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UWE bid to develop media hub

An innovative "ideas space" and a rent-a-desk scheme will form part of a business incubation unit for digital media and e-commerce start-ups in Bristol.

The unit is being built by the University of the West of England, with £500,000 from the SouthWest Regional Development Agency. The United Kingdom Business Incubation has donated £100,000 for internet business mentoring.

The building, provisionally named the Bristol eMedia Incubator, will be next to the Watershed Media Centre in the city centre.

Project leader Linda Skinner, director of the university's Centre for Research, Innovation and Industry, said Bristol had an expanding media, e-commerce and creative industry that continued to spawn businesses.

"The incubator meets the university's strategy of developing its enterprise activity. It will be an absolutely magic location for start-ups or existing businesses setting up a new strand. Bristol is a hub for media and this is a way of helping them to settle in the region rather than going off to London," she said.

The unit will be built with a connecting door to the Watershed to encourage interaction between the entrepreneurs and established professionals.

"UWE's plans dovetail with the Watershed's future plans to emphasise the development of lifelong learning and digital media skills," Ms Skinner said. "We did a survey of existing employers and there is demand for an incubator. We have already had some inquiries for space."

The eMedia incubator will house up to 50 people in rooms of various sizes, ranging from small offices with several desks to a large open-plan office, where newcomers can rent a desk at very low cost. There will also be refectory-style social areas and an ideas space, where entrepreneurs can relax, meet and discuss their plans. Creative and business professionals will be brought in to provide mentoring and networking opportunities.

The city is already home to a wide range of creative organisations, including television and radio broadcasters, video-production companies, animators, computer game designers and website builders.

Paul Gough, dean of UWE's faculty of art, media and design, said many of its 1,000 students were studying digital media, graphic design and animation.

"Together with graduates from our computing courses, they will be excellent at generating new business for the region," he said.

Space in the incubator will be marketed in September, and it is due to open in January as part of the SouthWest Incubation Network being set up by the Regional Development Agency.

Other supporters of the project include the city council, Business Link West and Hewlett Packard Laboratories.

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