Article and TechRevolution

Good Practice Description – Barnsley

In the North of the UK directly between Sheffield and Leeds, Barnsley is a former mining town, seeking to diversify its economy. The population is 243,300 and the unemployment rate is 5.1%

About the City

About the policy context

The good practice will be transferred within the following policy contexts:

A description of the Good Practice

The jobs challenge

Growing more and better jobs and businesses is a key focus for many cities across Europe. Medium sized post-industrial cities in particular seek ways to grow and diversify local economies, needing to compete with the pull of larger hubs.

The good practice

Barnsley has been committed for over 10 years to growing higher value jobs, particularly within its creative, tech and digital sectors. The good practice comprises 2 main pillars:

Through the success of these interlinked activities, the town has also been able to spin out a number of new initiatives and activities and it will be important to account for these in the transfer of good practice. For the purpose of the transfer network, the good practice is therefore defined as follows:

Enterprising Barnsley

Enterprising Barnsley is an initiative which, initially funded through ERDF and subsequently by the Council, has run in one shape or form since 2007. It provides an intensive and integrated package of intensive support focused on local (start up and established) business needs in order to create and accelerate economic growth. The portfolio of projects focuses upon business start-up support, business incubation, enterprise coaching, inward investment, networks and workshops and enterprise hubs.

It now creates around 1500 jobs per year and every £1 invested by Enterprising Barnsley helps to secure an additional £5.33 in private sector investment into the local economy; and, every £1 of investment secures an extra £0.96 in business rates for the Council.

“The support we receive from Enterprising Barnsley is fantastic. We have had assistance with recruitment, training and various council services which has had a positive impact on our business. As the largest private sector employer in Barnsley, with over 4,000 employees, we continue to look forward to enhancing site operations in the future and look forward to continuing our positive relationship with Enterprising Barnsley”. Ken Perritt, Account Director, XPO Logistics

Enterprising Barnsley is now a core council service which includes support with:

  1. Starting Up (Launchpad)
  2. Access to Finance
  3. Recruitment & Training
  4. Supply Chain & Export
  5. Accessing Council Services
  6. Property Finder
  7. Local Event
  8. Inward Investment

Each of these elements is described briefly below.

Startup Support (Launchpad)

Based at the Digital Media Centre (DMC) the Launchpad service provides a dedicated team who will support anyone in Barnsley who is looking to start a business, no matter what stage their idea or business is at.

The Barnsley Launchpad Service provides the following:

Access to Finance

Companies investing in Barnsley may be eligible for grants towards capital expenditure. Enterprising Barnsley helps companies to understand what is available and how to access it.

Since 2012 this has helped to generate over £8.8m in grant funding to enable businesses to expand into new premises and purchase new plant and machinery, helping to secure over £59.3m in private sector investment and create over 760 new jobs.

Recruitment & Training

The team includes an experienced Key Account Manager who helps companies to recruit and develop the skills required for their business.

This might include:

Supply & Export

Enterprising Barnsley Business Development Managers can help companies to access the best possible advice and support available from DIT (Department of International Trade) which has its regional office based at the Digital Media Centre. They run a number of training and information programmes and can provide a range of support to businesses, including financial subsidies for companies participating in trade missions. They have a large team of individual specialists who have extensive experience in specific sectors of business and knowledge of geographical areas in various parts of the world.

Accessing Council Services

One of the important roles played by Enterprising Barnsley staff is to help companies navigate around the council’s own departments. This might be about planning, property, events or advice on business rates for example.

Property Finder

The EB teams helps companies to locate the right space for them – whether from within their own portfolio or outside. This includes access to a regularly updated and comprehensive commercial property database.

Inward Investment

Dedicated Inward Investment managers work closely with companies seeking to relocate, supporting them from enquiry through to recruitment. The team support companies to access the local Property Investment Fund where appropriate to help with new build projects.

Over the last 4 years this team has helped to attract over 120 companies, helping to secure over £62.3m of private sector investment and create over 665 new jobs.

Digital Media Centre

The Digital Media Centre (DMC) is a town centre hub of creative and digital businesses with Grade A office accommodation in a unique environment designed by Bauman Lyons architects. The Centre combines a range of meeting and conference spaces with flexible coworking and hot desk accommodation. Adjacent to the main transport interchange, it is easily accessible from Sheffield, Leeds and Huddersfield. The DMC itself is a BREEAM Excellent building, which was sensitively designed by architects as a landmark hub with environmental credentials.

The investment made into the DMC which opened in 2007 was significant (£12m), however, it has only been by carefully combining the physical infrastructure with fit for purpose support that it has seen genuine impact.

Initially a decision was made to use external innovation experts to manage the building and deliver the community offer. However, when after 7 years of variable performance, the centre was still only at 54% occupancy, a decision was made to bring the management back into the control of the council.

Three years later, the DMC is at, on average,95% occupancy, generates surplus income for the council, and is a recognised hub for incubation, acceleration and wider support activities that focus both on developing the sector, and also supporting the digitalisation of traditional industry.

Three years later, the DMC is at, on average,95% occupancy, generates surplus income for the council, and is a recognised hub for incubation, acceleration and wider support activities that focus both on developing the sector, and also supporting the digitalisation of traditional industry.

One of the key success factors is that the main physical asset of the DMC is connected with support programmes and activities, including the start-up support service which is co-located there. The DMC hosts regular networks and events and works hard to grow the digital and creative economy through clustering and community building, and also to drive demand for digital products, skills and services. It collides traditional and digital industry expertise. This wider community offer includes:

Spins Offs

Through the success of Enterprising Barnsley and the Digital Media Centre, the council and its stakeholders have been able to develop a number of linked initiatives which form an important part of the context in which the good practice will be transferred.

These are:

  1. TechTown
  2. IoT Tribe North Accelerator
  3. Connected Healthcare
  4. Connected Manufacturing
  5. New grow-on space (under development)
  6. Digital Campus (under development)



TechTown was an URBACT Action Planning Network, led by Barnsley, which ended in the Spring of 2018. It focused on what medium sized cities can do to create digital jobs, whether through entrepreneurship or digitalisation or disruption of existing industry.

The URBACT methodology, the TechTown Local Group and an intensive and fruitful transnational exchange programme has enabled Barnsley to structure some potentially difficult discussions with local and regional tech and digital stakeholders. Together they have co-created an Action Plan which was launched in June 2018. The action plan is intrinsically linked with the DMC. Positioning itself at the heart of a web of valuable connections locally, regionally and internationally makes the DMC and its projects more relevant and meaningful for the support of companies and people, as well as ensuring awareness of sector trends and developments.

The TechTown Action Plan [link] and its headline ‘Digital Campus’ action will help to continue to develop the sector and commits to a series of co-created actions around A Digital Place, Digital People, Digital Partnerships and Digital Businesses.

‘TechTown has put us at the top table in terms of moulding economic development and enterprise strategy at regional level’ Martin Beasley, Group Leader, Enterprising Barnsley.

IoT Tribe Accelerator

One of the many unexpected spin offs from a visit to Tallinn wth TechTown was the launch of an IoT start up Accelerator, based in Barnsley from January 2018. The learnings from Tallinn coupled with local pilot work around digitalisation of manufacturing evidenced the need and the feasibility for focused acceleration activity. Delivered by IoT Tribe North with funding from Innovate UK and sponsored by Rolls Royce this was a 12 week programme for Internet of Things startups.

The programme was run from the DMC and a total of 60 startups competed for the chance to take part in the programme, of which nine of the best were selected. The founders come from all around the globe, from Lincoln, UK to Bogotá in Colombia. They covered a wide range of fields including digital manufacturing, green tech, health and logistics. The tech entrepreneurs were given coaching in product development, market testing and investment readiness, joined trade missions to Dublin, Limerick (a connection from TechTown) and Singapore and finished by pitching to investors in London.

Outcomes included a pipeline of 13 pilots of which 5 were confirmed at the time of writing and substantial spin offs in terms of additional support from, and strengthened relationships with, some of the UK’s most important digital players such as Innovate UK, Digital Catapult and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. £75,000 of local authority funding generated over £800,000 of additional cash and investment into Barnsley and the work had clear added value in terms of brand profile and equity locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Discussions are now underway about delivering another cohort in 2019.

“Having both the IoT Tribe North choose the Digital Media Centre and being able to leverage Rolls-Royce to get on board is a huge vote of confidence in the work we do here, helping digital startups to fulfil their potential through programmes and facilitating cross sector collaboration. Yorkshire and the north has a strong manufacturing heritage and an emerging digital specialism, making the Digital Media Centre the ideal place to bring these disciplines together.” Tracey Johnson, Manager at the DMC and Leader of TechRevolution.

Connected Healthcare

Connected Healthcare was an initiative run by Enterprising Barnsley in partnership with the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network and Tech North. The programme comprised four events which supported digital health innovation through stimulating dialogue and collaboration between the creative, digital and healthcare sectors. In the Design Challenge, healthcare professionals and creative and digital businesses and tech entrepreneurs had the opportunity to work together to co-design new digital health solutions in response to unmet clinical and patient needs. Healthcare professionals learnt what digital approaches can bring to service improvement and patient care, and creative and digital teams found out about the healthcare market and new opportunities for their products and services. Through ‘Connected Healthcare: From Concept to Cash!’ participants were provided with tailored access to finance and business support information.

Connected Manufacturing

Barnsley DMC – Connected Manufacturing

In 2017 Barnsley piloted a Connected Manufacturing project in partnership with Digital Catapult which had the twin aims of supporting digitalisation within local manufacturers and supporting digital start ups to develop and commercialise new products and services. The idea was to bring these communities together in a win-win situation as set out below:

The work culminated in a major event bringing together manufacturers, digital start-ups and other stakeholders in May 2017. This explored:

New grow-on space (under development)

With the DMC being at, on average 95% occupancy, Barnsley has been considering options for grow-on space nearby. In Spring 2018, a decision was taken to take ownership of a building across the road. This will provide up to 18000 sq ft of additional space subject to internal works. The initial plan is to blend workspace provision with a ‘Connected Lab’ environment that would co-locate data specialists, IoT Tribe activity and makerspace type facilities.. Whilst not part of the good practice, the evolution of this new space during phase 2 of TechRevolution could provide a useful context for discussions around physical infrastructure.

Digital Campus (under development)

Linked to the above, Barnsley has developed an ambitious integrated programme under a ‘Digital Campus’ Umbrella. Subject to resources, this aims to bring together digital people, learning and businesses across a connected campus of plans and spaces, both online and offline to deliver more and better jobs and businesses. Again, development and delivery will overlap with Phase 2 of TechRevolution and is of direct relevance to other cities.

Key Achievements Of Enterprising Barnsley and Digital Media Centre

Success Factors

Ongoing challenges

Perhaps not surprisingly with such a far-reaching set of practices, there remain some challenges. Some of these – such as the difficulties of being located in 2 city-regions and managing the two sets of relationships – are quite unique to Barnsley. Others are of relevance to other cities and include:

Scope for Improvement – Always learning, always asking questions

Overall Transfer Potential

The good practice is multi-faceted and has evolved over a period of over 10 years. It is simply not possible to expect all of it to be transferred to another city as a whole package, let alone in a 2-year period. Much of the success is related to connections and relationships between ecosystem stakeholders – these are the roots from which different shoots have emerged over time. Growth cannot be accelerated.

With this in mind it will be important to look at the good practice as a package of inter-related elements and activities. Taken together they start to create an effective digital ecosystem. Transfer will work best at the level of these different elements as this will enable transfer partners to develop the in-depth understanding of success factors and lessons learnt that is a prerequisite of successful transfer. Transfer potential is explored in more detail both in the partner profiles and in Section 3 below.


Created with images by fancycrave1 – “laptop human hands keyboard typing working business” • Benjamin Child – “Elegant boardroom” • image4you – “euro coins currency” • Helloquence – “Brainstorming over paper” • blickpixel – “board electronics computer”