The New Local Enterprise Partnerships: An Initial Assessment - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

Written evidence from the British Library


  The following submission from the British Library outlines the scope and objectives of the Library's Business & IP Centre, which was launched in 2006 with funding from the London Development Agency, and supports entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and developing a business. The Library has developed proposals to roll this model out to other British regions and has detailed how these proposals could support the creation of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships in their role of "tackling issues including….enterprise and supporting business start-ups".


  1.  The British Library welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Business Innovation and Skills Committee on "The New Local Enterprise Partnerships" and has provided details below of the British Library's Business & IP Centre and how its model and funding will relate to the setup of the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).


  2.  The British Library was established by statute in 1972 as the national library of the United Kingdom. It is one of the world's greatest research libraries—it benefits from legal deposit and is the main custodian of the nation's Written cultural heritage. The Library's incomparable collections have developed over 250 years; they cover three millennia of recorded knowledge, represent every known Written language, every aspect of human thought and a sizeable sound, music and recordings archive.

  3.  The British Library contains a vast array of inspirational material and expertise that supports every sector from the creative industries to science, technology and medicine; small businesses to major pharmaceutical companies; school children to lifelong learners; academics to authors:

    — Through the services of our Business & Intellectual Property Centre, we support entrepreneurs and SMEs in developing, protecting and exploiting their ideas, and in growing their businesses.

    — Through our learning programme we provide £1 million worth of resources to 1.2 million teachers and school students who visit our learning website each year.

    — We support the Government's lifelong learning policies by providing resources to everyone who wants to do research; 43% of people using our newspaper collections are personal researchers doing genealogy or local history projects.

    — We supply 100% of the world's top 100 R&D spenders in industry with our document supply service.

  4.  The Library is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Our funding agreement is signed jointly by the Culture Secretary and Business Secretary. We work with strategic partners to support our public funding.


  5.  The Business & IP Centre has supported 200,000 entrepreneurs and SMEs since its launch in 2006. It supports innovators and entrepreneurs from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and growing a business through our workshops and advice sessions.

  Between 2007 and 2009 the Centre helped to create 829 new businesses for London and created a further 786 new jobs for Londoners. The combined turnover for these businesses was £32 million and 89% of their founders say this success would not have been achieved without the Library's help.

  An independent evaluation by the London Development Agency (LDA) revealed that the Business & IP Centre delivers £11 million worth of value to the UK small business sector.

  For every £1 that the LDA has invested, the businesses have seen a £22 increase in turnover; this demonstrates that this is a highly cost-effective model. The businesses supported by the Centre have contributed £5.5 million to the public purse.

  6.  Success stories include:

    Pomegreat founder Adam Pritchard had the idea of developing a juice drink from the "superfood" pomegranates. He researched the fruit in the British Library's Science Reading Rooms and was then recommended to explore the business opportunities and the potential viability in our Business & IP Centre.

    Pritchard said: "I came to the Centre and discovered everything that I needed. It satisfied everything that I had to understand before launching my fruit-juice business. I had a thirst for knowledge that could only be fulfilled by a resource of the strength of the Business & IP Centre."

    Adam's Pomegreat juice is now sold throughout the UK to the major supermarkets and cash and carry warehouses. Pomegreat is now a five-strong company with an annual turnover of £10 million.

  7.  The Centre pursued a number of activities to support SMEs and entrepreneurs during the recession. These included:

    — Strengthening business support by increasing the number of relevant workshops and advice sessions that we run and providing them free or at highly subsidised rates. We estimate that, together with our partners and business experts, we are subsidising workshops and advice sessions by over £1/2 million pa.

    — Helping unemployed people to develop the skills they need to become self-employed or start their own businesses; use of the Centre by unemployed people has more than doubled over the last nine months. For example, we have found that 17 unemployed people have spent 24 hours or more in the Business & IP Centre.

    — Giving undergraduates and postgraduates the skills they need to become self-employed or start businesses when they graduate through a tailored programme of events.

    — Giving people the networking opportunities that they need to develop their support network, meet "role models", collaborate with other entrepreneurs and build their confidence.


  8.  The Centre opened in March 2006 with a cash injection of £1.2 million from the LDA over two years; subsequently the LDA awarded the Library a second tranche of funding of £2.4 million over four years; the funding expires in March 2011. It has been estimated that it will cost £750k per annum (over three years) to maintain and develop the Centre.

  The Business & IP Centre is currently looking at new ways to fund the Centre's operations when the funding expires in 2011.


  9.  In a recent interview in the Sunday Times, the Minister for Business and Enterprise, Mark Prisk MP, stated his support for the Centre when advocating the abolition of Business Link. He proposed:

    "A series of `growth hubs' across the country, based on the British Library's Business and IP Centre, will provide advice for knowledge-based, high growth ventures."

  10.  In 2009 Real Business magazine wrote a manifesto for saving Britain's future. Its third step was to build on the Business & IP Centre's success by replicating the model across the country.

    "Following the Centre's impact on London's entrepreneurial scene, the logical move would be to open Business & IP Centres in Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Bristol, creating a nationwide network. In truth, the sums required to create a network would be tiny."

    Real Business Magazine, 2009

  11.  These words reiterate the Richard Report on small business:

    "This task force advocates for the British Library's Centre to serve as a model for other similar centres to be rolled out across the country."

    Small Business and Government: The Richard Report, 2008


  12.  Encouraged by the Library and business sectors, Ministers and our users, the Library developed draft proposals to use the Centre's model in other regions of the UK, using the British Library's expertise and advice.

  13.  It has been proposed that the British Library's Business & IP Centre could deliver innovation support to entrepreneurs throughout the UK through:

    (a) A "blueprint" for local business innovation support in major city libraries.

    (b) An online service which delivers British Library and third party content to users' desktops.

 (a)   A "blueprint" for local business innovation support in major city libraries

  The Library envisages developing a "blueprint" for innovation and entrepreneurship support for regional city libraries, which would comprise a model for running a Centre, backed up by central support, including project management and best practice advice and guidance. Public libraries have been selected since (a) they are open to everyone (b) they are likely to have a suitable infrastructure and (c) they are typically in central locations, which are accessible to large numbers of entrepreneurs and innovators. It should be noted that there are thirteen UK libraries, including the British Library, which form part of the PATLIB (patent library) network. The network, which is chaired by the British Library, was created to provide users with local access to patent, trade mark, designs and copyright information.

  It is proposed that one or two pilot libraries are developed in the first year and build to five or six by the third year. City libraries would be selected using a number of criteria, including existing business and intellectual property collections and expertise, flexible space and facilities and an urgent need for regional economic development.

  The Library has been considering the North East for the first pilot; we are in active discussions with Newcastle Public Library and Northumbria University about setting this up.

  The "blueprint" would comprise a template of the British Library model, which could be adapted to local city libraries. The Library would also offer direct advice and guidance on:

    — Structure and governance of centres.

    — Staff required, including skills and coaching/training.

    — Core business & IP collections.

    — Negotiations with third party database suppliers.

    — Space and facilities required.

    — Partner strategy and programme.

    — Workshops and events programme.

    — Marketing and awareness-raising campaigns.

    — Monitoring and reporting systems, including evaluation models.

 (b)   An online service which delivers British Library and third party content to users' desktops

  The proposed online service would build upon the existing Business & IP Centre website ( and exploit web 2.0 technology; it would provide access to Library's e-resources, including some of our high value third party databases, unique British Library content (eg e-courses, information guides, inspirational videos, webcasts and podcasts) and online communities for entrepreneurs across the country. This service could be linked to or integrated with the existing online support services (eg Intellectual Property Office online services) to make it easier for businesses to navigate the business support landscape. It should be noted that the Library has had very early stage discussions with the HMRC (which manages the Business Link online service).

  14.  It is extremely difficult to estimate the costs for each region, since these would vary according to existing facilities, business and IP resources and staff. Costs could be anywhere between £250-500k per library.


  15.  As stated in the announcement of the establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships:

    "Councils and business leaders have been asked to consider forming new local enterprise partnerships that can provide strategic leadership in their local areas and create the right environment for business success and economic growth."

    "Local enterprise partnerships will tackle issues including….enterprise and supporting business start-ups."

  The creation of regional Business & IP Centres could successfully fulfil the criteria of supporting enterprise and business start-ups, working with both local councils and business leaders, while continuing to access materials and expertise directly from the British Library.

  16.  The Business & IP Centre's wide network of partner organisations, from the public and private sectors, cover a broad range of business topics, from the core essentials such as business planning and finance, to niche topics such as search engine optimisation, social enterprise and branding. These could be replicated on a regional basis, promoting local skills and services.

  17.  Rolling the Centre's model out to the regions through the LEPs could have a number of tangible benefits:

    — Promotes business growth and entrepreneurship across the UK;

    — Integrates both local council and business partners;

    — Allows access to British Library material out of London;

    — Builds on a tried and tested model and on existing infrastructure; and

    — Emphasises the importance of support for business start-ups and the growth that they can bring.


  18.  The model of the British Library's Business & IP Centre could be successfully applied and integrated into the new Local Enterprise Partnerships, promoting and delivering a key strand of their objectives—delivering growth through the promotion of enterprise and supporting business start-ups. With the business model already established, it could easily be transferred to the regions under the authority of local councils and business leaders together with the support of the British Library.

11 August 2010

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