Frequently Asked Questions

Partly because of its longevity, size and ownership, St John’s Innovation Centre is an unusual organisation among business support centres associated with universities. This section answers questions that we are asked on a regular basis and, we hope, will help to make it clearer the activities that we are likely to support.

FAQs

FAQs

What is your main activity?

As our mission statement says, our primary purpose is to provide a dynamic and supportive incubation environment to accelerate the growth of ambitious innovative firms in greater Cambridge. Our primary focus, therefore, is on enabling high-potential firms around Cambridge to succeed.


Is SJIC a business incubator?

‘Incubation’ can have different meanings for different people, but for the avoidance of doubt we do not manage a venture fund and so do not invest in businesses, however promising. We DO seek to provide sound and impartial advice to early-stage firms, often focused on making them investment-ready. While we DO endeavour to help where possible, it is the growth firms themselves that ultimately will (or won’t) make the successful pitch on their own behalf to investors.


What sort of companies does SJIC mainly work with?

We provide individual offices for some 80 to 90 companies at any given time. Our emphasis is on the later-stages of the start-up cycle: founder teams who have already worked out their product and value proposition, raised limited early funding, identified initial customers and developed a minimum viable product.


 
Who can rent space at SJIC offices?

Currently, companies in the building range from three to 25 people in size, often moving out during their fifth year on site. Our primary focus is on companies bringing new ideas, often based on technical research, to market. But we do also admit a minority of firms providing services relevant to innovators, such as accountancy or patenting advice. Most of our tenants operate in engineering, physical science, computer science and related fields. We do not have specialist laboratories suitable for biotech firms.


 
What about hot-desking?

We do not provide hot-desking as most of the companies we work with operate as teams and need to maintain confidentiality. View our Tenant Units.


Do you only work with companies who are your tenants?

We work with non-tenants mainly in the following ways:

Our Star Service provides a virtual business home to companies not physically resident in the building but with a good case to use our meeting rooms and have their post delivered here. Many Star Service users are not yet advanced enough to need dedicated office space, but we are still looking primarily for businesses with an innovative edge.

 

We also bid for grants (from the EU, central and local government) to enable us to coach or train high-potential businesses in the wider region and we are currently delivering the Enterprise Europe Network programme in the East of England, visit Scaling Your Business.


Are you a research organisation?

Perhaps unusually for an incubator associated with an academic institution, we do have a responsibility to run the Centre along commercial lines, generating regular financial surpluses. Our scope for undertaking academic, pro bono or other non-profit activities is therefore plainly circumscribed. Though our primary focus is on enabling start-ups to succeed, on average we publish one research paper each year – usually on subjects directly related to our commercial activities: innovation, incubation, risk funding or economic clusters.


Are you in the public sector?

No. We are a for-profit, privately-owned organisation. We do receive, from time to time, grants to assist clearly-defined categories of firms, generally high-growth firms in innovation sectors, recruited on a competitive basis.


Can we visit you? Will you partner with us?

SJIC receives requests to host visits from overseas almost every week. While we seek to accommodate genuine research requests referred to us by partner organisations, we are a small team whose time is dedicated to running the Centre and helping high-potential start-ups. We therefore do decline many applications to visit, for the same reasons we often decline requests for unspecified forms of ‘collaboration’ or to sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’.


Can you help us with our visit Cambridge?

No. We are frequently approached to support visa applications for visits to Cambridge or asked to arrange travel and accommodation for overseas visitors. We are unable to respond to such requests.