The race to become the most digitally savvy economy is on and the businesses in the UK start to realise it more than ever. Training employees, optimising workplaces, discovering technology and the doors it’s opening has rapidly taken over the agendas of the leading enterprises. Barclays hasn’t been an exception. The British banking service has launched the Eagle Labs initiative to provide the startups, communities, and innovators with the spaces for conceiving and running their ideas. The Labs which occupy underutilised branches are equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters and offer not just space and utilities but mentoring as well.
We have partnered with the Barclays Digital Labs to introduce it to the London community and Talent attending EXPAND London careers event that happened on September 1st. The Labs was one of the 50 hiring Companies exhibiting at the event that attracted 1000+ Talent. Prior to the event we met Benjamin Storey, currently heading Eagle Labs Cambridge to hear more about the initiative.
Following the launch of the Barclays Eagle Labs in the UK, what are some of the main objectives behind running the initiative?
Our aim is to repurpose underutilised Barclays Branch facilities and to convert them into spaces beneficial to the local community. There are currently 7 Eagle Labs around the country in Cambridge (x2), Brighton, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Jersey and Norwich. These are a mixture of maker-space sites and incubators. Cambridge has a maker-space and also Barclays first incubator which I manage.
The main objectives have been to reconnect with our local community by providing facilities for which there is local requirement. Our incubator provides private offices, co-working desks and hot-desks for ambitious entrepreneurs looking to grow and scale their business which aligns with our High-Growth and Entrepreneurship program ambitions.
Following the successful launch of the pilots, are there any disused branches you are planning to utilise in London?
We are looking to convert Notting Hill Gate in London to a maker and co-working site. We may look to open further sites in and around London as the ultimate project goal is to have 100 Eagle Labs by the end of 2020.
You offer MakerSpaces and Incubators. Who specifically can make use of them?
MakerSpaces are aimed for the wider community use from children learning to code to adults looking to make, mend, prototype or design new and interesting items. The MakerSpaces run courses, workshops, seminars and even have event space for external use. Many businesses, groups and individuals can make the most of the space. Several of our maker-spaces also have co-working facilities where local businesses can team up with other local community initiatives.
As for incubators, they are aimed at high-growth and entrepreneurial businesses who are ambitious and looking to scale. They provide coaching and mentorship as well as other great facilities and a progressive like-minded community to enable the businesses to flourish.
Your target demographic is pretty wide – from children to hobbyists. How do you ensure you cover everyone’s interests?
We try to provide what the community want. While we understand we cannot provide everything for everyone in the community, we like to listen to our members’ demands to see how we can provide facilities or skills to assist. We are always open to suggestions about what we can add to our offers and if these suggestions are realistic and achievable, we would be pleased to look into the ways we can help.
You’ve been in Barclays for over five years. Tell us about your career path that brought you there.
I joined Barclays in 2011 on their graduate scheme. Having worked in the corporate bank in various roles I have managed businesses from SMEs to Multinational Corporates. I have worked from our London Canary Wharf Head Office before moving to Cambridge as a Corporate bank Associate Director. In January of this year, I was offered the opportunity to head up Barclays first incubator, which was an opportunity I could not resist. There’s a lot of room for development and career progress.
What is your advice for anyone willing to pursue a career at Barclays?
Be prepared to think on your feet and don’t be afraid of digital. Banking is a very exciting and opportunistic career, now more so than ever.
What excites you most about the Labs?
Meeting the entrepreneurs and their exciting businesses. I am only ever a phone call or an email away from meeting an interesting individual who is looking to change theirs and others’ worlds.
How do you believe it will change the digital landscape in the county? Are you planning an international expansion in the long run?
In my belief, we as a nation are becoming more and more digital. Our bank is preparing itself for how our landscape may alter digitally. Our incubator is a way of facilitating the businesses making these digital changes.
The startup I am closely following is… Five.ai Inc. They are creating a fully autonomous car which is very cool. There are so many start-ups here which are worth following though, I could have picked 10.
Being an innovator means… changing the way we tackle challenges.
If you want to be an entrepreneur… research your market, sense-check your idea, then work hard and don’t give up!