Manchester City Council has joined forces with the British Library to roll-out small business support to Greater Manchester, Blackpool and Lancaster and turbocharge the local economy.

The British Library has announced a major expansion of its highly successful network of library-based Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) to over 100 regional and local libraries across England, including in Greater Manchester, Blackpool and Lancaster.

Following last year’s pledge of £13million in Treasury funding towards the expansion, the Business & IP Centre in Manchester Central Library has been allocated £700,000 to equip 9 libraries (Altrincham, Blackpool, Bolton, Bury, Eccles, Lancaster, Oldham, Stockport, Tameside), with Business & IP Centre spaces, resources and services by 2023, building on the proven support already available at BIPC Manchester.

The BIPC Manchester has a notably strong track record of supporting local people from all walks of life to start, protect and grow successful small businesses.

Between 2016 – 2019, the BIPC Manchester helped create almost 2,000 new businesses and nearly 900 new FTE jobs. In 2020 the Centre reacted quickly to the needs of small businesses during the pandemic and delivered services online including workshops and one to one expert advice to over 1,500 people.

Business & IP Centres can open up the path to entrepreneurship for anyone with a business idea, regardless of their background. Consistently, over half of those who use a BIPC to set up a business are women and a third are from under-represented ethnic backgrounds.

More than triple the national averages for business ownership in the UK, this diverse user base speaks to the accessibility and community-based ethos of this library-based support. While each Centre including Manchester is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases, provided by the British Library, they are brought to life by a tailored and highly individual programme of events, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners

This accessible support has been invaluable for small businesses during the Covid19 pandemic. In a recent survey, 23% of all BIPC users said that the service had helped them gain confidence and resilience to steer their business through the challenges of the pandemic. Over 3,600 business owners across the UK have attended events as part of Reset.

Restart, an emergency online programme launched by the British Library last year to provide new skills and resilience to all SMEs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian at the British Library, says: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with professional staff who have a mission to connect people with information. From Glasgow to Brighton, our BIPC Network harnesses the power of libraries, bringing in expertise from the local community to help people from all walks of life turn an idea into a successful business. We’re delighted to mark this
next chapter in the Network’s journey, growing from 14 to over 100 new regional and local Centres across England, with a longer term ambition to expand across the UK. Our mission is to put business support in every library, but we’re also learning lessons from the past year, by making sure more and more of our business and IP workshops, events and 1-1s are open to everyone online.”

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The opportunities for small businesses to bounce back following the difficult last 12 months they have suffered will be invaluable. We know how important libraries are to service users and the £13 million investment will only seek to strengthen and future proof the service for years to come.”


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