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UK business incubator named number one in Europe

Nick Sturge and Professor Sir Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol, at the Engine Shed launch

Press release issued: 25 June 2014

A university business incubator, responsible for helping UK businesses secure over £1 billion investment, has been ranked the best in Europe and second best in the world.

The University Business Incubator (UBI) Index described SETsquared – of which the University of Bristol is a member – as ‘outstanding’ for its work to help companies grow and achieve a high economic impact.

The SETsquared partnership, which includes the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, has given birth to some 1,000 high-tech start-ups since its inception 11 years ago. It was placed second globally, just behind The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University in Houston.

Its role is to accelerate early-stage, high-tech, high growth businesses, regardless of any previous connection with the universities.

Bristol SETsquared is based in Engine Shed - the city’s new enterprise hub to drive inward investment, create jobs and encourage a new generation of high-growth businesses.

Nick Sturge, Director of Engine Shed, said: “We have always endeavoured to operate in a global context. Most of the tech start-ups we work with are born global and this award confirms that we can provide the best incubation environment for local start-ups that will become global businesses."

SETsquared, which specialises in accelerating technology businesses, says its position reflects the impressive economic value of the client companies it has helped build over the last 11 years. Since its inception it has worked with more than 1,000 high-tech start-ups that have raised over £1 billion in investment.

SETsquared success stories include companies that have developed swine flu detection kits, microchips that speed up connection to the internet, and security systems that protect against terrorism without impeding world trade.

Dhruv Bhatli, Co-founder and Director of Research at UBI Index, said: “SETsquared did really well on our Global Benchmark and beat numerous business incubators based at top universities. They are one of the best incubation places in the world and certainly the best in Europe, as evidenced from their performance on our global benchmark.

“It is an outstanding business incubator that provides exceptional quality to its client companies and produces growth companies and high economic impact.”

UBI Index is the first global index to benchmark performance and best practices of University Business Incubators. Around 800 incubators in 60 countries were involved in the 2014 survey.

Locally, Bristol SETsquared has won a collection of awards, including ‘Best Heritage Project’ in the South West Built Environment Awards for the £1.7 million transformation of Brunel’s Engine Shed – the original station at Bristol Temple Meads, dating from 1841.

Nick Sturge also won the ‘Public Sector Director of the Year’ accolade at the 2014 Institute of Directors (IoD) South West regional awards held earlier this month.

Paul Wilson, Chief Executive of the West of England LEP, said: "Everyone that touches SETsquared's business incubation in Bristol and Bath knows that it looks and feels great.  High-tech and digital stars of the future emerge on a regular basis, with the likes of BluWireless Technologies, Secondsync, Ubiquisys - to name just a few.  

“This award demonstrates something that many of us have suspected for a long time, that SETsquared is the best university business incubator in Europe.  This is welcome recognition of the ongoing, grounded and inspirational work that SETsquared delivers every day."

Further information

About the UBI Index

UBI Index is the first global index to benchmark performance and best practices of University Business Incubators.

About SETsquared

SETsquared is a collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey which provides services to accelerate businesses and boost enterprise.

Its incubation programme specialises in growing technology start-ups from bases or ‘incubation centres’ at each of the five universities. Start-up companies do not have to be based in one of the SETsquared centres, non-residents can be part of the programme, benefitting from the same world-leading mentorship, networking opportunities and access to investors.

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