When the words innovate and Bristol are put together, one name that always springs to mind and in conversation is Nick Sturge MBE. Nick led the vision for the enterprise hub, Engine Shed, from concept to reality in 2013 and since then has driven it to success beyond its original ambition.
Engine Shed set its stall out with a loose mission which, over the years, we’ve refined as a vision to be that ‘our region is a growing economy that is inclusive, sustainable and that benefits everyone who lives here, and is recognised internationally as innovative and dynamic.’
Our virtuous circle of intelligence gathering and revenue generation funds the delivery of project work which enables economic activity. This activity, as well as hosting the SETsquared business incubator, then delivers benefits to people, planet and profit, and in turn, increases our revenue from room use and hire, thereby providing the essential working mechanism to deliver inclusive economic growth for all.
What does that mean in practice? I have quite a simplistic view that if, with one hand, we create and nurture high quality, growing social and for-profit enterprises, run by leaders who understand the value of diversity of talent, and of nurturing that in their workforce, and on the other hand we showcase those job opportunities to young people, from across the richly diverse (in all senses) community that we are privileged to have in Bristol and Bath, then we have a winning combination.
Inclusion isn’t an optional extra. To have the greatest possible chance of business success, inclusion needs to be a core business principle. We endeavour to amplify this message, create and highlight practical examples and work to overcome barriers for people to access these industries and sectors. We bring business and inclusion together under one roof so that inclusive growth will result, rather than focusing relentlessly on inclusion as an end in itself. We don’t have a choice about doing this kind of stuff.
I hope that our projects demonstrate this, such as Diverse Workforce for the Future, teacher work experience, Quarterly Investor Briefings and the Entrepreneurial Outreach Project.
My advice to any business leader is to “give forward” – as a mentor, by offering work experience, through offering bursaries or apprenticeships, in going to schools and community groups or refreshing your recruitment criteria. If you invest in the local ecosystem, you will get the benefit back.