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Connecting enterprise and ideas

Connecting enterprise and ideas Creative minds have always found inspiration for new ideas in the British Library. But how to turn ideas into reality? Our Beautiful Minds exhibition examined the genius of great Nobel Prizewinners and the conditions in which their ideas flourished, while our new Business & IP Centre creates value by helping people turn their inspiration into enterprise.

Connecting business ideas with the tools that make them a reality

Our new Business & IP Centre helps people build their business from concept to commercialisation. The Centre has all the publications, databases, expertise and networking opportunities that budding entrepreneurs need.

'A jewel in the crown of enterprise in this country'

Sir Digby Jones, opening the Business & IP Centre, March 2006

Beautiful Minds

Alexander FlemingOur major winter exhibition celebrated the science of Francis Crick and James Watson (DNA), Alexander Fleming (penicillin), and Wilhelm Roentgen (X-rays), the literature of Samuel Beckett and the peace programme of Nelson Mandela, among others. The lives of thirty Nobel laureates were explored and their creative environments - including Cambridge, Paris, Vienna, Chicago and Tokyo - portrayed. The exhibition used contemporary sources, personal objects and interactive displays to show how these centres attracted talent and enabled creative collaboration, but were also arenas of competition and rivalry.

Baroness Susan GreenfieldAlongside the exhibition we ran Creative Insights, a hugely popular series of talks and debates in which leading figures addressed creativity in their sphere. Speakers included Baroness Susan Greenfield on the search for the creative mind, Lord Puttnam on the creative producer, Professor Lisa Jardine on the creative scientist and the Rt Hon Tony Benn MP on the creative statesman.

The series was sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The Council's Chief Executive, Professor Philip Esler, said that 'the events gave scientists, the creative industries and entrepreneurs excellent opportunities to hear some of the UK's leading creative talent offer guidance on how best to harness creativity in the service of research, business and public welfare goals'.

While Britain's population is only 1 per cent of the world's, we account for 15 per cent of the creative industries' global GDP, as Sir Digby Jones pointed out at the launch of the Business & IP Centre. The AHRC and the Library play important roles in the transfer of knowledge and inspiration into creative enterprise, and recognise the great advantage of increasing our collaboration in this area.

Press attention

Dame Anita RoddickThe Business & IP Centre has achieved unprecedented coverage for the Library in the UK business press. Three articles devoted to the Centre appeared in the Financial Times in 2005/06. One article - which described the Library as 'a treasure chest of information' - featured bespoke tailor Imtaz Khaliq who has used the Centre for inspiration and market research. The groundbreaking one-to-one advice sessions run in the Centre by The Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick were also covered, resulting in overwhelming demand. The March launch of the Centre resulted in another piece in the FT - and in many other media.

The Centre was covered in 130 articles, achieving a potential readership of some 50 million. The equivalent advertising spend for that level of visibility is around 870,000. This underlines how successful the Library has been at leveraging its resources, in order to raise awareness of the Centre amongst entrepreneurs and SMEs, and attract new users.

The extensive coverage has helped spread the word about the Library's contemporary relevance. It certainly helps to deliver the vision that we are here to help everyone who wants to do research.


From the outset, the Business & IP Centre has been a collaborative project. Our partnerships with highly respected enterprise support organisations have complemented our own services. For example, the Patent Office, ideas21 and Business Plan Services have worked alongside our information experts to deliver a stimulating events programme. OneLondon and the Dynamic Asian Women's Network have helped us broaden the diversity of our user base, while the Camden Business Forum and Centa have introduced us to local businesses and opened up our incomparable resources to new audiences.

Exceeding our targets

Over 25,000 users have benefited from the Business & IP Centre since it opened as a pilot in May 2004 and in 2005/06 we issued over 6,000 new Reader Passes for business. In the same year our information experts and our accredited partners delivered almost 1,000 business advice sessions on a wide range of topics.

We exceeded all but one of our London Development Agency targets for participants in these workshops and events.

  • Women: 45% on a target of 15%
  • Black and minority ethnic groups: 32% on a target of 29%
  • People with disabilities: 4% on a target of 5%.

Neil Infield"It's a wonderful feeling, helping to increase people's chances of success. Some of the business plans that people are talking to me about now have the potential to be really big."

Neil Infield
Business & IP Centre Manager

Respond to the ideas on this page

Next - Connecting with new audiences

Discover more:
Chairman's statement
Chief Executive's Q and A
Connecting to digital users
Connecting enterprise and ideas
Connecting with new audiences
Connecting with our supporters