Manchester Metropolitan University’s Innospace facility looks and feels like most other incubator spaces – but there’s a difference.

Innospace is based in Turing House, which is part of the thriving Manchester Science Park next to MMU’s city centre campus.

The desks, meeting rooms and colourful pods are the same as most other flexible work spaces but the price is one of the most competitive in the city centre and set low to incentivise businesses to engage with the university.

Students at MMU can rent a desk at a heavily subsidised price, while former graduates are charged a modest £50 a month.

Those wanting to explore the benefits of working with the university can rent desk space for as little as £100 a month – which is around a third of what they’d pay at WeWork in Manchester.

However, according to John Willis, Programmes Manager, Research and Knowledge Exchange at MMU, the real value of partnering with the university runs deeper than any cost savings.

He also leads on MMU’s incubation strategy and is on a mission to help businesses start and scale by accessing university expertise.

“Our target market is businesses who want to scale through accessing university expertise,” he said.

“We are really looking for businesses with an ambition to grow, that have a great idea around a particular product or service and want to test it and develop it with access to the university’s expertise.”

The venue recently hosted a panel event to showcase how the university can help grown businesses including two alumni of MMU.

Sebastian Collinge, founder of Attire Care and Nomi Farooq, CEO of Shoot Business, joined Gaynor Thomasson, founder and director of It’s All About Shoes, Nile Henry founder of  Blair  Project and Sophie Dale-Black, director of British Business Bank, in sharing their experiences.

Willis said by working collaboratively MMU can help businesses accelerate their innovation and reduce the time it takes to bring new products or services to market.

John Willis, MMU

John Willis

“Students and graduates are getting access to a community, access to a support environment to share and test their ideas, as well as getting access to business support,” he explained.

“One of our signature programmes is a business bootcamp. It’s an intense two-day programme. It’s the building blocks of how to start a business.”

Members can also get access to MMU’s collection of tax, finance and legal experts along with a team of experienced business facilitators.

“You can gain access to our talent, our expertise and facilities. It’s also about accessing world-leading expertise and that’s where our partnership with the GC Business Growth Hub really comes to the fore.

“We have a long-term partnership with the Business Growth Hub on the Innovation Service which is geared towards Greater Manchester businesses that want to explore new ideas, products or services.

“The Innovation Service takes them through these early stages and because they’re tried and tested, it helps businesses avoid making the same mistakes and enables them to bring their MVP to market quicker.”

Willis said having a thriving business ecosystem at Innospace also benefited the university.

“It gives us an opportunity and a platform for our students and graduates to gain employment opportunities,” he said. “It could be an intern or a permanent position but the relationship benefits everyone.”