The Rise of Collaborative Workspace – in Birmingham

I just came across this video from Hub Westminster which really neatly describes the growth of co-working/co-enterprise spaces and what Hub Westminster entails.


Up until recently co-working had largely passed Birmingham by but now things are stirring in the forest and I think it is worth noting the rapid progress that is being made.

If you haven’t got time to watch the video – co-working is where small companies and individuals share space; in an open format and where interactions are encouraged and supported to drive the creativity and success of all those involved. They usually involve flexible contracts and hot desking. These are not just a UK or US phenomenon but have a huge base in the rest of Europe. The Hub Westminster is one such model but there are other models such as A report on the success and effectiveness of this latter model was commented on in an earlier post on this blog.

These approaches are well established elsewhere but until recently the only place I was aware that this was happening in Birmingham was at the Moseley Community Development Trust’s ‘Moseley Exchange‘ . This was established in 2009 with the help of an ERDF grant and has since steadily grown in popularity.

Things started stirring again last year – perhaps indicating the City was coming out of recession. A new space opened in Digbeth – called BOXXED which gives opportunities for permanent and flexible spaces in a co-working environment. (It also apparently runs very good club sessions into the early hours)

This momentum has continued in 2014 – with the announcement of HubBirmingham – a variant of Hub Westminster – hopefully opening shortly in Millennium Point – with a focus on social enterprises. The Hub model is international and this will open up potential global links for companies based there. There has also been a quieter entrance into the market at Fazeley Studios established by Timeetc . There are now also proposals for an arts based space – FabLab – called Birmingham Open Media  focussed on photographers and the digital media sector.

This approach however is not solely confined to the social/community and private sectors. Our public innovation bodies are waking up to the benefits of this approach. There are elements of this approach already at Innovation Birmingham through its E4F incubator programme. What is exciting is the ICentrum ICentrum Birmingham Science Park Aston building that is due to start on site this year and which will focus on the Digital sector and which will have, as I understand it, elements of collaborative space as well as space for medium sized plus companies. There is also the potential for  a TechShop fabrication facility nearby.  So exciting times for Innovation Birmingham.

But even our most conservative institutions are getting into this. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find out that the Institute of Translational Medicine -being established at the University of Birmingham with the support of the Government’s City Deal resources – will have a key focus on collaboration and collaborative space – getting  the researchers out of their silos. Hopefully as well the Bio Medical Hub (part funded by ERDF) currently being built at University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Research Park will also encourage this through its open plan approach. These latter two examples may not be ‘pure co-working’ approaches but hopefully will build on key elements of it.

So Birmingham is buzzing with the rise of co working/collaborative spaces; which is to be welcomed as this allows for a different way of working and reflects how particularly in the new digital economy firms work together to add value.

So the question is do we have enough of these spaces; and my answer is no we don’t.  These spaces have been shown to create new ideas and new companies and this is exactly what Birmingham needs. There is real scope for such spaces in the Jewellery Quarter where many  ‘creatives’ work and live and to date there is as far as I know no such space. It has amazed me that for instance the original entrepreneurs behind the Custard Factory, the Bond and the Big Peg haven’t actually grasped this new model of working and haven’t added a co-working element to their spaces as far as I am aware. This seems a big omission. So there is still real potential for more of these spaces.

Please let me know of others that exist of are emerging as I will try to update this post as this scene develops.









  1. The trend for collaborative working is something that is at least partly driven by expectations developed in educational establishments. There it is encouraged in team projects and in the ineluctable mobility of people. That expectation is then brought into the workplace.

    Ultimately this work pattern is dependent on mobility and portability of technology. Mobility is enabled by wireless connectivity and portability is improved by it. Wireless connectivity has improved dramatically over a short period and is expected to continue improving quickly. Also cloud services are important because they simplify movement between independent workspaces.

    Collaborative workspaces are important, not just because people are social, but because opportunities are discovered in them. I have seen an increasing number of buildings with collaborative workspaces. Recently I added WiFi in a ‘chill room’ in a building society, so I expect this trend to continue.

    1. Fully agree – for me the cloud is vital as well has having a tablet/light weight laptop for working wherever. I think many people like me are not signed up to these ‘formal’ coworking spaces but rather use informal ones such as cafes. This helps to explain as well the rise in numbers of cafes.

  2. Great article. The BizzInn (BizzInn.Org) is another existing incubator with shared working space, located at the Birmingham Research Park, and part of the Biomedical Innovation Hub offering. Working collaboratively in a shared space provides a huge advantage to businesses, particularly startups, who can share experiences, inspire each other, and often end up working together. In the case of the BizzInn, which is co-located with all the University of Birmingham’s business facing teams on the edge of the main campus, it also provides a great deal of interactions with the academic community, as well as a numerous professional service provides.

    1. David,

      Thanks for this. I had never heard of Bizzin – so I will add this to the article – when I revise it. I will take a look at its website.

      thanks again


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