- Meeting of Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Monday, 20th November, 2023 6.00 pm (Item 15.)
- View the background to item 15.
Objective : What is the strategy and action plan in relation to the letting of the building ?
Andrew Roughan, (Managing Director, Plexal)
Bruce Gregory, (Managing Director, Hub8)
Gareth Edmundson, (Chief Executive)
Paul Jones, (Executive Director Finance and Assets)
(O&S Members are reminded to register for the short tour of the MX in the afternoon).
The Chair introduced the item, saying Members had been on a very interesting tour that afternoon, and invited the speakers to introduce themselves.
Andrew Roughan (AR), Chief Executive of Plexal, said he acquired a majority share in Workshop Group in January 2023. Building clusters round science and technology, Plexal inspires and provides fuel for growth and employment across seven sites in the UK (London, Cheltenham, Manchester). He is happy to share the scale and competence of Plexal to support Hub8, and said that 2024 promises to be an exciting year, not only because of where and what MX is in itself, but because it creates a town-based bridge to the Golden Valley Cyber Park.
Bruce Gregory (BG) introduced himself as the founder and MD of Hub8 and Director of CyNam. He said Hub8 launched a co-working space at the Brewery Quarter in 2019 to support cyber-tech in Cheltenham, and was followed by a second site at Gloscol’s Cheltenham campus in 2021. With Plexal, the National Cyber Security Centre Innovation Centre has opened in Cheltenham town centre, resulting in Hub8 currently running three very successful sites across the town. These contribute to the town’s economic growth, and MX offers huge opportunity for continued growth, embedded in the fabric of the town. It is a great way to celebrate some amazing companies, and bring together the creative and cultural activities for which the town is known.
The Chair thanked AR and BG. Several Member questions and responses had been circulated, and she invited further questions.
A Member began by saying he uses Hub8 a lot in his business life, and it provides an excellent place to work – well resourced, fantastic staff and amenities. He congratulated AR and BG, adding that he’d expected there to be challenges at the Gloscol site but in fact it works well and businesses enjoy using the site.
The Chair said she enjoyed the visit earlier in the day, having attended a planning event earlier in the summer, and wondered if it was worth inviting other Members to visit the site to see how it is progressing. BG said he would be delighted and welcomed the opportunity to show Members round. In relation to the Gloscol site, he said this location is pioneering – there are not many other further education colleges in the UK with industry embedded as here. The positive impact on the students is something to celebrate and he would be happy for Members to visit that site too.
A Member asked what lessons have been learnt, how relationships with clients are developing, and how the buildings are being used to suit clients’ needs. BG confirmed that his company had been on a huge learning curve since 2019, about what the community needs and how best to serve that need. MX allows companies to grow, an important component, and Hub8 is taking time to build relationships, get to know the community and understand its needs, to create a safe and trusted environment.
He said that the place itself is the easy part, bringing the community together, stimulating conversations, offering a great programme of events, and making sure there is good tea and coffee – every little detail makes a difference. They have applied what they have learnt, resulting in a nice mix of different spaces in MX not achieved at other co-working sites – open plan space, private meeting rooms, phone booths, private offices. By understanding the high demands of companies and the way they work – they may have 50 employees but only need office space for 6-10 on a regular basis – this results in high and sustainable utilisation of the space.
He said they also understand how to position the different areas of MX and use ‘engineered serendipity’ to ensure members experience it in the best way, such as having the highest volume of hot-desking on the top floor, which drives vibrancy and movement within the building.
AR said his experience at the Olympic Park had demonstrated the ripple effect, how jobs and productivity grow and thrive in this type of environment, and how under the NCSC banner 71 companies have started their journey in Cheltenham. The unique opportunity offered by MX and the evolution of Hub8’s team there is a dress rehearsal for the Golden Valley development.
BG added that the first member Hub8 welcomed through NCSC opened in September 2019 with two desks in the Brewery Quarter, with the intention of trying it out for a year. One year later, they had 20 employees, and now have 50, with many new recruits from Gloscol. There are other great examples of how businesses have grown from this platform, to provide great opportunities for the next generation.
GE pointed out that in addition to its many other benefits, MX’s activity also forms a connection between the High Street and one of the oldest parts of the town, largely hidden away and with a reputation for ASB. MX is having a positive impact by activating and shining a spotlight on this part of town.
A Member thanked BG and AR for the excellent tour of MX, and was very encouraged and hugely reassured by all that is going on there. She welcomed their passion for the project, and comprehensive answers to all questions.
The Leader talked about the link between the old and new, saying she had recently met with a lecturer at the University who had tasked his first-year architecture students with creating designs to bring the two elements together. She said their designs were conceptual but amazing, and indicative of could be done here, as has already been done in London and other big cities.
- Restricted enclosure View the reasons why document 15./1 is restricted
- OS_Member_Q&A_MX, item 15. PDF 216 KB