Roundtable: Incubators as an engine for growth

The Exchange, Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2DR
Wednesday 30 March 2022

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  • We have existing health tech incubators and we know what works.
  • There is a regional commitment to make support more joined-up.
  • Flexibility of the offer of support is key.
  • Incubators are places where innovation is valued and promoted.
  • Upskilling of managers and leaders is a feature of existing incubators.
  • Jobs in health tech will increase because businesses can grow on.
  • We need to work together to create a pipeline of interconnected facilities and services to support our health tech companies and sector to thrive.


We work in health tech in the West Midlands and we want our sector to be successful in our region. Our work gives us great job satisfaction and the quality of life in the West Midlands is high.

The region was well represented at our roundtable on 30th March when we debated how to make best use of incubators to support successful businesses.

Fundamentally, we concluded that incubators are part of an interconnected ecosystem that play an important role in assisting spin-outs and start-ups. But  there are currently too few incubators in the West Midlands as a whole.

We support an expansion of incubator services. We should be innovative in our design of incubator services. They do not all have to be commercial buildings and the design must take account of business needs for technical advice, access to specialist equipment, administration and mentoring. They should in themselves be places for skilling up managers and leaders.

Our ideal is to create a recognisable network of incubator support services in the West Midlands and to market the network as part of the region’s wider offer of business support. It will be a network which supports spin-outs and start-ups, stimulates innovation, and nurtures relevant skills.

We are willing to be part of a network of incubator support services. Our contributions will include peer support, mentoring, advice, signposting and ongoing know how as well as specialist facilities.

Drawing on our experience, we recommend to decision-makers that incubator support needs to be flexible and respectful of the huge variety in the needs and circumstances of the businesses you are aiming to support.

By “decision-makers” we mean government and agency policymakers, universities, especially their estates facilities, and commercial property businesses.

We know that there is a pipeline of health tech talent flowing through the region’s universities, incubators and Science Parks. There is no shortage of ideas, innovation and drive. With the right support, this pipeline will show up in greater demand for grow-on space. There is already unmet need for lab space and clean room space.

Our region has no entitlement to expect talented businesspeople and successful businesses to stay put in, or choose to come to, the West Midlands. We see other areas of the UK making tempting offers of support to attract health tech. We have an affinity to the West Midlands and want our health tech sector to be successful and to grow. But decisions on investment and location will be hard-headed. Our region’s offer must be supportive of our growth here.

Currently, we see a complex web of business support services, which we find confusing and difficult to navigate. Frankly, we do not have the time – as businesses and as a regional ecosystem – to spend on making sense of it all. It is incumbent on the decision-makers and the service providers to bring greater coherence to their business support offer.

For our part, we recommend getting to grips with the assets and structures we already have in the West Midlands. Let’s attempt a mapping of our assets. Let’s find ways to improve connectivity between the disparate parts of the business support services. Let’s make it easier for businesses to start and to compete.

In our meetings, contacts and discussions with others, we will take the opportunity to describe the incubator support that exists in the West Midlands and press for more capacity, a greater spread and a more systematic network of incubator support services for health tech businesses in the region.

We believe that the West Midlands has many positive qualities. We want to help the region to make a name for itself as the UK’s most business-friendly location. In health tech, we can make a start towards this goal by building on the incubator services we already have and create a network of incubator services.