How to Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Business

Employee working in the Central Research Laboratory coworking space

Are you running a business alongside your day job? This guide outlines how to make the leap and turn your side hustle into a full-time job.  

Side hustles are increasingly popular in the UK. According to research by Simply Business, more than a third of Brits run a company on the side, with 55% of them set up during the pandemic. 

Side hustles are a great way to earn extra income from a hobby or interest. You might be a crafter and selling your handmade products on Etsy or perhaps you enjoy graphic design and take on freelance work during your spare time.  

With the safety net of a job and a regular salary, side hustles are a less risky way to become an entrepreneur than dedicating all of your time to a new venture.  

For many people, your side business may always be just that, but at some point you might decide to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. Signs that you’re ready to go full-time include: 

  • You’re turning down work because you don’t have time to do it 
  • You’re making more money through your side hustle than your day job 
  • Your work/life balance is negatively impacted due to the hours you’re working 

There’s no perfect time to go full-time. It all depends on your personal circumstances and you should make the change when you feel ready.  

It’s scary to quit being an employee and become your own boss so it’s good to be prepared. This guide outlines the steps for turning your side hustle into a successful full-time business.  

Go part-time first 

Before going full-time, you might want to firstly reduce your hours in your day job to dedicate more time to your side hustle. 

Be transparent with your boss about your long term objectives. Many managers are very open to having entrepreneurial employees due to the transferable skills that can benefit their day job.  

However, be wary of running a side hustle that directly competes with your day job. That could get you into trouble, or could even be a breach of your contract.  

Research and planning 

You might be making a nice amount of money to top up your income but if you’re going to dedicate all of your time to a business, you need to know the market is big enough for your product or service. 

That’s where a business plan comes in. Create one that outlines areas including your objectives, target customers, competitors, sales and marketing plans, organisational structure, team and advisers.  

Survey your existing customers to assess their level of capacity to spend more money with you, and conduct market research using services like the British Library Business & IP Centres in libraries across the UK.  

You should also research any legal requirements associated with running a business.  

Understand your finances 

Finances also need to be part of your plan. 

Not having enough money is one of the most common reasons new ventures fail, so it’s important to get your finances in order before going full-time with your company. 

You need to work out if you have enough personal savings to cover your costs, or whether you need to find external startup funding. 

Calculate your monthly living expenses and estimate how much money you’ll need to run the business and how much you think you’ll make from sales.  

Alongside your business plan, create a cashflow forecast that covers all potential sources of revenue and likely business expenses. This will help you decide if you have enough money to run your business full-time and achieve your goals.  

Assess your personal life 

Running a business can be all consuming so it’s important that your personal circumstances are appropriate for being an entrepreneur.  

Questions to consider include:  

  • If you have children, will you be able to balance family life with running a business? 
  • If you have a partner, are they supportive of your plans?  
  • Do you have health issues that could be exacerbated by the pressures of full-time entrepreneurship? 

Find an inspiring workspace 

Running a side business alongside a day job means you still see other people in a work environment, but operating as a full-time entrepreneur can be lonely. 

Finding a workspace to spend some time in can be the solution. A change of scene can boost your productivity, enhance your creativity and give you access to other people in the same situation with whom you can discuss ideas and challenges. A workspace is also useful for holding meetings in a professional environment.  

You don’t need to sign up to a full-time office as just a few hours a week in an inspiring workspace can be very beneficial.  

The Central Research Laboratory Hot Desk and Dedicated Desk memberships provide access to desks and communal break out areas, as well as the specialist prototyping workshops. You can drop-in whenever it works for you. Or, if you’d prefer your own dedicated workspace, we have plenty of options to suit you as your business grows.  

Make connections  

Building a network of useful contacts can help to grow your new venture.  

If you’re a service provider and you already have clients for your side hustle, let them know that you’re going full-time. They might have more work to give you or know other people who could be interested in your service.  

Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to make an announcement about your new venture, and find business events on sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup to make connections and learn new skills.  

You could also sign up to an accelerator programme to meet experts, form collaborations and access training. Plus X has several programmes including: 

  • Better World Collective: Industry-focused Innovation Summits that connect corporates with innovative startups and scaleups to solve sustainable material innovation challenges. 
  • BOOST at Central Research Laboratory: A flexible support programme to help early-stage startups and SMEs through short workshops, mentoring, and in-depth consultations. 
  • BRITE: A series of programmes to help businesses in Greater Brighton collaborate, explore new markets, and generate new customers, including Pioneers, Product Foundry, and Access to Expertise.  
  • CRL Accelerator at Central Research Laboratory: A six month structured programme to help hardware pioneers and product makers build their skills and take their product to the next stage. 

Through our innovation programmes and workspaces, Plus X provides knowledge, guidance, connections and structure to unlock the potential of a great idea. Find out more about innovation at Plus X. 

Why are Workshops Important to Plus X? An Interview with Mat Hunter

Mat Hunter and Paul Rostas, Co-CEOs at Plus X

We recently interviewed Mat Hunter, Co-CEO at Plus X to learn why workshops and specialist facilities are a vital part of our innovation hubs. 

“At its core, innovation takes a lot of repetition. In the early stages, you’ve got to be able to continually make, launch, try things out and learn. 

“While at university, individuals have plenty of access to shared workshops and makerspaces, but once they’ve graduated, these facilities and spaces suddenly become inaccessible and wildly expensive. 

“For us, building shared workshops was a pretty straightforward and clear route to help support small businesses and allow them opportunities to grow. 

“Making is about turning your ideas into reality, turning your theories into practice. We’re trying to facilitate making and will add value wherever we think we can in the future. To help small businesses grow they need to be able to try physical stuff out. Access to testing is a key component of innovation – what happens when you take a theory and put it into practice? The general answer is it doesn’t quite work out as you expected. 

“Practice is so often different from our theories, our intuitions, our hopes, our expectations, and then when we finally get to the stage of trying something out it doesn’t quite work. But, that sense of trying, experiencing errors, learning from these, and making improvements is innovation.”

Why Innovation is Needed in the UK

“At Plus X, we’re constantly on the lookout for infrastructure that helps people iterate their making faster. In our workshops, we enable businesses to make at speed. By iterating, you’re making faster, and solving your problems rapidly. You can move past the errors and get to success quicker. Those days or weeks that you saved compared with sending an idea across the globe to China for development, that’s the precious time that allows you to keep your speed of iteration higher. 

“If we were to name just two of the biggest global challenges, environmental and healthcare, the difficulties that come with these spheres are matters of physical space. Software algorithms will help, and AI will make us more efficient in how we use energy, but at the same time, making the solar panels or making the biodegradable plastics, is a matter of rearranging atoms, not rearranging bits. Businesses that make physical things still matter. 

“This is a mindset that has been around for at least 10 to 15 years; the resurgence of businesses, the making of physical things and the realisation that those physical things need to be made with extreme care, otherwise they will be damaging to the planet. They need to be circular, and they need to be low carbon. 

“All of the recent challenges around supply chains help us to understand that countries need supply chain security. The US has been doing it for a while, but what is now accelerating is the idea of onshoring things. After a few decades of offshoring, they’re working on how to make more manufacturing happen in the US. 

“Currently in the UK when you get to a particular stage, you might send them to China, although we’re trying to do more to limit this in this country. Although as a country we have deindustrialised to some extent, the UK is still the 9th biggest manufacturing nation in the world, so the opportunity for us to reinvigorate manufacturing and innovation in this country is there.

“We’re in outreach mode as there is currently a relative scarcity of people in the UK with these sorts of maker skills. The machinery and prototyping workshops we have at Plus X Brighton and Central Research Laboratory are more expensive than what individuals or individual businesses would perhaps buy by themselves, so we provide a sweet spot of what some people refer to as prosumerism, where you both consume and produce. It gives makers an open and more economical platform in which to test, rather than having to wait weeks for prototypes to make their way back from the other side of the world. We take the scariness out of using these machines with our readily available team of expert technicians and health and safety masters on hand to help.

“And we might yet find that there are very different senses of making. Plus X started in West London where there is a focus on industrial design engineering. Brighton echoes this focus, particularly with environmental sustainability, which is such a universal challenge, but as we grow and open new innovation hubs across the UK, we will always seek to branch out into other forms of making.

“Our prototype and workshop facilities, podcast studio, and VR suites all have a relationship with each other; I call it digital, physical and biological making. Businesses today need more than just desk space. Our specialist facilities and programmes are what makes Plus X different from other workspaces, and earn us the title of ‘innovation hub’. At Plus X, we’re working to help make innovation more accessible and, with what we offer, it opens up this industry to a whole new generation of makers.”


Find out more about our state-of-the-art prototyping workshops at Plus X Brighton and Central Research Laboratory.

We also run a number of innovation programmes for product makers that provide supported access to our workshops: 

How to Become a Successful Business Leader

The best business owners are also great leaders. Read our guide to successful leadership to inspire you on your journey to being a better business leader.

Being a manager within an organisation where you aren’t the top boss is not the same as running your own business.

If you launch your own venture and start to build a team of employees, you need different and enhanced skills that make you not just a founder, but a leader.

See below for five pieces of advice to start you on your journey to being an inspirational business leader.

1. Create a vision

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
Jack Welch, CEO 1981-2001, General Electric

Leadership starts with a strong vision for the future of the business. It should reflect your own values and why you set the business up in the first place.

You then need to use that vision to inspire your employees and build growth. It will give direction and motivation to your staff and remind them of what they are working towards.

A strong and clear vision also helps to attract new staff. You can use it to connect with people who share a similar vision and see your company as one that aligns with their values.

You should constantly communicate your vision both internally and externally. Summarise it in a mission statement. You can reference it in staff meetings and emails, put it on your website, share it on social media and display it on your office walls.

Your vision may change as your business grows or external factors influence it. As you adapt your vision, involve your team in creating it.

Here are some great examples of vision statements.

2. Listen and communicate

“Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable — and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening.”

Peter Nulty, Fortune Magazine, April 1994

Good communication is key to success for any business and it starts at the top.

Communicate clearly and concisely with your team. Be honest and transparent about the business’s successes and failures and what that means for the team.

Business leaders need to listen too. Be available, open to criticism and take feedback on board. Ask questions when appropriate and respond as necessary.

Adopting an approach of honesty, transparency, openness and communication will encourage everyone else to do the same. Be secretive, autocratic and uninterested and that will also be the culture of the business.

Autocratic leadership is one of the least effective leadership styles. Here’s a quiz you can take to understand your current approach and where you need to make improvements.

3. Support staff health and happiness

“Treating employees benevolently shouldn’t be viewed as an added cost that cuts into profits, but as a powerful energiser that can grow the enterprise into something far greater than one leader could envision.”

Howard Schultz, Founder, Starbucks

Treat your employees badly and your business will suffer.

Looking after staff doesn’t just mean paying them every month and approving their holidays; you need to make sure they stay fulfilled, healthy and happy too.

In the early days of your business when you only have a few members of staff, you will likely handle employee issues yourself. Make sure you are up-to-date with employment law and encourage open communication so you are aware of any concerns.

Recognise and reward success so people feel valued and appreciated. A simple ‘well done’ can go a long way.

Offer employee benefits that go beyond just their salary, and prioritise mental health. Ensure staff feel able to raise mental health concerns, and understand the routes to do so.

Working environment is important too. Natural light, good ventilation, outdoor spaces and access to healthy food and drink are all beneficial to employee satisfaction and productivity.

As a business grows, it’s easy for leaders to lose focus on day-to-day people management which can lead to problems and a negative impact on motivation and morale. You’ll need to put in place a more formal human resources structure that ensures employees continue to feel supported and motivated as the team gets bigger.

Bring HR experts on board and put them in charge of areas including recruitment, employee benefits, staff training and employment law compliance.

4. Know when to delegate

“Virgin’s ability to grow and diversify successfully was set in the company’s early days, with my learning how to delegate and let go.”
Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group

As the founder, you might think you know everything about your business but the best leaders are those who recognise that they can’t know everything. Trying to do everything yourself could lead to you burning out and affecting the growth of the company.

As a solo entrepreneur, you’re forced to wear many hats and be the CEO, sales manager and chief financial officer all at the same time. However, as your business grows and you build a team, you need to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses.

Your job is to lead so identify the best people in the organisation to do particular jobs. When recruiting new employees, look for people with skills that complement your own.

Empowering people to do the job they are good at will also improve your culture by creating an environment where staff feel trusted to deliver and have the freedom to be creative.

Delegation isn’t just about internal staff. You might also need to outsource to external experts, especially in the early days when you don’t have a big team. For example, rather than struggling with your accounts, employ an accountant who can do it for you.

5. Always be learning

“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Meta

Curiosity and a constant desire to learn are key characteristics of a great business leader.

Understanding your own limitations and seeking self-improvement will lead to a strengthening of your leadership skills.

It also means you’ll stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in your sector and know if your business needs to adapt. Fail to embrace change and you risk being overtaken by competitors.

To keep learning, read books and industry publications, watch videos and listen to podcasts.

For inspiration, here are some top leadership books and podcasts. For talks by leadership experts, TED.com is a useful resource.

Learning from your peers and external experts is important too. You can do that by attending networking events, business conferences and training. Plus X runs several innovation programmes which deliver knowledge, guidance and connections to communities in Hayes, West London, Brighton, and beyond.

The place where you work can also inspire you. Basing yourself in an innovation hub like Central Research Laboratory means you’ll be surrounded by other business leaders on similar journeys that you can learn from.

Plus X creates innovation communities for the pioneers of tomorrow. We empower and enable bold thinkers at every kind of business – whether you’re a growing startup, a large,
established business, or somewhere in between. To see how we can help you in your business journey, find out about membership.

One to Watch: Plus X Wins Best Newcomer at the 2022 Property Awards

Property Awards

On Tuesday 7th June, Plus X innovation hubs was delighted to be named ‘Best Newcomer in Commercial Property’ at Property Week’s prestigious Property Awards 2022.

In a competitive category with 13 other brilliant property professionals, judges called out Plus X for being “A great business with an amazing ethos that is doing everything right”. This win marks a major milestone for Plus X as we embark on our ambitious plans to scale.

Property Awards 2022 Winner - Plus X

Over the next five years, we aim to open 25 innovation hubs across the UK, providing vital business support programmes and state-of-the-art workspace in areas that may not traditionally have encouraged innovation.

Launching in 2019, Plus X currently encompasses Central Research Laboratory in West London, and Plus X Brighton. The Brighton innovation hub was formed to create a community-driven hub for businesses of all sizes, situated in the Preston Barracks regeneration project.

Despite opening at the height of the pandemic, Plus X Brighton has gone from strength to strength with more than 350 businesses calling the space home, while another 75 businesses receiving business support through the BRITE project, in partnership with the University of Brighton. Funding, curating and delivering some of the most renowned accelerator and innovation programmes in the UK is essential to the Plus X model, having secured over £25m in grant funding since launch.

Plus X actively monitors social return on investment value and is committed to delivering a positive socio-economic return on every capital investment. Plus X Brighton has delivered £32.5m worth of local impact since its launch in June 2020. We are also committed to reaching operational net zero by 2030 through policies including zero-to-landfill waste, only green electricity supply and limiting carbon miles, working with property partners to include green energy generating and water harvesting technologies in our buildings.

We also partner with corporate businesses to help them achieve their innovation goals, connect with agile startups, and inspire employees with radical ideas and new approaches. Companies including Kimberly-Clarke and Natura &Co joined our Better World Collective initiative to help achieve ambitious sustainability goals and reduce their environmental impact.

Paul Rostas and the Plus X team celebrating the Property Award win

Emma Lindsay, Head of Location Marketing at Plus X said, “Winning Best Newcomer at the Property Awards is a huge honour that we don’t take lightly. To us, this signifies a deep level of support from the property industry that will only spur us on to reach our goals. We want to help ambitious businesses grow, make local economies more resilient, and make a positive impact – and we’re only just getting started!”

The win follows other recent awards success for both our London and Brighton innovation hubs. This includes Plus X Brighton being highly commended in the OAS Development Awards in the New Build Outside of London category. Central Research Laboratory in Hayes, West London has also been shortlisted for the upcoming Hustle Awards for their outstanding work supporting startups through their programmes and workspace.

If you’d like to learn more about our future plans, or discuss a potential partnership, please contact Co-CEO and Co-Founder Paul Rostas on paulrostas@plusx.space.

What is Open Innovation?

Collaboration

Open innovation is the process of sourcing ideas and solutions to problems from outside an organisation. Read our guide to how it can benefit your business.  

Innovation has traditionally followed a silo and secrecy mentality. Keen to hide their ideas from others for fear of them being copied, internal research and development departments would work on ideas, develop them into something real and only then make these public. 

To prevent this secrecy and facilitate the sharing of ideas, patents were introduced with the inventor given sole rights to commercialise the idea for a limited period. That system has been in place for 200 years and while it mostly works, it has its critics. 

The open-source software movement was developed in the 1990s with the belief that source code should not be owned by a single organisation. Linus Torvalds created the Linux software operating system in 1991 and it now runs on 90% of cloud infrastructure and 75% of smartphones.  

In the 21st century, the pressure and pace of global competition rapidly increased, and we began to see more sharing of ideas through open innovation.  

The term ‘open innovation’ was first coined in 2003 by Haas School of Business professor Henry Chesbrough in his book, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from TechnologyHe described open innovation as, “A paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.” 

Chesbrough added: “No one has a monopoly on knowledge the way that, say, IBM had in the 1960s in computing, or that Bell Labs had through the 1970s in communications. When useful knowledge exists in companies of all sizes and also in universities, non-profits and individual minds, it makes sense to orient your innovation efforts to accessing, building upon and integrating that external knowledge into useful products and services.”  

We recently spoke to Mat Hunter, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Plus X, to learn more about why open innovation is so important. “Open innovation occurs when a business that is working on new ideas seeks engagement from other people, including those outside of the organisation,” he said.

“Great, modern business leaders realise that they can’t create enough innovation only from their internal people.”  

The Benefits of Open Innovation 

Open innovation has many advantages, including: 

1. MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO DEVELOP IDEAS 

By embracing an open innovation strategy, businesses can access ideas they might never have come up with otherwise. Many big brands have already made great use of open innovation, including:

  • Proctor & Gamble’s innovation model Connect and Develop is a great example of a large business seeking external ideas. Connect and Develop was set up for inventors, small businesses and large companies to submit innovative products and technologies for a potential partnership. 
  • LEGO Ideas is a platform for fans of the plastic bricks brand to share creations, enter competitions, submit proposals for new LEGO sets and vote on models built by fellow customers. 
  • For nine years until 2018, Starbucks ran MyStarbucksIdea.com, an online community for customers to share and discuss ideas on how to enhance the Starbucks experience. Over 150,000 ideas were submitted with many being put into action. In 2013, Starbucks reported it was selling an annual 5.8 million ‘cake pop treats’, the idea for which was originally submitted by customers through its My Starbucks Idea platform.   

But open innovation isn’t only beneficial for big businesses. Mat Hunter said there is often a “psychological hurdle” among small businesses about open innovation because they believe it’s not for their type of business. That’s where innovation hubs like Plus X can help. They provide a place to meet, connect, engage and collaborate – making innovation part and parcel of growing a business.    

“Once founders see other people with similar scale businesses having the same challenges, it demonstrates that they are not alone and they realise they have peers who can help,” Hunter added.   

2. LOWER COSTS 

Doing your own research and development can be expensive. Open innovation helps to cut costs because you can develop ideas with others without having to employ your own expensive experts.   

The Plus X Brighton workshop is a great example of this. The state-of-the-art prototyping, product development, and batch production facilities give small businesses access to world-class machinery and a specialist workshop team that would normally cost thousands.  

“Plus X has been set up in a way to cope with the fact that small businesses need support,” Hunter explained. “They often really struggle with the time and the money to try new stuff. We make it cheap, easy, quick and safe to do innovative things.”  

3. ATTRACT CUSTOMERS AND INVESTORS 

An open innovation strategy can raise the profile of your business and attract interest.  

By widening your network when developing ideas, businesses can build connections with influential people such as investors looking to back companies like yours. 

Open innovation can also help to attract sales. Businesses that open themselves up to feedback and ideas from customers often build a strong community. It helps to develop customer loyalty and a tribe of fans who are happy to spread the word about your product or services to others. 

How to deliver open innovation 

There are various ways to practice open innovation. Your options include:

  • Online community platforms: Use these to gather feedback and ideas from customers.
     
  • Startup/corporate partnerships: Large and small businesses come together to develop new products or services.
     
  • Startup incubators and accelerators: Get access to business experts and funding.
     
  • Intrapreneurship: Encourage innovation amongst your employees by giving them support and funding to develop new ideas. 

Open Innovation at Plus X 

Some specific examples of open innovation we offer within the Plus X innovation hubs network are:  

BRIGHTON RESEARCH INNOVATION TECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE (BRITE) 

Delivered by Plus X and the University of Brighton, BRITE creates opportunities for business leaders to collaborate with other companies, access expertise, and develop their ideas through supported innovation programmes. 

Growing businesses can also get support in the development of physical products and be matched with academic experts to help guide their business to the next step. 

Noel Sesto,  Director of mobile technology specialists ControlFreq joined the INSPIRE programme in 2021. “BRITE helped me to realise that innovation can also be a business model or a service,” he said. “I knew I wanted my business to head towards the solution and service side and that I needed to change how my business worked. My time on the BRITE project has been instrumental in supporting me to do this, and we’re currently rolling out a new service-based solution for a major high street retailer.”

PLUS X CORPORATE INNOVATION

Whether corporate businesses need to fix a big organisational innovation challenge, generate better ideas, move more quickly, embed agile thinking or attract talent, Plus X corporate innovation can help.  

Through our extensive network, we provide access to startups and scaleups with solutions ready to plug into, the opportunity to reach a new audience and tools to cultivate a culture of intrapreneurship by motivating staff and unlocking new ideas. 

We also offer support for large businesses with sustainable innovation challenges. The Better World Collective brings corporates together with innovative scaling businesses to fast-track environmental change. In regular Innovation Summits, we create the connections to enable open innovation and create lasting change. 

James Edwards, Innovation Lead at Kimberly-Clark, said: “For any startup looking to work with an organisation like Kimberly-Clark, my one piece of advice to you is to come prepared with what your roadmap looks like for your end solution. It’s about the startup coming to us and helping us understand how we can be a part of that future and part of that overall vision that you have for that product or solution.”

KPMG’s Nicole Lowe also shared her experiences of open innovation with Plus X: “It was a pleasure to work with Plus X to deliver a startup programme helping businesses to raise their first major round of investment. The team are brilliant to work with, passionate and knowledgable. The quality of the startups they recruited was really high and the programme received extremely good feedback.”

CRL ACCELERATOR 

The CRL Accelerator is a programme for product makers and hardware pioneers. Held at the Central Research Laboratory, participants benefit from access to experts in product design, manufacturing, customer testing, marketing and investment.  

Previous cohorts have greatly benefitted from access to the experienced product development team, and gained access to expertise that opened doors for their innovations.  

Chris Chavasse and Florian Richter, Co-Founders of Muddy Machines and recent CRL Accelerator alumni said of the programme, “Being in an environment that allowed us to make new connections and build a network has proven to be really useful. The PD team added a lot of value: a year ago we asked for quotes to get an MVP and we were asked £30,000, and we got an MVP basically for free thanks to the PD team and the programme.” 

Others have praised the programme for creating connections with big names. Founders of O-Innovations, Matt Taylor and Dominic Taylor, said, “We got many exciting contacts (KPMG, developers, Gatwick Airport, etc) out of the Gala. Inviting our guests was great and discussing O-innovations plans in a more relaxed setting was extremely helpful. There were many people there but the CRL team did a great job at suggesting who we should speak to and making the connections after the event. Extremely useful!” 


Ready to embrace open innovation? Book a tour of Plus X innovation hubs in Brighton and West London to see how we can help your business succeed.  

Introducing CRL Accelerator Cohort 9 – The Next Generation of Hardware Pioneers

CRL Accelerator cohort 9

Starting a business can be difficult at the best of times but creating a hardware product often adds a level of difficulty, especially when it comes to juggling both the business and the product development side of things. That is why at Central Research Laboratory (CRL), we’ve designed the CRL Accelerator programme, a six-month purpose-built programme created for hardware startups to fast-track innovation.

This year, we brought 20 innovative businesses together in our CRL Accelerator Bootcamp to network, exchange ideas, and pitch their business to the Central Research Laboratory team, mentors and other entrepreneurs.  Throughout the two action-packed days, the founders participated in the speed interviews with our mentors and pitched their businesses to the public. 

CRL Accelerator Bootcamp 2022

Then, a handpicked group of six early-stage companies were invited to join us for the exciting journey that is the CRL Accelerator.

These six startups are building innovations that not only have huge growth potential but also have a lasting impact on society. Through sustainable, efficient and innovative solutions, we believe these founders can transform the startup ecosystem.

CRL Accelerator cohort 9
CRL Accelerator Cohort 9

Meet the Startups:

Scentient is developing a device that incorporates olfaction (sense of smell) into field and simulation training to create a more immersive and realistic experience. The team aims to work with military and emergency services, helping to vastly increase the number of scenarios which can be replicated, while improving safety through using simulated environments with enhanced realism by adding safe synthetic scents. 

Founder: Anastasia Georgievskaya 

 

FotoStax is creating a phone-case printer that can print high-quality static, flip, moving, and 3D photos by combining lenticular lens and dye-sublimation technologies. All with just a touch of a button and a few seconds to print.  

Founder: Jonathan McBride  

 

Disruptor London is on a mission to create a planet positive natural, vegan skincare and haircare brand that also combats plastic waste. The team are disrupting the skincare and grooming landscape with ethical hybrid waterless formulas that give natural ingredients a second life.  

Co-founders: Sira Naidu, Juan Jimenez 

 

Reasonable Electronics is developing a wearable, hands-free mouse designed for people with RSI, or motor disabilities. Their mouse is designed to be simple to use for people with limited mobility. It requires no buttons to use, and with the included Velcro straps you can attach it to your shoes, hat, or headset.  

Founder: Zhey Grudov 

 

Deep Sym is building a biofeedback device that responds to deep diaphragm breathing which facilitates a meditative state and naturally reduces stress and anxiety. Their signature product SYM is a beautiful art object that responds to your deep breathing and naturally reduces stress and anxiety. It is created for everyone who is looking for tools to tune in rather than tune out. 

Founder: Kira Zhigalina 

Over the next 6 months, these startups will be sprinting their way through the startup process, from customer discovery and business modelling to raising funds and preparing for manufacture.  

Each startup will then pitch its ideas to hundreds of people across the globe at the Demo Day 2022, returning this November – sign up for our newsletter to be the first in the know. 

Find out more about the CRL Accelerator

Don’t forget to follow us on social media to stay in the loop with the CRL Accelerator cohort 9: LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.  

Central Research Laboratory is celebrating seven years of supporting early-growth product pioneers. Since opening in 2015, we’ve helped over 200 startups build everything from the next generation of modular battery technology for sustainable energy storage; toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema; to new sustainable building materials made from potato waste, and autonomous asparagus harvesting robots created to combat the agricultural labour shortage. 

What To Look For In Your First Office Space

With SMEs and entrepreneurship culture booming, finding the right home for your business can be crucial to its survival. From ensuring that the space for your business aligns with your company values, to surrounding yourself with inspiring business leaders, if you strike gold with where you lay your laptop, you’ll see the benefits roll in. If you’re ready to make that leap and find your first office, we’ve put together some tips on what to look for when finding office space. 


Look for: Agility

The culture of entrepreneurship is fast-paced and ever-changing, and renting office spaces should be able to keep up with that. Whether you’re a solo trader, entrepreneur, or a growing business, make sure to look for working environments that will be able to grow as you do, and that can offer flexible solutions in dynamic landscapes.  

When starting, the needs of your business may not fit the confines of a traditional 9-5. If this is the case, seek out spaces that you can access when you need to, whether that be for a late-night overseas business cal, for the early-risers among us, or to allow for flexibility for family commitments. 

Find an office space that empowers your business. In shared office spaces like the Plus X innovation hubs, the day-to-day maintenance of managing an office is taken off your hands. Things like recycling, water, internet, coffee, and cleaning are all managed for you so that you can focus on running your business. Fixed costs for workspace mean you can go at your own pace – and miss out on many surprise utility bills! 

Look for: Innovation

Creativity seeks creativity. By immersing yourself in an environment filled with talent and innovation, you’ll feel more motivated and galvanised with your projects. Plus, there’s a boundless opportunity for support and connection with likeminded people who know just what it’s like to run a business. 

When looking for your business space, you shouldn’t feel limited by its facilities. In our innovation hubs, you’ll gain access to our prototyping workshops and media suites without having to pay over the odds. So if you’ve been looking for a space where you can begin working on that life-changing product, grab photos on the go of your product or team, or want to make waves in the podcasting world, we can help you make that happen. 

Innovation comes in many forms. It’s not just the people, but also the environment itself that can inspire. Renting a space for your business that looks the part can do wonders for your employee morale. When your team is inspired by the design of their workspace, they can be up to 33% happier, which in turn can lead to a more productive team. 

Look for: Values

Ethical and sustainable values are fast becoming crucial for many small businesses, with a huge 86% of consumers saying that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and buy into. When finding the right home for your business, look for an office space that aligns with your business’s ethos and outlook. 

By renting a space for your business, you can bypass the hefty expense of investing in certain credentials if the existing culture does this for you. At Plus X, we build our spaces with wellness, health and sustainability in mind, in line with the WELL Building Standard. 

Walking into a readymade culture that aligns with your ethos means that the difficulty in establishing kind practices and operations is taken off your shoulders. Look at the website and social media channels of your shortlisted workspaces to see if your values align – you’ll soon see if this is a place you’ll feel at home!

Look for: Progression

When choosing office space, ensure that the environment will encourage and nurture growth and development within your business. Find spaces that offer opportunity and knowledge to help you upskill, and immerse yourself around people you’re inspired by, who understand your business journey and can offer insights and support when you need them.

If you’re looking to disrupt your industry or be a pioneer in your field, find an office space that celebrates that. At Plus X, we offer a plethora of innovation programmes designed for businesses at every stage of their journey, to champion their strengths, encourage creativity and help them to grow. We also hold a number of events that help our community network, learn, and prioritise their health.

When starting out, it can be hard to accurately plan how much space you may need in one, three, or five years. Rather than getting locked into lengthy rental contracts, more and more small businesses are looking at shared office spaces. At Plus X, many of our members started out with just one or two hot desks, and over time, have made our dedicated office spaces their own – moving between the different sized studio offices as they grow! 

Could Central Research Laboratory in West London be the right fit for your first office? Book a tour to see us in the flesh! 

Start a Business Checklist: 11 Steps to Setting Up Your Small Business

Woman working at computer

You need a lot more than an idea to start a small business. Research, an online presence, funding and a workspace are just some of the areas to tackle.  

To help you get your new venture off the ground, discover the key steps to take in your early days as an entrepreneur with our in-depth business startup checklist.  

1. Do your research 

Research is very important when starting your own company. You need to understand if there’s a market for your idea, who your target customers are and whether there are any competitors you need to be aware of. Detailed research will help you identify if there is a need for your product or service, define your business proposition and work out what makes your offering unique.   

The British Library has a network of Business & IP Centres in libraries across the UK which provide free access to market research databases and global company data that can really help with the research process.  

You can also run market research surveys using tools like Survey Monkey and Typeform, conduct face-to-face interviews and run focus groups with your target customers to finesse your idea. 

2. Choose a name 

When selecting a name for your business, make sure it properly reflects what you do. A quirky or unusual name could help you to stand out, but bear in mind that some people might find it hard to pronounce, spell or remember.  

Difficult to spell names may affect how many people can find you in search results. You may also want to consider whether using a name with relevant keywords in could be useful for SEO purposes. 

You also need to check whether you can claim a website address and social media accounts that fit with your company name. 

If you’re setting up a limited company, you must register your company name with Companies House. It cannot be the same as another registered company’s name and it must not infringe on another company’s trademark. You can check company name availability here and existing trademarks here. 

If you’re a sole trader, you don’t need to register your business name but it’s worth checking that no one else is using the same one as it could cause confusion.  

3. Register a domain name 

While choosing your name, it’s worth checking that an appropriate website domain address is available. Even if you’re not ready to build your website, you should claim your domain as soon as you possibly can.  

The domain you select should be directly related to your business and be easy to remember. There are several domain extensions (the suffix at the end of a website address) to choose from but for UK businesses, the most popular are .com and .co.uk. There are many domain registrars you can use to register your domain, including GoDaddy, BlueHost, and FastHosts. Search on Google for the best deals.  

4. Claim your social media accounts 

Just like your website domain name, it’s worth claiming social media handles as soon as possible.  

Using social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be a highly effective and low cost way to promote your business and build relationships with customers. But remember, you don’t necessarily need to be on all social media platforms. Research the ones that your target customers use and look at what your competitors are doing – there’s no point having a TikTok account if your target audience isn’t looking here for your product or service.  

You also need to decide whether you’ll have personal accounts, accounts for your brand or both. 

5. Pick your business structure 

Choosing your business structure is very important when starting a small business. You could be a sole trader, partnership or limited company. The option you select depends on your personal circumstances and what you want to achieve with your business. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  

Find more information on the Companies House website and ask an accountant for advice. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants have directories you can use to search for an accountant. 

6. Write a business plan 

A good business plan will help you to clarify your idea and focus on the steps needed for your business to succeed by defining your short and long-term objectives. It will also help you to identify any potential problems and secure funding. 

Key sections of a business plan include: 

  • Business objectives 
  • Target customers 
  • Competitors 
  • Sales and marketing plans 
  • Organisational structure, team and advisers 
  • Financials and cashflow forecast 

The government’s Start Up Loans scheme has a downloadable business plan template here 

7. Open a business bank account 

If you’re running a limited company, it is legally separate from you so you should open a business bank account. You don’t need a business bank account if you’re a sole trader or freelancer, but you may decide to set one up anyway to keep your personal and business finances separate. 

When selecting a business bank account, look out for any charges and what facilities are provided. Some banks offer perks such as cashback and discounts on goods and services.  

8. Decide if you need funding 

It’s possible to start a business with very little money and many new entrepreneurs use their personal finances to get going. You might require funding from other sources though so work out exactly how much you need taking into account all costs. Remember that you likely won’t make a profit for several months or even years so you’ll need enough money for your living costs. It is for this reason that many founders start a business alongside a full-time job.  

For advice on the various types of funding you can access when starting your own business, read our guide

9. Find a place to work 

With a phone and a laptop, modern entrepreneurs can run their business from pretty much anywhere. However, finding a dedicated space to work from brings many benefits. It can help you to focus, improve your mental health, boost your creativity, meet useful contacts, find a mentor and form collaborations. 

In the early days of running your business, you could opt for working from home most of the time and from a shared space a few times a week. As your business grows, you can expand to your own dedicated desk or office.  

Central Research Laboratory offers a range of options including flexible hot-desking for whenever you need it, a dedicated desk that you can call your own and private studio offices for growing teams.   

Being based at innovation hubs like Central Research Laboratory and Plus X also brings other advantages such as access to prototyping workshops and business support programmes, as well as the opportunity to connect and collaborative with other businesses in the same stage as yours. 

10. Create a website 

Most people search online for products and services these days and it’s beneficial to have an internet presence, even if it’s just a simple website with your contact information. Before you properly launch, a one-page site with a box for capturing email addresses is a good way to build buzz around your new business and start to build a mailing list.

Think carefully about search engine optimisation and the keywords people are using online when looking for products or services like yours. Google’s Keyword Planner is a useful tool.  

If you have the budget, you could pay a web designer to build your website but there are also plenty of low-cost website template services, including Squarespace, Wix and WordPress 

If you’re selling products online, you can integrate eCommerce solutions such as Shopify and WooCommerce or sell on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and Not On The High Street. 

11. Start building connections 

Effective networking can help you to build a successful startup. Look for events where you can make connections with people who could help your company. They might be experts in particular areas of business or fellow entrepreneurs who can share their experiences. Websites like Eventbrite and Meetup are good places to find business events.  

Joining innovation programmes or business accelerators is another way to make valuable connections. You can benefit from the advice of experts, and many schemes also provide grant funding and access to potential partners and manufacturers.  

Plus X and Central Research Laboratory run several innovation programmes, including the internationally-recognised programme for product makers, CRL Accelerator, which deliver knowledge, guidance, connections and structure to unlock the potential of a great idea.  

Ready to start your business journey? Book a tour of Central Research Laboratory to see how we could help your business succeed. 

CRL Accelerator: Join the 9th Cohort

Building, testing, and launching a physical product takes a great deal of time and complexity – not to mention the difficult journey of starting a company from scratch. The stakes are high, and mistakes can be costly. But, the solutions uncovered in this process play a vital role in solving major challenges and improving our world.  

Here at Central Research Laboratory, we work to develop and deliver programmes that respond to the key issues startups face. In the hardware space, the physical product itself can be a challenge. Our internationally-recognised 6-month CRL Accelerator programme helps hardware entrepreneurs succeed in bringing the right product to market in the right way. 

 

Since opening in 2015, the Central Research Laboratory has helped more than 200 startups build everything from the next generation of modular battery technology for sustainable energy storage; toys that help children suffering from chronic eczema; to new sustainable building materials made from potato waste, and autonomous asparagus harvesting robots created to combat the agricultural labour shortage. 

Explore what the latest cohort has gone on to achieve with a look at our Demo Day 2021 showcase.  

What Our Alumni Have To Say

“When they say the word “accelerator”, it is literally accelerated learning to the max. I learnt a lot more in my time on the accelerator than in my three years at university. You’re learning marketing, legal, product development, etc. Having access to experts has been invaluable!” 

Liam Murphy, Co-Founder of Stix Mindfulness, Cohort 7, 2021 

 

“CRL transformed our startup from a university project to an award-winning business. We were a group of engineers. We had no idea what we were doing when it came to running a business.”  

Carlton Cummins, CTO & Co-Founder at Aceleron, Cohort 2, 2016  

 

“CRL has contributed to our journey in many ways. Access to network, manufacturing, procurement services, workshop facilities. CRL enables us to feel like a slightly bigger company than we would otherwise be if left to our own devices. Being here at CRL as a cohort member, makes it feel a lot more real and plugged in into the ecosystem.” 

Florian Richter, Co-Founder & CEO at Muddy Machines, Cohort 8, 2021 

“After the CRL Accelerator programme, we went on to expand the business into the US, and got investment from the US (Silicon Valley) and UK channels spread across Venture Capital, Accelerator and Angel investment routes, as well as being awarded additional non-dilutive funding through government-led programmes.” 

Matt Hogbin, Co-Founder at Plexus, Cohort 1, 2015 

What is the CRL Accelerator?

The CRL Accelerator programme runs from June to December at the Central Research Laboratory in West London. Six startups receive 24/7 access to a dedicated workspace and our prototyping workshop for the entirety of the programme and become part of our brilliant community of startups and scaleups that are based at the Central Research Laboratory. 

The programme, partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund, provides makers with hands-on support focused on product and business development, investor readiness, and preparing for manufacture from a team of industry experts and mentors. Our in-house product development team plays a vital role in supporting startups in their product development, design and design for manufacturing matters. Startups on the CRL Accelerator also benefit from a £5,000 grant towards product development costs. 

By the end of the programme you will have:

–       Made significant progress on your product development, design and design for manufacture. 

–      Developed a solid and demonstrable understanding of your customers, market, social and environmental impact, business model and funding strategy.

–    Built a clearer understanding of how to approach the manufacture of your product, and developed a network of potential manufacturers in the UK and China.

–       Developed the confidence and skills to talk about your product to different audiences, including investors, potential partners, customers, technical experts and lay audiences.

–      Acquired the soft skills necessary to successfully run a business, including resilience, negotiation, managing teams and leveraging your network.

–      Created a professionally produced video pitch for your business.

–       Presented your product to a network peers, partners, business experts, product developers, designers and investors.

–       Be part of a vibrant community of CRL Accelerator alumni and current members, who will forever cheer you on and support you and your company!

Does the CRL Accelerator feel like a perfect fit for your product?  
Apply to join the next cohort of hardware innovators on the CRL Accelerator today.  
Find out more about the CRL Accelerator in this informational handbook.

8 Great Places to Start a Business in the UK

With a huge growth in new businesses registered on Companies House in 2021, and research from Tide finding that the UK is the cheapest place to start a business in Europe, the entrepreneurial and startup spirit is booming in the UK.

But, while many still consider central London to be the epicentre for business, some of the best cities to start a business in the UK are actually outside of the metropolis. 

In 2021, almost £9 billion of all Venture Capital investment went into startups and scaleups outside of London and the South East, and nine out of 29 unicorns were formed in these regions. And, 35% of futurecorns are also based outside of the capital, meaning there is even more opportunity to set up a business in regional towns and cities. 

Here’s a list of some of the locations that we think could be home to the next pioneering business – complete with all the information you’ll need if you’re considering starting your business in one of these locations.  


Glasgow

Scotland’s most populous city has a long history of being an economic powerhouse. Generating an estimated £19.3 billion per year, it is one of the fastest-growing major city economies in the UK. Home to a vibrant culture, Glasgow centres itself around creativity and innovation.

With a mission to become the most productive major city in the UK, Glasgow’s on an upward trajectory. The city boasts plenty of exciting opportunities for businesses to thrive, being the home to Interactive Investor, one of the nine unicorns outside of London. 

Start a business in Glasgow

Image by Ian Dick

Glasgow Fact File


Bristol

A city that cares deeply, Bristol has transformed from its maritime roots into a thriving cultural hub, with a particular focus on environmental and sustainable businesses. The city was recently awarded Gold Sustainable Food City status, recognising its positive work on the city’s food system. 47% of the city’s waste is recycled, according to the EG Sustainable cities index. 

Bristol is seeing more than 80 people a week relocate from London to Bristol and Bath, making it a fast-growing city with new talent joining it all the time. And, with 45.5% of the population walking or cycling to work over five times a week, it’s a great place for health-conscious startups to find talent. 

Start a business in Bristol

Bristol Fact File


Brighton and Hove

Also known as Silicon Beach, Brighton and Hove has had an exciting few years, experiencing a thriving economy and steady rise in entrepreneurship. Its reputation for quirkiness attracts new residents far and wide, and it welcomes thousands of students each year across its two universities, the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.

Brighton has a strong business community, and its entrepreneurs, leaders and founders are well looked after when it comes to accelerators and funding programmes. The BRITE innovation project, run by Plus X Brighton in partnership with the University of Brighton provides innovation programmes to suit businesses and entrepreneurs at any stage. 

Start a business in Brighton

Brighton Fact File


Sheffield

Sheffield, or the ‘Steel City’, has a strong history in manufacturing. This is a city on the rise, with a dedicated innovation district, and receiving a multimillion investment as part of the Heart of the City development scheme. It’s also the headquarters of many large non-manufacturing companies, including HSBC, Royal Mail and Aviva. 

Sheffield’s relatively affordable rents and mortgages make it a great location for professionals that may not wish to pay London prices. Now is a great time to start a business in Sheffield, as the future is looking bright. 

Start a business in Sheffield

Image by Tigerbww

Sheffield Fact File


Milton Keynes

Like some other places on this list, business owners in Milton Keynes can benefit from the reduced costs of an out-of-London location, whilst being a mere 32 minutes away by train from the capital. It’s a city on the rise, and a great place to set up a business in the UK, with an impressively high level of startups. 

It has also been at the forefront of trialling new technologies in recent years, including driverless pods. Milton Keynes is home to the Transport Systems Catapult, the UK’s technology and innovation centre for Intelligent Mobility.

Start a business in Milton Keynes

Image by Mattbuck

Milton Keynes Fact File


Birmingham

The entrepreneurial spirit is riding high among Birmingham’s young and lively population, returning to its position as a leader in innovation. It’s also famously one of the most centrally located cities in the country, meaning that it’s a four-hour drive away for 90% of the population. Its easy connections and bustling activity make Birmingham a great place to set up a business.

Start a business in Birmingham

Image by Bs0u10e0

Birmingham Fact File


West London

While many look to central London as the heart of big business, West London has established itself as a thriving epicentre for innovation and startup culture. Organisations including the West London Business create opportunities for networking and investment in this flourishing area. 

In Hayes, you’ll find the Central Research Laboratory, which brings opportunities for entrepreneurship and provides makers facilities outside of central London. It is home to the CRL Accelerator, the UK’s leading programme for product makers and hardware pioneers.

Start a business in West London

West London Fact File


Bournemouth

With its glorious sandy beaches and micro-climate, starting a business in Bournemouth isn’t exactly a hard sell… but its lesser-known reputation as a thriving sci-tech hub might be another reason to add to the list. 

Bournemouth University’s academic research has helped it to become one of the top-ranking universities in Business and Management, creating a steady stream of budding business leaders among its alumni.

Start a business in Bournemouth

Image by Jack Pease

Bournemouth Fact File

 


Plus X innovation hubs optimise opportunities for business, academics and communities to connect, collaborate and thrive.

Would your city or town benefit from the opening of a Plus X innovation hub? Let us know!


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How to Find Funding for Your Startup

Meeting in Plus X meeting room

Looking for finance for your startup business? This guide explains how to find it.

Finding business funding is one of the biggest challenges most startup founders face.

Whether it’s money to get your new venture off the ground, or finance to scale up and launch in a new market, it can be hard to understand how to fund a startup and know which type of finance is best for you.

In this article, we outline seven startup funding options for UK businesses to consider.

Grants

A grant is business funding that you don’t have to pay back so it can be an attractive option for small businesses.

There are a wide variety of schemes with varying eligibility rules. For example, there are grants for entrepreneurs looking to launch a new business and for more established small business owners wanting to expand their product range or export overseas.

Places to find grants include:

Grants can be complicated to apply for with lots of paperwork to complete. There will likely be restrictions on how you can use the money and you might be required to match fund the grant which means you have to provide some of the money yourself.

Start Up Loans

Many small businesses can secure a loan from a traditional high street bank, but they are tricky to access for new startups without a trading history.

For young businesses, the government’s Start Up Loans scheme might be more suitable. It provides unsecured personal loans of between £500 and £25,000 with a fixed annual interest rate of 6% and a one-to-five-year repayment term.

To apply, you must be:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • A resident of the UK with the right to work in the UK
  • Starting a UK-based business or have been trading for up to 24 months
  • Unable to secure funding from other sources

Personal credit checks will be carried out and you need to submit a cashflow forecast and business plan. Successful applicants receive 12 months of free mentoring as well as the loan.

Peer-to-peer business loans

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is another type of business loan.

Companies like Funding Circle and Iwoca connect borrowers with investors willing to lend money. They typically provide loans of between £5,000 and £500,000.

The application process is usually straightforward and you could get the money within a few days.

P2P loans aren’t suitable for very new startups as the business needs a trading history. Interest rates can be higher than for standard bank loans and you might need to pay an arrangement fee.

Crowdfunding

This popular form of startup funding involves uploading your pitch to a crowdfunding website and persuading members of the public or investors to give you money. As well as raising funding, it can be an effective way to get publicity and measure interest in your product or service.

There are two main types of crowdfunding:

  • Reward: You ask for money in return for a non-financial reward such as your product. Popular websites include Crowdfunder and Kickstarter.
  • Equity: You ask for money in return for an equity share in your business. Popular websites include Crowdcube and Seedrs.

Reward crowdfunding is most suited to product startups, while equity crowdfunding is particularly useful for non-product businesses or businesses seeking larger amounts of funding to grow.

If you already have customers, social media followers, email subscribers or investor contacts, ask them to contribute before you open the crowdfunding campaign to the wider public. If you then launch with funding already committed, others are more likely to invest.

It can take a lot of time and effort to make a success of crowdfunding. You’ll need to create an engaging video pitch and invest in plenty of promotion. You may not get any money if you fail to hit your target.

Accelerators and innovation programmes

Investing in the services of experts is a great way to grow your business, but they can be hard to find and expensive to access. By signing up to an accelerator or innovation programme, you can benefit from their expertise for free or at low cost. Many programmes also provide grant funding and connections to potential partners and manufacturers.

There are a range of different innovation programmes for UK small businesses so do your research to find the one that is right for you. Things to consider are the types of businesses the programme supports and if the accelerator takes an equity share in your business.

Plus X is home of the following programmes:

  • Better World Collective: An initiative bringing together the world’s most passionate entrepreneurs, academics, industry partners, policymakers, and corporates to reinvent the materials we use, and create new circular economy models to build a more sustainable future.
  • BOOST: A flexible support programme to help early-stage startups and SMEs through short workshops, mentoring, and in-depth consultations.
  • BRITE: A series of programmes to help businesses in Greater Brighton collaborate, explore new markets, and generate new customers. This includes Access to Expertise, a programme connecting businesses with academic support from the University of Brighton, and INSPIRE, a five-month one-to-one coaching programme.
  • CRL Accelerator: Providing businesses developing hardware products with access to experts in product design, manufacturing, customer testing, marketing and investment, a trip to China to meet manufacturing partners, and £5,000 in grant funding.

Business angels and venture capital

Many startups decide to secure finance from business angels or venture capitalists (VCs).

Angels are suitable for the seed stage, when a new product or service is being established, while VCs provide finance for series A, B and C funding rounds as a business grows.

You can attract investors using the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the (EIS) Enterprise Investment Scheme which provide tax reliefs.

Business angels

Angel investors are high-net worth individuals who invest in early-stage startups in return for equity in the business. They are often successful entrepreneurs themselves so they bring expertise and contacts as well as their money.

Business angels typically invest between £5,000 and £500,000 in a single investment for between 15% and 25% equity.

Angels invest on their own or as part of a syndicate. They want to see a good return on their investment so your business needs to have good growth potential.

Business angels tend to focus on specific areas, sectors or business types.

Venture capital

Unlike business angels who are individuals, venture capital investing involves a firm of professional investors. They use money from a variety of sources including private and public pension funds.

VCs are usually not suitable for the seed stage as they look for businesses with very high growth potential. They rarely invest less than £1m and take a seat on the board of the businesses they back.

Winning over a VC can significantly fast track your business growth, but it’s a difficult process. You will probably need to pitch to several firms before you get a yes and the final deal can take several months to be signed off due to the due diligence required. You also need to be prepared to work with investors who have a say in how you run your business.

Ways to find business angels and venture capital investors include:

Through our innovation programmes and workspaces, Plus X provides knowledge, guidance, connections and structure to unlock the potential of a great idea. Find out more here.

Trailblazing for Change 2022: #MoreThanADay

Trailblazing Women - Plus X

Following the success of last year’s Trailblazing Women event series, this year we want to take Trailblazing Women one step further. Say hello to Trailblazing for Change.

Trailblazing for Change empowers underrepresented groups in business to make space for every bold thinker to flourish.

Starting with women and people from marginalised gender groups, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by looking at how Plus X functions past today.

Today, we’re publishing our pledge on how we’ll continue to make equality a business priority for Plus X for #MoreThanADay – both for our team, and for members, and for the wider business community.We’ve published the full Plus X pledge over on the Trailblazing for Change hub. The Plus X team will be continually reviewing our progress to ensure we are keeping to our promises, and putting equality at the heart of every decision we make.

Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing information on upcoming events at Plus X Brighton and the Central Research Laboratory, as well as insights from brilliant female founders and leaders in our network.

If you’d like to be the first to hear about our upcoming schedule of Trailblazing events, sign up for our mailing list.

And, if you’d like to get involved in Trailblazing for Change – whether that’s through sharing a blog post on the Plus X website, appearing at one of events, or even hosting your own, we’d love to hear from you!

Making mental health a business priority in 2022

Wellbeing, happiness, and productivity go hand in hand, so it’s vital that leaders of businesses large and small make supporting their team’s mental health a priority. Explore our guide for inspiration on creating a supportive working environment where mental health is never taboo. 

Supporting employees’ mental health at work has never been more important. Almost 18 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Britain in 2019/20, while poor mental health costs employers up to £45bn each year. And with the effects of the pandemic on mental health, employees may need more support from their employers.

As well as the severe impact on the individuals concerned, employers can face increased staff turnover, a rise in sickness absence and a reduction in company productivity.

Many mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, can be triggered by an uncaring or stressful working situation. Other conditions, like postnatal depression, PTSD, and eating disorders, can be exacerbated by problems at work. A healthy workplace is in the best interests of everyone – no good business owner would want their employee suffering as a result of poor working practices.

Of course, there’s no way to fully prevent illness and mental health conditions among employees. Instead, it’s employers’ responsibility to ensure they are creating a supportive workplace that cares about team members’ health, and provides them with the tools needed to limit the impact of work on their wellbeing.

1. Create an open and connected culture

Open communication is crucial to a healthy workplace.

No one should be forced to talk about their personal issues at work, but employees should feel able to raise mental health concerns, and understand the routes to do so..

Founders and managers being open about their own mental health experiences can help create a positive and open culture. Effective communication processes should be set up with regular opportunities for staff to touch base with their manager and discuss their wellbeing. This will help you assess the employee’s workload and whether this could be negatively affecting their health.

Socialising is important too. Encouraging employees to get to know each other as people, rather than just as colleagues can boost team morale and productivity. Make time in the working week for staff to bond. This will not only help encourage trust among the team, but staff with mental health issues may also be more able to bring their whole selves to work if they feel like an accepted and valued member of the team.

2. Think about your working environment

The environment employees are based in can have an impact on their mental health at work.

Natural light, good ventilation, outdoor spaces and access to healthy food and drink have all been shown to be beneficial to employee satisfaction and productivity. If you have employees working from home, ensure that they have sufficient equipment such as a laptop, desk and comfortable chair. You could even send them a few plants!

You should take steps to create a healthy environment in your office or look for a workspace that provides these benefits.

Plus X Brighton was designed with health and wellness in mind, following the WELL Building Standard set by the International WELL Building Institute.

Floor-to-ceiling windows safeguard natural human circadian cycles (the internal clock that supports sleeping/waking patterns). The building contains lots of fresh greenery, which studies show improves happiness and productivity. We also continually monitor for VOCs, humidity, CO2 and dust for the best air quality.

3. Facilitate flexibility

If an employee is struggling with their mental health, having to come work at set times could make the situation worse.

Many employers recognise that as long as the job is done, staff don’t necessarily need to work a traditional 9-5 anymore. You could allow them to start and finish at different times, fit the required work into fewer days, or job share with a colleague.

This approach gives staff greater control over the hours they work and the ability to deal with situations such as medical appointments, taking children to school, and avoiding busy commuting times. All this can contribute to a better work/life balance and improved mental health.

Working hours are not the only way you can support mental health. Allowing employees to work away from the office on a part-time or full-time basis can also help. A change of environment such as working from home or in a shared workspace can reduce stress, improve wellbeing and boost productivity.

However, it can be harder to recognise the signs of mental illness in staff working remotely. To ensure your team stays connected, collaboration apps like Slack and Teams allow you to regularly check in. Regular face-to-face chats (either in real life or in a video call) can also help ensure you are aware of how your team is feeling, and encourage them to open up.

4. Encourage time out

No one should be spending too many hours sitting at their desk without a break so encourage your employees to take some time out regularly throughout the day.

Many companies have a policy of banning meetings at particular times to ensure staff take a lunch break or have uninterrupted time to focus on their work.

It’s also important that staff feel able to take their full holiday allowance. Lead by example by taking regular time off to recuperate, and ensure employees are regularly reminded to book their leave.

A short stroll in the open air can be beneficial to mental health. Consider if any meetings could be held outside too and join the growing trend of walking meetings. Such exercise is not just good for employee mental health; it’s good for business too. Studies have shown that walking boosts creativity and productivity.

For office-based employees, create spaces they can use away from their desks. That could be for a meeting or to take a quick break. 

5. Arrange wellbeing activities

Encouraging your staff to take physical exercise or improving their mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety, boost confidence levels and improve sleep.

Consider offering yoga, pilates or fitness classes at your workplace or live-streamed online for remote employees. 

You could also offer staff a set amount of money to spend on a wellbeing activity of their choice, or encourage them to use mindfulness and meditation techniques which can generate feelings of calm, reduce stress and help to deal with difficult or unhelpful thoughts.

Promote mindfulness activities by sharing advice from organisations like Mind or by funding subscriptions to apps such as Calm and Headspace. Plus X members have discounted access to digital wellbeing services from Wellspace.

6. Consider mental health first aid training

Traditional first aiders who deal with accidents and illnesses have long been a feature of the British workplace, but the mental health equivalent is becoming increasingly popular for modern businesses.

Mental health first aiders are volunteers from your workforce who are trained to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health. They know how to have a non-judgmental conversation, help people in a crisis and guide them towards professional support.

Having mental aid first aiders on hand means staff have a point of contact if they need help or advice. All staff at Plus X innovation hubs and the Central Research Laboratory are trained in the MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) qualification to support members.


To find out more about how Plus X innovation hubs could help your team’s health, happiness and productivity, book your visit:

Central Research Laboratory, West London

Plus X Brighton

Radiant Matter, the biodegradable sequin sparking global corporate interest

‍Sequins… those tiny, shimmering disks of joy. They might bring glary images of festive party dresses or novelty items to mind, but after speaking to Elissa Brunato of Radiant Matter, our eyes have been left widened and gleaming at the sheer number of everyday appearances that little plastic sparkle makes.

There is an innate reason why humans are attracted to sparkle and shimmer, resembling water and linked to our will to survive. Covering oneself in shiny items was once evidence of prosperity.

Sequins developed from gold coins in Ancient times to beetle wings in the 19th century, edible sequins in the 1930s, to the modern plastic form we see today.

Sequins were a symbol of wealth until the product was commercialised – sparkle went from exclusive to democratised.

From the garment industry, to cosmetics, accessories, and home decor items, the sheer volume of sequins used is staggering.

A 2019 Oxfam report stated that in an eight-week Christmas and New Year festive season in the UK, 33 million new sequined garments are purchased and 7 million are dumped in landfill after only 5 wears.

Most sequins are made from made from mylar, PET and PVC. They do not biodegrade, meaning they will languish in landfill for years to come. These types of plastics are also linked to health risks such as stunted growth, reproductive issues, higher stress levels and inability to process stress.

“Sequins and sparkle won’t ever go away, we just need to do it more sustainably”

In comes Elissa, with ten years experience in the fashion industry and having worked with some of the big players. Her experience ranged from managing teams to production and product development and design. Throughout her career, particular interest and expertise in embroidery emerged.  

Elissa had the opportunity to travel to manufacturing sites in Italy, China, and India. She saw firsthand the effects of the production of embroidery components and garments on local communities and the environment. She witnessed the multiple waste streams created as well as the exposure and use of harsh chemicals.

From high-end couture gowns to high-street fast fashion pieces, our captivation with all things that shimmer is continuing to cost people and the planet.

“When you see the impact of the materials that the fashion industry employs and the reports and news that capture this impact, we have to wonder how these materials can still be in use.”

Five years ago, the conversation about sustainability or the circular economy was not widespread within the garment industry. The industry functioned very linearly with few options to do things differently. Under the given circumstances, Elissa wanted to take on a different role within the industry and decided to dedicate her time to material innovation.

Going on to study at Central Saint Martins and while also being mentored by Claire Bergkamp who was at the time, the World Wide Sustainability & Innovation Director at Stella McCartney, alongside material scientists at Research Institutes in Sweden, Elissa developed a biodegradable sequin using cellulose derived from wood.

A biodegradable sequin, to a garment industry outsider, may look like an extremely niche product. Still, it seems that this new product has caught the eye of many.

Astonished with the response that she has been getting since launching Radiant Matter, Elissa has been approached by some big names in the fashion industry, and to throw an unexpected curveball in there, by luxury automobile brands too.

“The fashion industry is willing to change and there is so much demand for sustainable material solutions, there is just not enough supply.”

There is a considerable shift in the textile industry right now. We see solutions that transition away from petroleum as a resource, materials and systems designed to improve soil health, the introduction of chemical fibre recycling and brands showcasing transparent and ethical supply chains.

“More support is needed for new companies creating positive change. There is no shortage of demand, the challenges lie in funding and scaling quickly to meet this demand.”

When asked about her thoughts on partnerships with big brands, Elissa says, “Partnerships enable large scale impact. We need to collaborate across the industry in order to drive the change needed”.

From a startup’s perspective, she says it can be daunting speaking to giant companies. “Our edge is being agile; being a new company, we can design the rulebook for ourselves. But when speaking to large corporates with decades of experience, we want to make sure we step into these conversations prepared and have the right strategies. That’s why working with the CRL Accelerator has been so important”.

Over the last 6 months, Radiant Matter has been part of the CRL Accelerator programme, the UK’s leading programme for product makers and hardware pioneers, offering support for early stage businesses developing hardware products.

Alongside the product development support, the CRL Accelerator has offered business and commercial readiness support but Elissa says the more training a startup can receive around commercial partnerships the better so they are prepared when dealing with a corporate with complicated processes and large budgets.

Photo credits to Sara Hibbert.

 

ABOUT A BETTER WORLD COLLECTIVE

Better World Collective supports both startups and corporates through the challenges of sustainable material innovation collaborations so that solutions can make a more immediate impact. From workshopping what a collaboration project looks like, supporting implementing a project effectively, and inviting policymakers into the conversation. We believe that a more sustainable, better world is possible. It just takes effective and streamlined collaboration between the startups with solutions and the corporates that can scale them. 

Interested in joining? Get in touch with the team. 

 

ABOUT CRL

Central Research Laboratory (CRL)

Central Research Laboratory is the UK’s leading accelerator and co-working space for hardware startups and product pioneers. Partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the CRL has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs to realise and scale their companies through product development, commercial strategy, 24/7 prototyping facilities, mentorship and access to a network of investors, mentors and partners.

Gearing up for the 2021 CRL Accelerator Demo Day

CRL Accelerator cohort 2021

Meet the entrepreneurs building a better world through the CRL Accelerator. Want to be inspired by some of the UK’s most talented hardware startups? Join us online on 23rd November for CRL Demo Day. Book your free seat now.

Central Research Laboratory (CRL) helps ambitious entrepreneurs build businesses and products that not only have huge growth potential, but have a lasting impact on society. A handpicked set of innovative startups will soon complete their time on the CRL Accelerator, a six-month purpose-built programme designed to fast-track innovation.

Sponsored for the second year in a row by Mouser Electronics and part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund, CRL’s accelerator programme celebrates six years supporting early growth product pioneers. We’re proud that our world-class programme, workshop facilities, and expert support have led to the creation of 58 new to the market products, 46 new jobs, and over £4 million in funding and awards.

MEET COHORT 2021: THE MAKERS OF A BETTER WORLD

Having begun their journey in May, the startups are now on a straight path to the finish line. On 23rd November each business in the cohort will showcase their ground-breaking products to investors, partners, and the community in CRL Demo Day, an online event presented by Plus X.

The six companies in phase two of the CRL Accelerator programme have received financial, manufacturing, and business support from our expert mentors. Our in-house product development team has worked with them on customer discovery, business model development, testing and prototyping of products, with hands-on, iterative prototyping in our workshops at the Central Research Laboratory in Hayes, West London.

This year’s programme has seen a continued trend in startups creating products and services that enhance human life and our environment. This includes ventures focused on sustainable fashion, water consumption, agritech and robotics.

Ahead of Demo Day, find out more about the startups graduating from this year’s cohort, and find out how their innovations could change the world for the better.


ARMAROS

“Ride safe, with comfort like never before”

Founder: Esmeralda Bright

Esmeralda Bright, founder of Armaros

Armaros is the creator of the Guardian Angel, the future of body protection for horse riders.

The body protector was designed with complete movement, flexibility, and additional support for the spine  and is unlike anything else on the market.

Esmeralda started Armaros after suffering a rotational fall during a show jumping event in 2007. Since the company’s inception, Esmeralda has dedicated her time to making riding a safer and more comfortable sport for all.

LYLO

“Ready to join the water revolution?”

Founders: Joanna Power and Paramveer Bhachu

Joanna Power and Paramveer Bhachu, Lylo

Lylo created Aqua X, a washing machine designed to help students save water (and time!) It works by collecting wasted water from the shower, and filtering this so it can be used for washing clothes.

The water tank is placed on the shower floor like a mat, and can collect up to 8 litres of water. After showering, students simply reattach the tank to the machine’s base, and the water is filtered. The clothes drum washes 2.5kg of clothes in 12 minutes using the excess water.

Lylo believes that if every student in London were to use Aqua X, enough water would be saved to fill 700 Olympic size swimming pools each year.

MUDDY MACHINES

“Robots that help farms grow”

Founders: Florian Richter and Christopher Chavasse

Muddy Machines is bringing the latest in robot innovation to the world of agriculture.

Co-founders Florian and Christopher met in 2020 and discovered a shared passion for bringing modern technologies to agriculture.

Together, they are developing a new generation of field robots that help growers manage labour-intensive crops by conducting fieldwork. Their machines will help ensure food is fresher, more sustainable, and resilient to disruption in trade and labour.

“CRL has contributed to our journey in many ways. Access to network, manufacturing, procurement services, workshop facilities. CRL enables us to feel like a slightly bigger company than we would otherwise be if left to our own devices. Being here at CRL as a cohort member makes it feel a lot more real and plugged in to the ecosystem.”

Florian Richter, Co-Founder & CEO, Muddy Machines 

O-INNOVATIONS

“Helping apartment dwellers generate their own energy and participate in the energy revolution”

Founders: Nicolas Orellana Olguin and Dominic Chippendale

O-Innovations Founders, Nicholas and Dom

O-INNOVATIONS‘s patented omni-directional technology could help people living in apartments sustainably generate electricity.

Using this innovative technology, co-founders Nicholas and Dominic created O-WIND, the first omnidirectional wind turbine. It generates clean energy from winds in every direction, making it particularly suitable for cities.

RADIANT MATTER

“Biomaterial innovation for a circular and sustainable fashion industry”

Founder: Elissa Brunato

Elissa Brunato, founder of Radiant Matter

Radiant Matter is on a mission to reduce microplastic pollution by replacing harmful petrochemicals used in textiles, fashion components and colourants with naturally degradable marine-safe materials.

Beads and sequins are rarely recycled from clothing. Designer Elissa Brunato created the bio iridescent sequin to limit the environmental damage from fashion. The compostable material is strong and lightweight, and can refract light. This means the Bio Iridescent Sequin can shimmer beautifully, without a knock-on effect on the environment.

YAWBOARD

“The future of e-transport”

Founder: Ray Reynolds

Ray Reynolds, Yawboard founder

The Yawboard All-Terrain is a dual motor electric scooter-skateboard. The world’s first carving e-scooter can reach speeds up to 22 MPH, climb hills up to 30°, and ride up to 20 miles.

The team set out to create a personal electric vehicle that was more fun to ride than anything else on the market. Through multiple prototypes and many hours of testing, the Yawboard All-Terrain was born.


SIGN UP FOR DEMO DAY 2021

With just weeks to go until Demo Day, the entrepreneurs are hard at work preparing their pitches and putting the finishing touches on their products.

Learn about their developing founder journeys and ground-breaking new products by signing up to ‘CRL Demo Day – Making a Better World’ live-streamed on Tuesday 23rd November at 1 PM GMT.

For more information on the CRL Accelerator journey so far, check out the media coverage from Startups Magazine:

ABOUT CRL

Central Research Laboratory (CRL)

Central Research Laboratory is the UK’s leading accelerator and co-working space for hardware startups and product pioneers. Partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the CRL has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs to realise and scale their companies through product development, commercial strategy, 24/7 prototyping facilities, mentorship and access to a network of investors, mentors and partners.

Future of Air Mobility Accelerator

Repost: original article from Connected Places Catapult

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new Future of Air Mobility Accelerator, in partnership with the Future Flight Challenge from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 

Connected Places Catapult launches its latest Accelerator, to develop and scale new solutions and technologies for the aviation sector.  

In partnership with UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge, the accelerator will be selecting 12 SMEs to join a 6-month programme, where they will receive support from a consortium of industry, academic and regulatory partners on the trial and testing of disruptive innovations. 

The programme is looking for SMEs of TRL6+, though is open to receiving applications from earlier stage businesses that are aligned with the key challenges set out below: 

  • Data Driven Aviation – how we can better capture and utilise data to increase operational and commercial efficiency within the aviation industry. Whether this is with the collection of on-aircraft, airside operations or customer data, we would like to see how data gathered can enhance decision-making. 
  • Smart Airports – how we can integrate the next generation of autonomous solutions into airport management and security operations, alongside exploring disruptive technologies that will support the aviation industry in reaching Net Zero targets. 
  • Advanced Air Mobility – how we can accelerate the development of Advanced Air Mobility by exploring the systems, infrastructure technologies and modelling and simulation tools required for commercialisation. 

Connected Places Catapult will be delivering the programme in partnership with Plus X who will support the SMEs through a bespoke programme roadmap tailored to their requirements, including investment readiness, technology and product development support, alongside introductions to aviation stakeholders and potential customers. These activities will be co-designed with SMEs in order to grow their businesses and adapt propositions to programme partner requirements. 

Alex Weedon, Director of SME and Academic Engagement, Connected Places Catapult said: “I am so pleased that Connected Places Catapult is once again providing SMEs with a pioneering accelerator programme in a new and growing market, helping to make the UK and its innovative SMEs leaders in the Future of Air Mobility.” 

Simon Masters, Deputy Challenge Director of the Future Flight challenge, at UKRI said: “The Future Flight challenge is actively looking to push the boundaries of aviation technology and encourage new players into the market. We are delighted to be working with Connected Places Catapult to deliver this accelerator programme, providing SMEs a great opportunity to trial and test their disruptive innovations. 

Toby Kress, Programme Director, Plus X said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for innovation in air mobility. New technologies and approaches are emerging and rapidly transforming the way we move people and goods around the world and within our cities. Plus X is thrilled to be working with Connected Places Catapult and our leading industry partners to deliver an accelerator programme that champions the innovators at the cutting edge of this change – helping to speed up the development, adoption and commercialisation of impactful new solutions.” 

Applications are open and will close on Sunday 26th September at 11.59 pm. You can find out more and apply here.