Making the Future arises from a partnership between Brunel University London and the developers, U+I. The company and the University, have developed the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) at the Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, which was the iconic EMI site. The original CRL has an established place in industrial history as being the facility where the CAT scanner, stereo sound recording and airborne radar were first developed, alongside landmark advances in TV broadcasting and computing. Today’s CRL seeks to emulate the excitement and innovation of the original CRL for the current age.
Focusing on new manufacturing, the CRL comprises an innovation community designed to support entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey – from concept development, through prototyping, first batch production and beyond – with technical and business mentoring, a business programme, targeted investment advice provided along the way. CRL businesses also have access to pro-bono professional advice from Kingston Smith, IBB, KPMG and Mathys and Squire. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration and the CRL is a hub for other local SMEs to attend events, briefings, exhibitions and other knowledge sharing activities. The CRL also provides opportunities for internships, placements and projects for postgraduate and undergraduate students.
In August 2015, a pilot for 33 individuals in 11 new businesses was undertaken for a year. In 2016/17, the facility will expanded to accommodate 44 businesses (and c. 105 individuals). By the end of the Making the Future project in 2020, 450 start-up and early stage businesses will have benefitted from the CRL services.
There are four ways in which proto or start-up businesses can engage with the CRL. They can be selected to join:
- The full nine month programme (which includes free workspace for a year), or
- a shorter three month programme, or
- access hot-desk facilities.
In addition, an established business can rent space on a commercial basis within the CRL.
The CRL team engages actively with other agencies – for example, Autodesk, Barclays, the GLA’s EPMU IBM, L-Marks, Place West London, RBS/Nat West, Roland, UK Business Angels Association – to attract additional funding, resources and advice in order to promote an expanded innovation ecosystem within West London.