An innovation centre is a complex ecosystem of space, services, content and community. Cockerton + Co provide the full range of services to design and operate innovation centres. 

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The need for entrepreneurial talent
The world of work is changing, technological advancement is accelerating, and the need for entrepreneurial talent has never been more important. But how can organisations bring the right people together when we’re all getting used to working remotely?

Building innovation centres is the answer. Innovation centres are places, services, and communities which, when done right, can drive economic recovery, nurture talent and create commercial returns.
The need for entrepreneurial talent left
The need for entrepreneurial talent right
This guide will be helpful if you are:

A landowner in need of a new commercial lettings or place-making strategy


Working in government and supporting tech innovation and job creation


Part of a corporation that needs to future-proof its strategy

Read on to learn more, or contact Cockerton + Co for help designing and building an innovation centre that delivers impact.

The modern workplace is evolving
The modern workplace is evolving
The modern workplace is evolving
Is the traditional workplace on its last legs?

Co-working, virtual working and decentralised teams are fast becoming the norm. Thanks to modern workplace practices and COVID lockdowns, organisations are continually re-assessing the spaces and resources they need to do business.

For many businesses, an expensive, branded office building in central London is no longer a necessity for company success or cohesion. Instead, today’s professionals are finding ways to bring work home, trading in packed public transport and unproductive time in offices for tech-enabled home offices. And that’s a great thing….or is it?

Hidden drawbacks to the new ways of working

Moving away from traditional working environments brings new challenges to the social, educational and commercial needs of the business. When employees aren’t physically present, it can be more difficult for them to collaborate, network, and learn from others.


The trend towards decentralised teams can also hinder the innovation process. “What isn’t scheduled doesn’t happen” is the new phrase – and some organisations are losing opportunities for serendipity, peer-learning, and the collaborative and competitive forces of clusters. These are the critical benefits that innovation centres and communities can re-instil in the businesses that use them.

Building innovation centres that fill the gaps

We at Cockerton + Co strongly believe that modern organisations need to move with these new working trends and design new propositions, services and communities to fill the gaps. We design, build and manage innovation centres that deliver value to the landowner, the innovator member and the wider community of collaborators.

What are the key ingredients for building an innovation centre with impact?

Start with local assets

The most successful innovation centres leverage their local resource pool, whether it’s a University with strengths in Life Sciences, a nearby community of industrial designers, or physical proximity to a marketplace of customers.

These local assets are the original differentiators of innovation centres. Accordingly, they are where we at Cockerton + Co start when crafting the future identity of a place. Consider what assets, resources or communities are found locally that cannot be found elsewhere and find ways to engage and incorporate them into your proposition.

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An Innovation Building Centre. Cockerton and Co. can design and build the perfect Innovation Centre for you.
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Innovation Centre Build through Cockerton and Co. - Useful for landowners, government and corporate.
Specialise in a sector or purpose

The most attractive innovation centres will be known for something specific. For example, Level39 in Canary Wharf became the premium destination for Fintech companies in London (read our Level 39 case study to learn more).

When innovation centres specialise in a sector, they can source the most knowledgeable mentors and design relevant professional services. They can also run events that maximise peer-to-peer collaboration, create sales opportunities, and match startups with interested investors.

You can also design innovation centres around core missions such as environmental sustainability, social equality, and public health care. Selecting a sector or a strong purpose sets your innovation community apart, increases its value to your customers, and makes it more difficult to replicate. Your target audience will congregate faster, pay more for and advocate for your chosen specialisation.

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Design for inclusivity, diversity and flexibility

When designing innovation centres, think about appealing to and catering for the broadest array of participants possible. The best products and services are designed and delivered by a diverse group of creators and decision-makers.

Accordingly, ensure that the innovation centre design has a diverse ‘menu’ that makes it easy for a range of customers to work there. While some customers might need a hot desk for 3 days a month, others will need fixed desks and a large collaboration space, along with graphic design services (for example).

Having different memberships, workspaces, partnerships, events, drop-ins, open days, programmes and more can therefore be advantageous. However, being more inclusive could also mean creating prayer rooms, childcare areas, or ‘silent work only’ areas that appeal to introverted people or those who dislike busy spaces.

Flexibility is important, both in the leasing options you provide, and in creating a space that can adapt to future trends. For example, COVID19 has created new expectations around density and cleanliness indoors. This change was no problem for businesses with modular partition systems included in their innovation centre build, as they were able to quickly reconfigure their office space.

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A beautifully designed and built Innovation Centre with Cockerton + Co.
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Think about adding services to the space

New companies aren’t just looking for a place to work. They also need access to professional services such as legal advice, accounting, branding, human resourcing, and beyond. Accordingly, you can create a more attractive and profitable space by incorporating these services in your innovation centre.

What’s more, innovation centres are usually home to a large number of different businesses, allowing you to deliver these services while benefiting from economies of scale. When you select the right service providers and help them deliver high-quality, as-needed services, the resulting ecosystem is a win for everyone involved.

Providing services within innovation centres also gives traditional landowners diverse revenue streams. For example, you could make commission by allowing providers to offer software development or HR services in your community, or build these capabilities in-house. You could also facilitate training services, ticketed events, virtual memberships, and much more.

These services will deliver the financial resilience that’s so important in the commoditised office space market.

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Design an Activation Strategy

“Build it and they will come” is no longer a development strategy. To set your commercial buildings apart and gain the attention of your target customers in an increasingly competitive environment, your innovation destination needs to have a strategy to bring it to life.

Successful strategies often include:

  • Events
  • Campaigns
  • Accelerator programmes
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Open innovation challenges

Cockerton + Co runs these programmes to activate new centres and kick-start the collaboration process. We find they give potential members fantastic reasons to join the centre and provide long-term meaning to the communities involved.

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Get help with your innovation centre build that makes lasting impact

Do you have a failing office building? Need to create a supportive space for entrepreneurship and innovation? Want to provide opportunities to underrepresented groups in the technology industry and revitalise regional cities?

Building an innovation centre can answer these challenges – while driving economic recovery, nurturing talent, and bringing commercial returns to your organisation. Cockerton + Co offers the full suite of services from design, space activation, and asset repositioning, to operations with our innovation centre management service.

Connect with us to discuss your innovation centre build project.