Located in Glasgow’s Merchant City, Tontine is a unique acceleration and growth space designed to help ambitious businesses maintain their momentum
Glasgow is famous worldwide for many aspects of its character – a city persona that is all at once endearingly serious, comically self-effacing and always entirely genuine.
Beyond the historic heavy industries and a reputation for hard graft and quality manufacturing, there are touchstones, too, in art and architecture, literature and music.
Names such as Avril Paton and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, William McIlvanney and the band Travis are among too many to mention regarded globally as masters and pioneers. Even the city’s passions for football and hospitality are well known around the world.
All of these highlights, however, are interwoven with one particularly strong and recognisable gold thread: the Glaswegian entrepreneurial spirit, founded on an understanding and appreciation of the power of innovation and enterprise and strong in many areas.
You don’t have to look far to find sons and daughters of Glasgow who are synonymous with entrepreneurial-style success – yes, even in one of the city’s greatest loves, football.
An inspiration to many a business leader and a role model for motivational team talks, Sir Alex Ferguson was brought up in Govan.
He may have enjoyed a goal-packed career as a striker but it’s as a manager with incredible foresight and acumen in the business of winning that he’s best known and name-checked.
Of course, the list of movers and shakers could go on and on, but it is evident Glasgow has more than its fair share of unique creativity and a wealth of contemporary mentors to learn from.
This, no doubt, explains why the city’s rate of new business start-ups is above the national average.
What it cannot explain is why Glasgow’s rate of business failure is actually higher than comparable cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.
So what can be done to help inform, inspire and encourage even more hearts and minds to not only forge exciting new business ventures but keep them thriving for the long term?
Enter stage right, Tontine, an initiative that will enjoy a starring role in Glasgow’s business drama as an accelerator.
Located in The Tontine Building, in the heart of the city’s Merchant City Quarter, Tontine is a brand new project led by Glasgow City Council in partnership with the other seven Clyde Valley local authority areas.
“This has been an exciting time with the launch of this newly-converted acceleration and growth space for young, aspiring businesses,” says the project’s manager Simon Smith, who is also Economic Development Manager – Business Growth: Glasgow City Council.
“There is no doubt this will be a major boost for Glasgow’s business pioneers.”
As part of the Tontine scheme Glasgow City Council and the University of Strathclyde will both provide additional business support services.
Among these will be that all-important tool for any new company, business mentoring. There will also be opportunities to gain access to finance services – as well as back-office services, such as ICT, Human Resources and legal and accounting services.
“It’s an exciting and bold venture,” says Smith, “and, as such, it is expected to generate £53 million for the local economy, support 134 businesses and create no fewer than 536 new jobs over the five-year delivery programme.”
It’s not only the direct participants who are expected to benefit from Tontine, which is part of the £1.13 billion Glasgow City Region City Deal and is supported by the UK Cabinet Office’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Additional advantages will include building the skills base in Glasgow’s economy through developing the skills and capacity of supported businesses and, in turn, through up-skilling new employees in growth businesses.
So just what is it that promises to make Tontine such a special place to be? “Well, firstly, it’s a great space to inhabit. The building itself has been extensively upgraded to provide highquality, flexible work spaces for growing small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” Smith points out.
“Designed to inspire the 134 aspirational businesses expected to use the facility, the flagship building will offer desk space, meeting rooms and presentation space.
“Tontine combines high quality space and superfast broadband with highly focused account-managed service from dedicated business advisers and wider support tailored to the business needs.”
Among the key sectors expected to embrace the opportunities offered by Tontine – including below-market rent rates – are enabling technologies, advanced design and manufacturing and creative industries.
Smith explains: “Participating SMEs will benefit from fostering collaboration, knowledge exchange and open innovation between businesses within the facility – through the networking space and support.
“This is a programme designed to develop best practice in creating innovation through partnership working and collaboration between businesses of varying scale.”
There will also be opportunities to develop university-business collaboration and knowledge sharing through increased access to HEI staff and facilities.
“Building a cluster of innovative firms working in similar or complementary areas, which are in a position to benefit from close proximity to one another, will be of immense benefit,” Smith says. Fifteen companies have already been invited to base themselves at Tontine.
Businesses interested in being part of Tontine should contact Simon Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0141 287 0443
Support for those who won’t settle for less
Participants in the programme will also benefit from access to initiatives based within Tontine
Open Innovation Pilot
As part of the Pilot managed by Scottish Enterprise, invaluable technical support is provided by Strathclyde University through learning, training and evaluation.
There are also 20 other major public and private organisations on hand to help, including Weir Group, NHS Scotland, Scottish Power and RBS Group.
The programme is designed to develop best practice in creating innovation through partnership and collaboration between businesses of varying scale. The aim is to stimulate innovation and support the development and commercialisation of innovative technology from Glasgow SMEs.
Centre for Civic Innovation
Focused on the strategic priorities of the city, the aim of this element in Tontine, which is supported through the Open Innovation Pilot programme, is to create an ‘Ecosystem of Civic Innovation’ in Glasgow.
How? By creating innovation through collaboration between the public sector and enterprise. In turn, this will create value and resilience in the SME supply chain, as well as viable new solutions for society and the opportunity for enterprise.
Working in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, DEMOLA is an international platform for the co-creation of new products or services. Around the world there are 12 DEMOLA centres with links to more than 40 universities.
At Tontine, the DEMOLA programme will help facilitate the co-design of projects between students, researchers and businesses.
The aim is to bring together students and businesses for three-month design sessions – this creates fresh multi-disciplinary teams, designed to challenge assumptions within businesses and stimulate new working practices.