Shared working spaces

Connecting the UK’s entrepreneurial community

Jon Hope, Director of Barclays Eagle Labs, talks about the growth of shared working spaces and what it means for UK entrepreneurs. 

Shared working spaces are opening up at speed in cities and rural areas nationwide. A new breed of businesses is seeking office spaces that suit their teams’ need for flexible commutes and adaptable working patterns. On top of this, affordability and access to new talent are convincing start-ups and SMEs to levitate towards these diverse hubs.

While shared working spaces have become common in many UK cities, they are now emerging in countryside towns too. This shift may prove that small businesses are not only looking to cut down their journey time to work, but also to venture out of traditional city-based offices beyond their price range.

With the entrepreneurial community such a pillar of the UK economy, it’s important that working life adapts to fit the needs of up-and-coming businesses. That’s why Barclays has been focusing on creating thriving incubators and co-working labs through its Eagle Labs.  

“When we launched our first Eagle Lab in 2015 by converting an old Barclays branch into a maker space, our aim was to develop something that was accessible to the entire community,” says Jon. “Like many of our resident start-ups, we’ve had to pivot our proposition based on what we’ve learned our clients and communities need.”

“We don’t just offer co-working and office space, but structured learning opportunities for individuals, businesses and larger corporates. We’re really focused on providing access to new and emerging technologies – like AI, 3D printing, IOT and AR/VR – while also bringing together start-ups, industry experts and large corporates to help transform ways of thinking. The key thing is that the residents of our labs helped us shape this – for them, it wasn’t enough to just provide a co-working space. Our residents see the labs just as much as a space to collaborate and network, as they do their day-to-day office.”

“We now have 19 labs across the UK, and are partnering with some fantastic organizations that have helped us grow our network, which in turn is allowing us to support all kinds of exciting growth business across the UK,” says Jon.

This idea may explain why co-working spaces continue to pop up. For smaller businesses, with less access to guidance from an executive board or well-versed industry experts, finding quality business advice can sometimes be difficult.

It’s also worth noting that many shared working spaces are now starting to attract companies from particular industries that allow like-minded companies to share ideas across their sector, and also look for opportunities to combine their skills.

“As the Eagle Lab platform has grown, demand for industry specialisms has grown too. We recently launched a dedicated incubator, in partnership with the Law Society among others, for LawTech start-ups as well as large incumbent law firms to innovate and collaborate with one another,” adds Jon. “This is the first of our formal industry transformation programmes and we’ll be making some exciting announcements about other industries soon.”

To find out where your nearest Eagle Lab is check out labs.uk.barclays.