Cllr Jean Stretton Published: Friday, 13th November 2015

Oldham Council is set to consider plans to set up a new Digital Enterprise Hub in the heart of the Independent Quarter.

The proposal would see two parties – Wayra Open Space and Hack Oldham – jointly moving into former bar premises on Yorkshire Street to establish a new kind of venture in the town centre.

The Digital Enterprise Hub aims to nurture and develop new enterprise and business growth in the local digital, technology and creative sectors.

Both parties would share a new multi-functional building offering access to low cost and flexible workspace and equipment for individuals and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

A report seeking approval to allocate up to £200,000 in funding towards the set-up and running costs for the scheme goes to Cabinet on Monday, November 16.

Oldham Council already owns the proposed venue – the former Wahoo bar – and has been in negotiations with these parties for several months.

Wayra UK is a start-up ‘accelerator’ which is part of Telefónica Open Future, the open programme that integrates the different initiatives of the whole Telefónica Group related to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Wayra UK already has a thriving base in London at the heart of the start-up ecosystem. Officials now want to set up a northern hub and have identified Oldham as the ideal location to implement their business model.

Hack Oldham, a community creative space already based in the Independent Quarter, also want to relocate.

This is a group of creative and like-minded people who are now in the process of becoming a social enterprise so they can contribute further towards the development of new enterprises and local business growth in the same sectors as Wayra UK.

Councillor Jean Stretton, Oldham Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “These are exciting plans that could create a fantastic focal point in Oldham where SMEs, microbusinesses and people with great concepts can all innovate, grow and collaborate together.”

“Alongside packages of flexible workspace, mentoring and business support, Wayra also invests seed funding into start-up businesses that can show they have the vision and people needed to turn bright ideas into something that can become a big success.

“Hack Oldham are already based in Oldham and well known to most people in the local digital and creative sectors. They’ve been sharing knowledge and resources with others from their current base in Hardcastle Street since June but are already now looking to take the next step and become a social enterprise that can have an even bigger impact.

“This building is currently vacant and an innovative use of this kind looks well suited to our vision for the Independent Quarter of a buzzing environment with a wide range of specialist traders, enterprises and groups.

“Subject to Cabinet approval, this scheme could provide a significant new kind of offer to the local economy in Oldham – informal, easily accessible help and growing networks of investment and business support.”

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