Councils join forces with British Library to roll-out small business support and boost local economy

The British Library has announced a major expansion of its highly successful network of library-based Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) to over 100 regional and local libraries across England, including in Ely, Huntingdon and Wisbech.

Books on library shelves

Following last year’s pledge of £13million in Treasury funding towards the expansion, Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council have been allocated a portion of this funding to equip the libraries in Ely, Huntingdon and Wisbech with Business & IP Centre spaces, resources and services by 2023, building on the proven support already available at Cambridge Central Library and Peterborough Central Library. This funding will also be used to provide an upgrade to the existing Business & IP Centre within Peterborough Central Library.

While each centre, including Cambridge Central Library and Peterborough Central Library, is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases, provided by the British Library, they are brought to life by a tailored and highly individual programme of events, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners. Some of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough BIPC’s collaborations include a Business Essentials Series hosted by award winning accountancy firm, Price Bailey. During their sessions they covered topics such as the fundamental considerations for any start-up, running a compliant and efficient business and the importance of reporting and forward thinking when running a business.

Earlier this year Anglia Ruskin University, working with Cambridgeshire & Peterborough BIPC, provided a programme based on the Business Model Canvas tool as part of the national Reset. Restart programme which aimed to help entrepreneurs transform, future-proof or grow their business through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Around 150 local business owners attended the sessions. Susan Widlake, founder of Saffron Walden based Mill House Millinery, said that the sessions helped her to redefine her value proposition, further segment her customers and establish key partners.

Nationally, the BIPC network has a notably strong track record of supporting people from all walks of life to start, protect and grow a successful business. In just three years it has:

  • Supported the creation of over 12,000 new businesses

  • Led to the creation of over 7,800 new jobs

  • Generated an extra £78million GVA to the UK economy

  • Created businesses twice as likely to succeed beyond three years

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough BIPC has a notably strong track record of supporting local people from all walks of life to start, protect and grow successful small businesses. Since it was launched in early 2019, it has supported over 700 entrepreneurs.

Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian at the British Library, said: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with professional staff who have a mission to connect people with information. From Glasgow to Brighton, our BIPC Network harnesses the power of libraries, bringing in expertise from the local community to help people from all walks of life turn an idea into a successful business.

“We’re delighted to mark this next chapter in the Network’s journey, growing from 14 to over 100 new regional and local Centres across England, with a longer-term ambition to expand across the UK. Our mission is to put business support in every library, but we’re also learning lessons from the past year, by making sure more and more of our business and IP workshops, events and 1-1s are open to everyone online.”

Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage, said: "It is brilliant that small businesses and entrepreneurs will now be able to access invaluable support and resources in more parts of the country than ever before. I'm delighted that, thanks to our £13 million investment in the British Library's Business & IP Centres, this important network is growing from strength to strength."

Councillor Tom Sanderson, Chair of the Cambridgeshire County Council’s Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee, said:The expansion of the BIPC model to our libraries in Ely, Wisbech and Huntingdon is great news for entrepreneurs across the county. The last year has been extremely challenging for the economy, particularly small businesses and those with great ideas looking to turn them into reality. I look forward to hearing their success stories in the months and years to come.”

Councillor Steve Allen, Deputy Leader of Peterborough City Council and Cabinet Member for Housing, Culture and Communities, said: “Over 700 local entrepreneurs have already benefited from the invaluable support offered by our local BIPCs, so it's extremely positive to hear that these numbers will continue to increase thanks to this new funding. While the centre at Peterborough’s Central Library already does a fantastic job, I’m sure the funding allocated to its upgrade and expansion will make it an even more vital tool in building the city’s economy.”


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