British Library IP Centre - a free space to start your business?

In 2006, the British Library opened its new Business and IP Centre. Located in what were previously two reading rooms, the Centre houses one of the world’s best collections of business and intellectual property information.

The intention is to provide an environment in which entrepreneurs and SMEs scan get the help they need to develop and protect their idea, through a combination of comprehensive information, specially trained staff, and accessible facilities.

How can the British Library IP Centre help me?

There is a range of ways in which the IP Centre might be of use to you and your small business. The collection of information is the most obvious benefit. The British Library has one of the biggest collections of printed material in the world – and it seems only fitting that the IP Centre should have one of the most comprehensive selections of business and intellectual property information. Just as important, though, are the staff, who are trained to help you find and understand the information that is most relevant to you.

Information Specialists are also on hand, providing free one-hour support sessions. These consultations are designed to help business owners develop their idea, with the ultimate goal of taking it to market.

But for many entrepreneurs the real value of the IP Centre is that it provides an environment for networking. The British Library runs regular group events, with topics ranging from pitching for contracts, through beginners’ guides to IP, to marketing how-tos. As well as offering useful information to business owners, these events offer an invaluable opportunity to meet with other entrepreneurs, share ideas, and potentially develop working relationships.

Finally, many entrepreneurs will be familiar with the cabin fever that can result from working in your kitchen all day every day. The IP Centre also provides space for business owners to sit and work, with free wi-fi, allowing you to get out of the house – and potentially meet some like-minded people in the process.

Is it expensive?

Access to the British Library IP Centre is free – you just need to register for a Reader Pass. You can do this at the Library. The process takes about half an hour, and you will need to take two forms of ID: one showing your signature, and one showing your home address. The second item should be no more than three months old. Read more about the accepted documents.

Many of the workshops are also free, but there are enrolment fees for some. You can check the schedule and pricing here.

What about the rest of the country?

The British Library IP Centre is a useful resource for those within easy reach of London – but what about the rest of the country?

So-called business incubation centres are becoming more common around the UK. These centres provide new and growing businesses with desk space and other resources, along with networking opportunities.

Business incubation centres are often found on university campuses. While they tend not to be free, they can provide a cost-effective environment in which to grow your business.

Photo courtesy Andrew Dunn.

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