Ex-Laing O’Rourke office to house tech incubator

Manchester technology business UKFast is to create a 30,000 sq ft incubator space for tech start-ups at its newly expanded campus.

The space, to be branded as FastForward, will be managed by Tech Manchester, the not-for-profit mentoring hub initiative set up to support early-stage tech businesses.

Facilities at FastForward – housed in the building UKFast acquired from Laing O’Rourke last year – will include meeting areas, TV and recording studios, a 500-capacity auditorium, free parking, reception services, a yoga studio and a health food café. The space is currently being refitted and will be available from May.

Tenants will pay no business rates, which will be covered by the owner, and will be encouraged to connect with Tech Manchester’s network of mentors and existing accelerator projects.

Tech Manchester leader Patricia Keating said: “With the combination of world-class working environments and support from Tech Manchester and UKFast, it’s an extremely attractive proposition for any UK tech start-up.”

Keating is a former Regus director, who joined Tech Manchester on its formation in July 2017. Although championed by Sir Howard Bernstein, it was brought in following the election of Andy Burnham as metro mayor, with Burnham making digital improvements one of his key pledges.

The UKFast campus, off Princess Parkway in Manchester’s Birley Fields, has been coming together since the data hosting business acquired the 50,000 sq ft No. 1 Archway building from Manchester Science Parks in January 2013, with the company eventually moving the whole business to the site.

In October 2016 UKFast acquired the 40,000 sq ft No. 3 Archway from Laing O’Rourke – which has now moved its staff to Citygate in Sale – as space to expand into as and when it requires. The group said that it has further plans for the campus, to be revealed later this year.

Lawrence Jones, chief executive, said: “The rationale behind Tech Manchester and this start-up space is to allow people that might not otherwise be able to afford to work in an environment like this, access to the space at significantly subsidised rates.

“Building a tech community is not just about space. It’s about encouraging the right types of passionate, forward-thinking entrepreneurs to hang out and collaborate.”

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