Plexal: Q&A with Plexal, former Olympic Press & Broadcast Centre for London 2012
Official venue for the Major Events Summit 2017, MEI ask Plexal some questions on their vision for the future and how Plexal began.
What is Plexal?
Opening in June 2017, Plexal will be Europe's largest innovation ecosystem based on the 1.2 million square-foot former London Olympics Press & Broadcast centre. Over 800 technology startups and corporate innovation teams will converge at Plexal to imagine, design and create connected products that improve our lives. Plexal is dedicated to providing a world-class holistic suite of business services: innovation & accelerator programmes, in-house professional services, a makers lab for rapid prototyping, entrepreneurship training, mentorship, industry-leading events and so much more.
The centre is designed by ENTIQ, best known for Level39, Innovate Finance and Cognicity.
What is Plexal’s vision?
Our mission is to be the central nervous system of innovation. Connected, intelligent & dynamic. We will build a best-in-class ecosystem for startups, scaleups & global business of all sizes to spark ideas & build new business. Our approach is to be bold, pioneering, creative & collaborative not only in our values but in our beautiful, flexible & healthy working environment at Plexal.
How are you achieving this?
Our model builds on best-in-class innovation ecosystems from around the world. We bring together a comprehensive suite of innovation and business growth services for companies both big and small: themed accelerators, bespoke innovation programmes, industry-leading conferences, intra and entrepreneurship training, quality coaching and mentorship, in-house professional services, curated community events and a makers lab for rapid prototyping. Not to mention, our beautiful, flexible, healthy working environment.
Powered by an international network of city partnerships, startup communities and trade and investment organisations across the world we are a soft landing pad for companies coming to the UK for the first time and can provide international intelligence and opportunity for firms chasing global markets.
Where does the name Plexal come from?
There is an analogy between innovation ecosystems and the biological ecosystems observed in nature.
Plexal, means “of or pertaining to a network” and is commonly used to describe the central nervous system of the human body. As an innovation centre, we feel rooted in three powerful, highly-networked worlds: technology, enterprise, and the human experience. For this reason we have chosen a word with its origin in biological networks - a word that symbolises the mental synapses and social network that make the human connections to technology possible.
We worked on our brand with Idea East, a local digital agency which will now also become an integral member of our community and provide their services to other startups looking to build a company identity from an idea. This partnership symbolises our commitment to support local economic development in the SME sector.
Will Plexal focus on a specific industry?
Our membership model is selective but open to technology firms from diverse backgrounds. Initially we are focussed on incubating the following powerful innovations: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, internet of things, cyber-security, and data analytics. We are actively cultivating piloting opportunities within the fields of sport, health, fashion, smart city and mobility industries. These are our natural specialisms given our proximity to academic talent and research hubs in these fields as well as our connections to corporate partners, testbed venues across the Olympic Park, the creative heritage of our surrounding five boroughs, and to the great regeneration efforts underway across London’s East end. Our state-of-the art facilities include 42MVA of power along with the fibre networks that have remained in place around the Olympic Park following the London 2012 Games. The unique location will provide almost unlimited bandwidth allowing for virtually zero latency in the delivery and receipt of data.
One of the exciting things about technology is that we often cannot predict what will happen next. What beautiful connected technologies will be forged across disciplines and industries? At Plexal we have an ambition to create new sectors for the UK economy. We will do this by cultivating a place of convergence, where new technologies meet new industries and new business models are formed.
London seems to have a lot of startup and co-working space, how do you differentiate?
Plexal is not just a co-working space. Our unique combination of services, education, facilities, partnerships & innovation programmes place us in a unique category never been seen in the competitive landscape.
The UK has developed a thriving startup scene and a thirst for entrepreneurship. The number of UK businesses now stands at 5.5million, a 23 per cent increase since 2010; one million of these are new small businesses. Yet, we struggle to grow these small businesses beyond our own walls, and beyond our own borders.
Plexal sees its ecosystem as being as hyper connected, as agile and open to opportunity as the world’s most famous Silicon clusters. We have designed our services, as well as our high-tech space, to provide the optimal conditions to do just that - create and grow business. Plexal’s state-of-the-art environment is combined with practical education programmes, a suite of professional services, acceleration and incubation programmes, access to funding opportunities, and a powerful international network to make this happen.
How is Plexal connected to the rest of the Olympic Park and London's 2012 Legacy plans?
At Plexal we take inspiration from the Olympic values: respect, determination, inspiration, courage and excellence. We have a strong relationship with the London Legacy Development Corporation whose purpose is to use the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of the London 2012 Games and the creation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to develop a dynamic new heart for East London, creating opportunities for local people and driving innovation and growth in London and the UK. The LLDC also runs an apprenticeship scheme helping thousands of young people kick start their careers and and for local people to have access to jobs on the park.
We have also partnered with the LLDC and the Global Disability Hub, a dedicated research, teaching, practice centre and online community, born out of the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. We plan to run an international accelerator programme to help support the creation and incubation of new solutions that enable better accessibility across our cities, and support the lives of disabled people through co-design, collaboration and innovation.