A network of success

By Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development

The Ziylo team at the Launch: Great West 2019 awards (Photo credit: launchgw.com)

The new University campus at Temple Quarter will be a melting pot with blurred edges. There will be buildings and public spaces on land owned by the the University of Bristol – to which local people will be welcomed. Then there are nearby places that the University operates, has a share or partnership with, or that houses its students or staff. The intention is to create value for the city and its people as well as the University community, and not just on the campus itself. This might take the form of shops and services that serve the needs of local communities as well as those of the staff and students on the campus – enabled by the demand of all those that need them.

Less obviously there are two other organisations around Temple Meads that are linked to the University – which have both been in the news this week: Engine Shed (which is run by the University) and UnitDX (which is not, but hosts some amazing new companies spun out of the University).

It lifted my spirits to see that Nick Sturge had been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday Honours list. His time as Director of Bristol SETSquared, the outstanding tech business incubation centre, led to it being named the best in the world – a rare accolade indeed. He capped this achievement by conceiving of the Engine Shed and convincing the City Council and University to invest in it and trust him to run it for the benefit of the city – and then making a runaway success of its operation.

Then last week another incubator company Spin-up Science hosted an awards evening for lab-based science start-ups. The Launch Great West evening saw a string of new companies based in UnitDX and mainly coming out of local universities being recognised. One of the star prizes of the show went to Ziylo – which won the Deal of the Year award for its sale to Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company, for up to $800m. The young man who led Ziylo and leads UnitDX, Harry Destecroix, was typically gracious and humble in crediting others, notably his team and University support for his remarkable achievements.

Perhaps just as notable is that both UnitDX and Engine Shed have active outreach programmes seeking to attract people from communities underrepresented in tech and science enterprises into the field and help them succeed. There is much talent yet to achieve its full potential and take the opportunities in our city – so it is great to see those in the midst of success actively seeking to help others to join in. Well done to both Harry and Nick – and it is great to see good guys getting credit.

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