An Incubation Space for Scarborough


At Askew Brook, we believe that Scarborough needs a space that encourages and allows start-ups to grow and get established. We have some great workspaces but nothing that a small, start-up business can realistically commit to. The perception that these Scarborough businesses aren't as successful as those in other, bigger towns and cities is flawed. The cost of office space in the town for these groups is much, much more expensive than places in say Leeds and York.

We have taken it upon ourselves to put this right and with the help of Andrew Clay at Woodend, Scarborough's only dedicated incubation space is due to open in late September. No european or government investment or subsidy has been supplied of any kind, all we have is passion, drive and a shared vision.

Below is the details of the report produced by Askew Brook as a starting point for discussions with Woodend and other possible interested stakeholders. We feel it is in the public interest to make this public.

The Idea

In a report commissioned by the University of Hull in July 2013 entitled “Desk Research for the University of Hull Business School at Scarborough” looking at at the competitiveness of the Scarborough area, a number of troubling issues were highlighted.

  • 66.5% of the population in the Borough of Scarborough are in employment compared to national average of 70%
  • Only 60.6% of the population are of the “working age”
  • 20.1% of the local population have no qualifications at all
  • In 2010 320 new enterprises started in the Borough, 385 closed. In 2011, 345 enterprises started, 340 closed.
  • The industrial base of the Borough is very narrow, heavily focussing on tourism, accommodation and service industries

Figures also suggest that the creative industries account for 6% of the GDP in the UK ( although the likelihood that this is underestimated ( These are the types of businesses that could benefit from an incubation space although the scope isn’t limited to these companies.

In addition to this, the members of the two local digital and creatives groups have been consulted (Digital Coast and Creative Coast). The members of which have highlighted the need to an incubation space in the town that enables startups to grow, by providing both low cost office space and business support. The Borough of Scarborough is lucky to have facilities such as Woodend and when built, an incubation space was supposed to be in place but a number of factors stopped this happening. The fact that Woodend is often at 100% capacity is great for the town but a company's turnover needs to be high in order to commit to such an office space. This is virtually impossible for startups to commit to. There needs to be a ladder that start-up can climb as their business grows and becomes more successful.

How an incubation space helps solve these problems

An incubation space in the town will, in our opinion, be a step in the right direction to help solve many of these issues and make Scarborough and the Borough a more competitive area.

Encouraging and supporting startup businesses will mean that those in the area will have a better chance of success, thus taking the ownness off seasonal work and contributing to the shift towards growing sectors. For example, although a different climate, in Manchester the financial and professional services will produce more than 45,000 jobs accounting for 40% of Greater Manchester’s GVA (Gross Value Added) growth and over the same period, the creative industries could bring an estimated 23,000 new jobs to Greater Manchester – growth of 13%. If the town has the motivation to grow it needs to know where it wants to be, and shouldn’t necessarily compare itself against similar towns.

Another major benefit is the retention of students. It is rare for a town the size of Scarborough to have a University, conveniently one that has a business school and a school of arts and new media. Although no figures are available we know from personal experience that the town struggles to keep students in the area after graduation. At the moment if you wanted to get a business off the ground the obvious choices are Leeds and York. If we can get students to stay then the working age of the population in Scarborough should improve along with the qualification levels. Couple this with the declining numbers going to University, a startup hub offers another option for those people who can’t go to University and the town doesn’t have to find jobs for its young people.

Case Studies

When looking at case studies it is important to bear in mind the thought processes businesses go through. Would you stay in Scarborough if you could operate in a location with a higher critical mass? It is often perceived that businesses operating in major cities are “better” than those in Scarborough because they must be paying higher running costs. This isn’t the case and as a result they have an advantage over Scarborough companies.

Phoenix Centre York

The Phoenix Centre in York supports young businesses from York St John University. Offices are available on 12 month terms for as little as £100 per month per office. The idea is that by the end of the twelve months they graduate to the city as they will be able to afford usual rates.

They also work with the businesses to secure funding and have a manager in place experienced in growing businesses.

C4DI Beta

Still in its very early stages, C4DI Beta provide hot desking, events and business support to startups in Hull. Costs again start at £100 a month for a hot desking facilities although the price falls with longer contracts.

Again run by industry professionals the idea is to encourage collaboration and provide support, advice and funding to its businesses.

Springboard York Science Park

Springboard based on the outskirts of York again aims to provide an environment that helps new businesses to start and grow. The cost of the units again stick out, for a two man office the cost can be as little as £100 a month and is free for the first three months.


The obvious home for the incubation space has to be Woodend. It has a good reputation, provides a pathway for businesses to move up and has a number of established companies that can help startups. Its staff and management team are well connected and used to dealing with the businesses that the incubation space is likely to suit.

Partnering with the local University and colleges is key. We need to work with them to provide steady stream of young businesses and their staff can provide valuable support.

Management and Logistics

The first issue to understand and accept is that of funding. The case studies cited above are heavily subsidised and we have to work on the assumption that it won’t happen in Scarborough. We feel that this isn’t an issue, there is no reason it cannot be viable and support itself.

The space will be open to all new businesses and maximum tenancy terms will be twelve months. After this time they can graduate to a personal office if they wish.

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