Bitjam go and see Dec 2013

The Pervasive Media Studios in Bristol.

At bitjam we have been thinking about who we would visit as part of our MIW ‘go and see’s’. We could easily list a plethora of places, companies, start ups, hives of geeks and more that we would want to visit but realised that these visits needed a purpose.

Some of the aims of the go and sees:
  • To gain a better understanding of a company and how it works in the chosen sector.
  • What is it’s business model and how is it working for them. This includes how it might have changed over the life of the company.
  • (if an established organisation) How have they changed and adapted to be ahead of the competition.
  • If part reliant on funding, how has this changed and how have they adapted their business model accordingly.
  • To come away with experience of another organisation in the same sector or field of interest as our own.
  • Feed back to the rest of the MIW consortium the visit, findings and three keys thoughts about the trip.
After narrowing down our selection we approached the pervasive media studio in Bristol.

The PM Studio are part of the exciting Watershed complex that houses cinema, conference spaces, cafe and exhibition spaces.

The Pervasive Media Studio hosts a community of artists, creative companies, technologists and academics exploring experience design and creative technology. It is a collaboration with University of West of England and University of Bristol, managed by Watershed.

They have been on our radar for some time as leaders in this field.  The MIW go and sees have provided us with the opportunity to take some time away from interactive tech and spend the day down there. This is what we discovered……..

The Studios function on a mixture of hot desk spaces and fixed tenures for small or startup business, these can range from companies/individuals being there for anything from one month to three years.

In there you have an eclectic mix of tech startups, from individuals busily hacking and coding to create an interactive apps through to companies building revolutionary spherical midi controlled instruments.
All of these work together in the same space and all practice what they call being ‘professionally interruptible’. Basically, anyone can grab a chat with them, exchange ideas, bounce ideas off each other and chat to visitors.
This was extremely exciting for us and we realised that was something that we practice day to day already. Some of the best ideas come about through being open to interruption.

We chatted to Verity McIntosh who is the PM Studios producer at length about how they operate , function, get funding, IP issues, partnership working and the future.

It’s clear that the have been on a long journey.

One thing that really stood out for us was how they are now a service provider for Bristol University. This has taken some time but the Uni realises the importance of the space within the city and what it provides in the world of tech and tech start ups opportunities.
As a result the Uni contributes towards rent for the space, that equates to so many months a year. This is also the case with the Council.
This is something that is a huge aim for ourselves and our new Innovation centre (bitjam Innovation Qube).

As a result the companies, individuals and teams that populate the PM Studios do not pay for their space. This came as a huge surprise to us. We were planning on developing a model of working in the Innovation Qube where we offer hot desk space for individuals and companies to hire from us. Since visiting the PM studios we have decided against that and go with a curation of the people and the space. This is after seeing the huge benefits to all involved form this model. While we were visited you had magicians working with coders and developers. This possibly wouldn't have happened if the space was commercial.
In this instance Verity acts like a curator or almost a chef, hand picking through lots of applications from people wanting to work in the space and envisaging how they might work and bounce of the others occupying the studios.

We then got the opportunity to chat to half of the teams and groups there, the variety was impressive and not what we expected.

Through these talks we realised that even if people spend months or years working out of the space to then move on and away, they always return when possible and site the PM Studios as their spiritual home. This means that the reach of the studio is far bigger than just it’s City and surroundings. When you consider that on average 140+ people come through the doors to work each year, this advertising and spreading of their message is vast.

As our visit came to an end we made our way to a lovely gastro pub to eat pulled pork, drink mulled cider and try to process what we saw/liked/will take away from this.

The three key points for us were:
  • Being professionally interruptible. We need to be more interruptible. Come and pop your head in, say hello and lets bounce ideas.
  • Offer free workspace. There’s space within a business model to allow this and the benefits can outweigh the monetary value in many ways.
  • Curate. Select and choose who works in the space, encourage interesting partnerships, take risks and watch the results.  

I would personally like to thank Verity and all the staff and people we spoke to during our visit to the Pervasive Media Studio. It was close (very close) to Christmas and amongst the decorations going up and secret santas, the took the time to take us round and allow us to interrupt.

Ben and Carl
Bitjam ltd.

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