Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor has recently opened a £5m collaborative space for businesses, artists and academics to work together on new innovative projects. The Mayor cut the ribbon to open Phase One of Birmingham City University and Eastside Projects’ STEAMhouse facility, which has been masterminded as a place where SMEs and artists can work together on new projects and business ideas.
Based in the former car dealership on Digbeth High Street, Phase One of STEAMhouse features a range of new state-of-the-art facilities which people can access for free, ranging from 3D printers and laser cutting machinery to virtual reality technology and printing studios.
Set over eight different rooms, each space boasts its own specialist technology – much of which is unique in the region – and is equipped with dedicated technicians to support entrepreneurs in their ventures.
By connecting Arts into STEM subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) it is anticipated STEAMhouse will help create up to 10,000 jobs across the West Midlands region and help support the growth of the Midlands Engine.
Businesses have already put forward proposals for projects as part of the STEAMhouse initiative, including one business which is manufacturing recyclable plastics which can be used by coffee shops and other outlets as environmentally friendly alternatives.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, was made an honorary member of STEAMhouse as part of his visit.
He said: “This region has long been renowned for its innovation, from being at the heart of the Industrial Revolution to becoming one of the country’s brightest start-up hotspots.
“This state-of-the-art facility will provide a real home for innovation in the West Midlands and bring together businesses, artists and experts to create products and ventures that can support our economic growth.
“It is great news for people right across our region, who have the opportunity to come and take advantage of the facilities and expertise that will be housed in STEAMhouse.”
STEAMhouse has received funding from the Government, the European Regional Development Fund and Arts Council England, in partnership with Eastside Projects.
Businesses accessing the service will also be able to take advantage of expert support and advice, and given access to potential funding opportunities.
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “STEAMhouse is all about bringing together people from different backgrounds to maximise their opportunities for creativity and innovation.
“We are delighted to formally open this facility which will help us rethink how business and the arts can work together, and the real impact that can have on economic growth in the West Midlands.
“We want to see as many people as possible take advantage of what is on offer here, as it undoubtedly has the potential to make a huge difference to the future prosperity of our region and its workforce.”
STEAMhouse’s development is in part a response to a range of reports which indicate that small businesses across the West Midlands are lagging behind on collaborative innovation.
By linking academic research and the vibrant creative arts scene in Birmingham’s Digbeth area, the University hopes to develop a new supply chain across the region.