You would need to have been living somewhere pretty remote to not have noticed the boom incubators in the UK and elsewhere, especially in the US. Universities have set them up. Banks have set them up. Corporations have set them up. These days everyone and their dog runs an incubator/ co working space. Even Accountants offer value adding services for startups, Tesco is backing one, Science Museum is running one. Even London Stock Exchange gets a look in with its Elite programme, which has been in the news recently. Its a busy space of interested parties encouraged by the pace of development and the hopes of large profits and lots of cash.
People in the UK have wondered long and hard about “Why we can’t make it happen like that here” — as if the fact that we don’t makes us inferior or plain unlucky. Close examination of the forces, mindset and resources that have been available to people developing new technologies there, show that the valley ecosystem is a machine for making startups that is both immensely fortunate and to a degree well-managed serendipity. Credit is due to Arm and Autonomy for their successes. Whilst books and articles have been written about why the UK does not have its own Valley, no value is gained by comparing ourselves to them. But things have changed significantly in the past 3 years in terms of what kind of support is available for startups in the UK, EU and the US.
In 1980, there were only a dozen business incubators in the U.S., according to the National Business Incubator Association.
As of October 2012, there were over 1,250 incubators in the United States, up from only 12 in 1980. NBIA estimates that there are about 7,000 business incubators worldwide.
More recently we have seen a rapid burst of incubator growth outside of Silicon Valley, across the US and EU outside of major cities and especially in London and New York.
Following from our review of incubation in the UK, 18 months ago we did a review of this splurge incubators and accelerators in the US. Now we are about to do one here in the UK, to understand what was meant by the terms, and the difference in offerings. A diversity of incubator types has increased to more specialised forms. We are going to attempt to explain some of this diversification, and why we think the world needs another one.
Taking final year students into new spaces and places
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership are challenged with making a sparse Downtown into a thriving place day and night. In Spring 2012, we ran a 15 week studio with final year designers to explore and develop a range of services that could exist in 10 years time, to help them think about the kinds of things that could be possible that they might start to develop now. They took on a lot of new approaches – first future scenario making, using materials and existing research such as The Institute for the Future, and learned to extrapolate their thinking into the future. We then took them through service thinking and design. Finally we explored the kinds of technology and pervasive computing that will allow them to create evidence and artefacts of whole new services which cannot exist right now.
Our time with CODELAB and Masters of Tangible Interaction Design at CMU
Here are some of the amazing people who work and study there, from Zack Jacobson-Weaver, Madeline Gannon, Daiki Itoh and Meng Shi. Established by Mark Gross, this community of hybrid individuals who are as great at making as they are at designing, is a wonderful group to know.
Here is a small project I did with Mark Choi and them on making – why they make, and what it means to them.
First up is Madeline Gannon, a PHD candidate we had the pleasure of working with.
You can see more films about makers from the CODELAB here.
More from us about the CODELAB experience here.
Thoughts on what we learned from the rust belt.
In PGH’s case, 60% people left the city back in the 80’s, and as a result the city is patchy, in the sense that there are neighborhoods that are like islands across the city. So everyone needs to drive, well, it makes life a whole lot easier. The buses are great but the service is illegible and therefore so hard to understand, with little empathy for people using it. That being said there are wonderful bus highways, so far commuting is possible into Downtown. Another pattern is the doughnut, or empty centre, where Downtown is busy and populated during the day, at night and weekends it becomes a lonely place. Too few people and some street level spaces are unoccupied, and unobserved, and they begin to feel unsafe. So there is a drive to repopulate Downtown in the day and night. Projects like PopUp Downtown, night time Art Crawl and PopUp Nightmarket, supported by the then Mayor Ravensthal are more successful examples of this. Also you have people like Bobby of Bar Marcos extends his restaurant business into a local food educator for kids in local schools.