our businesses experiencing growth during their tenure at the Centre.

Over the years, we have received substantial funding that has allowed us to invest in technology, including 3D printers, Xray machines and microscopy, that we identified as a growing need for SMEs wanting to innovate.

We have received national recognition in government whitepapers and gained awards for excellence in enterprise and tech investment. Other innovation hubs have followed across the UK, using the Centre as a blueprint.

And who can forget the global pandemic that turned the world upside down but paved the way for new opportunities. It certainly spurred us on to re-evaluate our working practices as a team and offer hybrid events and flexible working solutions for businesses.

Community spirit

We recently reviewed our mission, vision and values as a team, to ascertain what makes the 3M BIC what it is and what is important to us – community and people came out at the top.

People have always been central to what we do at the 3M BIC. From those that work at the businesses based in the centre, those that visit, to those that work here.

We strive to support, inspire, and build connections and always aim to go that extra mile to make all our visitors and businesses feel welcome.

As a team, we also bring together all our diverse talents, skills, and expertise to help achieve great things for our customers.

Several members of the management team have been here for many years, some longer than 10 years, recruited to launch the Centre and attract businesses to be based here.

We have a solid history of placement students with many becoming permanent members of the team, forging careers at the Centre.

A handful of businesses have also been with us for 10 years, that we have seen grow into thriving and successful businesses, many of which have broken into global markets.

This is what makes the Centre a community. It’s not just different businesses residing alongside each other, we are colleagues that chat in the kitchen and ask about families and holidays, we bake for charities, and we celebrate achievements and notable events, such as International Women’s Day – we even have 5 a-side football teams.

More than office space

Many people think we’re just office space, but we are more than that.

What makes us stand out from the rest is our technology. Our capabilities and expertise that can help businesses design products, create 3D prototypes, and investigate for internal faults. We provide tools for businesses to innovate that are otherwise out of reach due to limited budgets and in-house skills.

We help solve challenges and find solutions.

Hundreds of businesses have benefitted from access to our technology and expertise. From creating prototypes for aerospace parts, automotive headlamps, lattice structures for strength and testing and valve structures for hazardous environments.

Over the years, we have worked across sectors including, aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, engineering, MedTech, creative and heritage.

One of my highlights of the decade, was our tech team developing over 130 3D snow scenes that formed part of the BBC’s stop motion video to promote the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. You can watch it here.

Global success

I take great pride in seeing our businesses grow and succeed, from those that are still at the 3M BIC to those that have outgrown the Centre and spun out to larger premises to allow for further growth.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is our anchor tenant, setting up its North of England hub in 2012. Having already built connections with the University of Huddersfield, the 3M BIC created the perfect space for the company to maintain its ties with the University and its metrology expertise, whilst benefitting from the advanced laboratory facilities at the newly built state-of-art 3M BIC across the road from campus.

Several other businesses within the building have grown from start-up businesses into global players, with plans for further growth.

Adventoris, a Software as a Service (SaaS) specialist, followed a typical 3M BIC business scale-up journey, from experiencing financial difficulties in its early days and downsizing its team, to securing its big break, which helped catapult the businesses from a team of two to a team of almost 50 today. Now catering for 200 clients across the globe, the company is now at the point of moving onto larger premises that will allow it to double its size in the coming years.

Likewise, Ionix has experienced accelerated growth since coming to the 3M BIC in 2015. Needing flexible lab and office space, the company, which specialises in ultrasonic sensors for extreme environments, has gone from a team of 10 to now employing 20, and sells it devices made in a lab on our Innovation Avenue to 60 countries, across 6 continents.

Looking ahead for the next decade

I could go on and tell you more about success stories that have emerged from the 3M BIC over the last 10 years, but there are too many to share. What I can say is, that the 3M BIC set out to help businesses to innovate, connect, grow, and we have certainly achieved that vision.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have been a part of the 3M BIC’s journey, both past and present. I am really looking forward to the next 10 years of innovative breakthroughs, regional economic growth and, more importantly, the strong bonds we forge along the way.

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