Media Release: Cisco launches national virtual incubator to drive innovation and help UK start-ups flourish

CISCO has announced the next key stage in its British Innovation Gateway (BIG) initiative, a five-year investment of cash, technology and human resources, which aims to develop Britain’s innovation eco-system and create an environment in which start-up digital businesses and their ideas can flourish.

The next stage – the National Virtual Incubator (NVI) – is a sustainable public technology network which promises to stimulate entrepreneurship by connecting physical sites through IT infrastructure.

Its main goal is to help accelerate the growth of start-up and SME businesses, by facilitating their contact and collaboration with other like-minded businesses, partners, advisors and investors.

At an event earlier today, Prime Minister, David Cameron, cited Cisco’s BIG initiative – and specifically the NVI – as a significant example of success in the Government’s goal to drive new economic growth through high-tech innovation.

The NVI network will span the entire UK and consist of a series of ‘nodes’ connected to research clusters, higher education establishments and science parks over the JANET network.

Start-up businesses will be able to visit a ‘node’ and connect to other organisations in the network, in order to share resources, pool ideas and develop business partnerships to help them innovate and grow.

The ‘nodes’ will be equipped with state-of-the-art networked collaboration technology, including the CiscoTelePresence® solution and JANET Videoconferencing.

The collaborative initiative, led by Cisco, was launched today in conjunction with founding partners Ravensbourne, Greenwich Council, JANET(UK) and Birmingham Science Park Aston. A further three nodes will be announced within the next three months with an additional nine nodes added in 2012. Cisco’s target is to see over 100 nodes connect to the NVI within the next five years.

Cisco’s BIG initiative was launched in January 2011 by Prime Minister David Cameron and Cisco’s chairman and CEO, John Chambers.

A number of the key components within the initiative include:

  • Innovation Centres – As part of Cisco’s commitment to build a brilliant future for the UK, it will opentwo Innovation Centres based in London Shoreditch and the Olympic Park, designed to encourage open innovation and provide support for SMEs. Once established, each BIG Innovation Centre will be linked to the NVI.
  • BIG Brainstorm – On 21 September 2011, Cisco hosted The BIG Brainstorm, an open debate to help shape what BIG will look like over the coming years. Cisco is now in the process of creating The BIG Panel – a group of individuals with technology and innovation at the heart of what they do – to help track and monitor the progress of BIG over the next five years.
  • The BIG Awards – The BIG Awards will take the form of an annual innovation competition for start-ups and SMEs, which Cisco intends to run for five years. The first round of the awards will launch in February 2012.
  • International Investment Forum – In October this year, Cisco partnered with Birmingham Science Park Aston (BSPA) and the Keiretsu Forum to launch the International Investment Forum (IIF) – a programme designed to connect entrepreneurs with global investors using the latest video communications platform.
  • Future Cities Centre – Cisco has entered into a three year initial agreement withImperial College London and UCL to create a Future Cities Centre with the aim of establishing London as a global leader in Future Cities research.  The Centre will be a physical space in Greenwich and Shoreditch where businesses, academics and start-ups can openly collaborate. The Centre will form a major node of the NVI and will focus on the thematic areas of Future Cities and Mobility, Smart Energy Systems, Internet of Things and Business Model Innovation.  

Supporting quotes:

  • Phil Smith, CEO, Cisco UK and Ireland, said: “The National Virtual Incubator is the next step in our collaborative efforts to encourage SME development, supporting the Government’s objectives to drive economic growth through high-tech innovation and helping to build a brilliant future for Britain. The UK already has a thriving design and academic community, both critical elements in building exciting new products, services and businesses.  But we believe that it is the network that lies at the heart of it all and can really transform the way these organisations interact and ultimately flourish. The NVI and our wider British Innovation Gateway programme will provide a leading global example of how, in today’s world, it is essential to connect and collaborate in order to innovate and grow.”
  • Councillor Chris Roberts, leader of Greenwich Council, said: “Greenwich Council is delighted to be partnering Cisco in this exciting initiative. The fact that the Greenwich Digital Peninsula has been chosen to establish the NVI’s first London node only serves to demonstrate that the location is at the centre of digital development in the UK.  This scheme will encourage innovation and represents a tremendous investment in both Greenwich and the UK as a whole. It will strengthen the talent, networks and facilities which already exist at Greenwich Council’s Digital Enterprise Greenwich and Ravensbourne, a world-class university sector college innovating in digital media and design.”
  • Prof Robin Baker OBE, director and CEO of Ravensbourne, said: “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the UK, as evidenced by the emerging talent in the Ravensbourne Eco Incubator. This NVI is taking it to the next step, whereby technology is used to allow creative endeavour a national and international profile. The NVI is a really important step in supporting innovation and growth of the creative industries and we are delighted to be involved in such a ground-breaking project.”
  • Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO, Birmingham Science Park Aston, said: “Having devised the ‘Science Park Without Walls’ initiative with Cisco and JANET, we are excited that this concept is being rolled out across the UK, thanks to the multi-million-pound investment from Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway (BIG) initiative. As the lead partner in the National Virtual Incubator outside of London, we are proud to be building what we feel is an essential tool to support the UK’s new economies.”
  • Tim Marshall, CEO, JANET(UK), said: “JANET(UK) is delighted to be involved in this initiative. Providing connectivity across the JANET network will ensure that these start-up companies are able to share ideas and develop business partnerships. Innovation and collaboration can be constrained by geography, which is why JANET is ensuring that SMEs participating in theNational Virtual Incubator will have full access to collaborative technologies.Actively enablingsuch collaboration is at the core of JANET(UK)’s mission to support the UK economy.”

Referring to the Future Cities Centre:

  • Prof John Polak, Director of Research, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chairman, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London said: “The Future Cities Centre will be a new research powerhouse to drive the Tech City initiative. Working in collaboration with Cisco and UCL, Imperial’s internationally leading researchers in the areas of infrastructure, transport, energy, ICT and business will develop new ideas for making our cities smarter, more resilient and more sustainable. By linking to some of our major research initiatives focused on cities, such as the Climate KIC and the Digital City Exchange, we will address key national priorities such as climate change and digital innovation.”
  • Prof. Steve Caddick, Vice-Provost (Enterprise) of UCL commented: “UCL is delighted to enter into this exciting new collaboration with Cisco and Imperial College London. It is well accepted that ICT revolution has the potential to transform more traditional industries such as infrastructure, utilities, energy, transport, healthcare and others and this represents an enormous new multi-trillion dollar market. The establishment of this Future Cities Centre will allow us to combined the world leading research strengths of our respective organisations to realise this opportunity which will play a key role in economic recovery and growth for the UK.”

About Cisco

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at For ongoing news, please go to Cisco equipment in Europe is provided by Cisco Systems International B.V. and Cisco International Limited, wholly owned subsidiaries of Cisco Systems, Inc.

# # #

Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners.The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

About BIG

In January 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron and Cisco’s Global Chairman and CEO John Chambers announced the British Innovation Gateway (BIG) Initiative, a significant five-year investment of cash, technology and human resources to the projected value of $500 million, which aims to develop Britain’s innovation eco-system and create an environment in which start-up digital businesses and their ideas can flourish. For further information visit:


JANET(UK) manages the operation and development of JANET on behalf of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) for the UK Further and Higher Education Funding Councilswith the primary aim of providing and developing a network infrastructure that meets the needs of the research and education communities.JISC also works in partnership with the Research Councils.


JANET is the network dedicated to the needs of research and education in the UK. It connects the UK’s research and education organisations to each other, as well as to the rest of the world through links to the global Internet. In addition, JANET includes a separate network that is available to the community for experimental activities in network development.

JANETÒ and JANET(UK)Ò are registered trademarks of the Higher Education Funding Councils for England, Scotland and Wales. The JNT Association is the registered user of these trademarks.

For more information about JANET, visit

About Ravensbourne

Ravensbourne is a world-class digital destination located at Greenwich Peninsula developing talented individuals and leading-edge businesses through learning, skills, applied research, enterprise and innovation.  Ravensbourne’s new building, in Penrose Way next to The O2, opened to students at the end of October 2010 following a £70 million investment including £3.5 million from the London Development Agency (LDA), £5.5 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government and further investment from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Greenwich Council, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Skills Funding Agency. The European Development Fund also provided £1.5 million to create low carbon incubator space, incorporating new technologies and a suite of environmentally sustainable features. Ravensbourne had been based in Chislehurst in Bromley since 1976.

About Birmingham Science Park Aston

Birmingham Science Park Aston (BSPA), was founded in 1982 and has been one of the premier Science Parks in the UK ever since. Wholly owned by Birmingham City Council, BSPA is actively looking to work with and bring together the public and private sectors, creating interfaces for people with ideas, people with technologies, people with expertise and experience, and people with money, to drive collaboration, thereby promoting innovation.

The Science Park has a highly successful ‘entrepreneurs for the future’ (e4f) centre, which offers a dedicated programme that supports the next generation of tech entrepreneurs. The Park has also announced a UK first by installing state-of-the-art technology to pioneer its ‘science park without walls’ concept. Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-up businesses can communicate with leading innovators, academics and investors from across the world as if they are sitting in the same room. The initiative has been made possible due to BSPA’s relationship with technology giant Cisco, which has welcomed the Park onto its Global Exchange for Growth programme.

About Digital Enterprise Greenwich

Digital Enterprise Greenwich – set up by Greenwich Council – is a rapidly growing community of digital businesses based at Greenwich Peninsula. Closely collaborating with neighbours Ravensbourne, it enables digital businesses to use a common base in high-spec office space, to share ideas, to grow and develop and to access first class digital facilities and networking.  To find out more – or to enquire about bringing your digital business to Digital Enterprise Greenwich – visit

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial’s contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.

In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.

About UCL

Described by The Sunday Times as ‘an intellectual powerhouse with a world-class reputation’, UCL is consistently ranked as one of the top three multi faculty universities in the UK and features in the top  universities worldwide.

Founded in 1826, UCL is a multidisciplinary university with an international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching across the academic spectrum, with subjects spanning the sciences, arts, social sciences and biomedicine. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) UCL was rated the best research university in London, and third in the UK overall, for the number of its submissions which were considered of world-leading quality. The RAE confirmed UCL’s multidisciplinary research strength with outstanding results achieved across the subjects, ranging from Biomedicine, Science and Engineering, and the Built Environment to Laws, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

UCL is a founding partner of the largest European centre for medical research and innovation, the Francis Crick Institute, due to open in 2015.


MEDIA RELEASE posted by Perceptive Partners. You too can post media releases (aka press releases) on For more information, email here.

Contact: Julie Moulsdale
Phone: 07734932578