Thursday 22 January 2015

Entrepreneurs and small businesses are set to benefit from a unique new service to enable people to protect, research and commercialise their ideas.

The new Business & IP Centre in Sheffield’s Central Library is one of just seven centres across the UK. It is modelled on the successful British Library Business & IP Centre in London and allows entrepreneurs to take advantage of free intellectual property and business information and expertise.

The Business & IP Centre model has proven successful in helping businesses thrive and survive. An independent report found only one in ten companies helped by the London Business & IP Centre fails after year three, compared with four in ten across the UK.

Sheffield born and bred entrepreneur, Guy Jeremiah, used London’s centre for patent advice when setting up his business, Ohyo. Ohyo manufactures and sells collapsible water bottles, the first of which were sold in The Famous Sheffield Shop on Ecclesall Road in 2012. Manufactured in Sheffield, 600,000 bottles have now been sold worldwide at outlets including Boots and Marks and Spencer.

Mr Jeremiah said: “The London Centre was a great help for me and I’m really excited that a Sheffield branch has been set up.

“I have lots of ideas and thought I had a good one for a business but I didn’t know if it was patentable or not, or whether someone had already had the same idea.

“The staff at the Centre were able to find this out through their patent searches and this was really practical support. It gave me confidence in my idea and without it I’d never have been able to invest so much time and effort into the business.

“Any kind of business in Sheffield will benefit from the new Centre. We’ve got two universities so there will be loads of good ideas springing up and the patent advice will be invaluable. The general advice about how to manage and launch a business will also be a great help as will all the events that the centres run.”

The Business & IP Centre adds to the wealth of business support already provided by Sheffield City Council.

It will provide access to business databases, market research reports, company data, and information on patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. There will be Patent Clinics, monthly meetings of Sheffield’s Inventor’s Group and an innovator in residence, Roger Tipple, to provide one-to-one advice. The Centre will also work with local partners to deliver workshops and events and to refer people to relevant local business support services.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, said: “Sheffield is a great place to set up and grow businesses. We recently expanded our Business Sheffield service which now offers access to business events and free one-to-one support from business advisors. Over the last year we helped over 300 businesses expand through significant investment projects and over 1,000 people take forward their business start-up ideas.

“The new Centre is a further tool to help support innovation in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, and help businesses grow. It’s a great addition to our library service and I’d encourage all business people to visit.”

The first British Library Business & IP Centre opened in London in 2006. Since then it has helped more than 400,000 entrepreneurs and helped create an average of 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs every year.

The Sheffield Business & IP Centre will join five other Business & IP Centres created in city libraries over the past two years in Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool (due to open on 29 January 2015).

It has been part-funded through the Department for Communities & Local Government and Arts Council England ‘Enterprising Libraries’ programme which is transforming libraries into enterprise hubs in their local communities.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “The success of the Business & IP Centre model is evidence of the strong connection between libraries and business, and I’m thrilled to see this connection reinforced again today with the opening of a new Centre for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Sheffield Central Library.

“Our vision is to create 20 such Business & IP Centres by the end of the decade, and I look forward to working with our partners to achieve this goal and to spearhead business growth and innovation in cities across the UK.”