Southwark Council teams up with British Library to deliver start-up support for local entrepreneurs

3 May 2019

Southwark today celebrates the launch of a major new initiative, Start-ups in London Libraries, a three-year project to support local entrepreneurs from all walks of life to get their business idea off the ground. Southwark is one of ten London boroughs selected to launch a coordinated network of free support for start-ups in public libraries, in partnership with the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.

Open to aspiring entrepreneurs, early-stage start-ups and those people who have simply dreamed of being their own boss, the new services will provide a grass roots solution to business support and equip locals with the skills, information, confidence and connections they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses. The project will invest in three of Southwark’s local libraries in Peckham, Canada Water and East Street to transform their current offer.

With funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Dean Williams has been newly appointed as SME Champion for Southwark and will receive specialist training to work with business experts to co-deliver a comprehensive programme of free two-day workshops and events, confidential business information sessions and tailored, face-to-face advice. The participating libraries will also offer free, walk-in access to business information resources including COBRA (the Complete Online Business Reference Advisor), a programme of live webinars and practical industry fact-sheets.

Cllr Rebecca Lury, Cabinet Member for culture, leisure, equalities and communities at Southwark Council commented: “I’m proud that Southwark is working in partnership with the British Library to deliver this innovative programme. Delivered through local libraries, including the award-winning Canada Water library, this initiative demonstrates the critical role our libraries play in strengthening communities and facilitating new economic opportunities.”

Cllr Kieron Williams, Cabinet Member for jobs, skills and innovation, said “We have a real wealth of people with great business ideas in Southwark, but as anyone who has started a business will tell you to make it work you have to get the right advice. Start-ups in Libraries will bring that advice to many more of our residents. It’s the first of three major programmes we’ll be launching this year to make sure people of all walks of life in our borough can get the support they need to turn their great ideas into thriving  businesses, with our Pioneer Fund and South London Innovation Corridor project to follow soon. Together they will harness Southwark’s thriving creativity, to help make us a leading innovation borough."

Further support is available at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre, which is home to over £5 million worth of market intelligence and is the library of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. The Centre also offers a dedicated scale-ups programme offering £10,000 worth of support and tailored advice to help London-based SMEs to grow. 

The Centre has a proven track record of stimulating economic growth: new figures show that it has helped to create over 1,800 new businesses and 3,600 new jobs over the past two years. Of these businesses, 64 per cent are owned by women and 42 per cent are owned by people from a black or Asian minority ethnic (BAME) background, compared to just 20 per cent and 5 per cent of UK business owners respectively.

The three-year pilot is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the British Library, ten participating London boroughs and is generously supported by J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England. 

Page last updated: 03 May 2019