Warrington technology hub The Base has revealed a trio of lettings as the post-pandemic recovery gathers pace.

The 50,000 square foot grade A building focuses on attracting digital and engineering-led business and, says Stacey Marsh of Langtree, which manages the building for owners Warrington & Co, the deals demonstrate Warrington’s economic resilience.

“Our tenants are nimble, fast-growing and entrepreneurial businesses and their confidence is indicative of the wider health of the Warrington economy,” said Mrs Marsh.  “Warrington is stepping up to the plate again as the north west’s most dynamic business location, just when we need it most.”

The deals will see digital marketing consultancy Vision 51, online publisher Riqueza Group and property services business TFC Homeloans join the building’s growing tenant roster.  They will occupy just over 5 per cent of the building’s space, taking occupancy to 73 per cent.  There are now 26 businesses employing more than 240 staff in the Dallam Lane premises.

Commenting on the deals, Eleanor Blackburn, business growth and investment lead at economic development agency Warrington & Co said: “Warrington’s appeal as a hub for digital businesses continues to grow, with The Base as its nexus.  What’s particularly encouraging is that, as the town’s economy emerges from the pandemic it seems to be attracting more high-growth businesses with the potential to transform our economy and skills base.”

The Base has a comprehensive building management regime in place to ensure its hygiene and cleanliness during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

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Tech hub now generating £27m a year for local economy as collaboration takes off

For entrepreneurs it is the Holy Grail: unlocking the secret to making their fortune.  Many spend their careers in search of it, devouring self-help books and the sage words of business gurus.

And yet the answer is remarkably simple, says the team behind thriving technology incubator The Base in Warrington: get on with your neighbours.

Specifically, it is a willingness to collaborate with them on shared opportunities that can propel mutual business growth and success.

And, says Sylvie Morton, the Business Development Manager at the Dallam Lane hub, it’s as easy as bumping into people in the corridor.  The challenge lies in carefully curating the culture and environment of a workspace to encourage it – and she can point to £27m economic impact at The Base last year to prove it works.

“We put huge effort into a programme of events, workshops, guest speakers and advisory sessions to help our tenants get to know one another and unlock their collective potential by working together,” says Mrs Morton of Langtree, which manages the 50,000 sq ft development for Warrington & Co.

“It’s part of The Base’s DNA now and new tenants join us fully expecting to plug into it.  We have developed a thriving eco-system and more than fifty per cent of our tenants collaborate on shared projects.  Last year the economic impact of our tenants’ work was £27m when their supply chain spending was factored in.”

It’s not a one-way street either, says Morton.  “Our tenants are inquisitive by nature so they seek out people who they can work with on problems and opportunities.  We also have a Partners programme, with leading business advisors on hand to help.”

Tenant Pixel Tree is working with neighbour Ixis on a collaborative project to support major digital campaigns for clients and boss James Hamilton says the collaboration has extended both their commercial reach and the scope and scale of work they can deliver for clients.

“Being in a place with people around us that can add breadth and depth to our service offer has proven hugely useful,” says James. “We’re adding great value to our clients and the extra work means we’re recruiting more staff.”

Steve Park, the head of Warrington’s private sector-led economic development agency, Warrington & Co, says The Base is one of a number of sector-specific clusters in the town that have helped it ride out various economic storms.

“Encouraging clusters, as we have in the nuclear sector, technology and advanced manufacturing is key to strengthening Warrington’s economy and infusing it with a dynamism that will ensure it remains adaptable and competitive.

“We have more than 4,500 staff in the nuclear sector, a further 8,500 in advanced manufacturing and around 2,500 in technology and IT, to which The Base is making a significant contribution.  Across all three we see examples of collaboration under-pinning their growth.  We aim to sustain that long into the future.”

Tenants at The Base, Warrington’s hi-technology hub on Dallam Lane, reported another strong year of trading – with expectations high for 2020.

The building’s annual tenant survey, completed at the end of each calendar year, paints a positive picture and ‘points to a bright future for the Warrington economy,’ says operator Langtree.

Highlights include:

“The survey paints a very positive picture,” says Sylvie Morton of property company Langtree, which manages the 50,000 sq ft Grade A building on behalf of Warrington & Co.

“What’s particularly interesting is the scale of collaboration among tenants and the level of exporting.”

There were a total of 14 different collaborative engagements between companies, including working together to develop new technologies and joint-working to win new clients.

“Not everything is uniform, of course,” explains Mrs Morton. “New product development, whilst impressive, dropped slightly from the previous year, which probably reflects the fact that companies were bedding in the previous year’s innovations.

“What we can see is that The Base is fulfilling its promise of being a place where Warrington SMEs can innovate and grow.  Three quarters of our occupiers grew last year, up from 41 per cent the previous year.”

The hub now has 22 occupiers employing 245 staff, with a number of new tenant lettings under negotiation.

Commenting on the findings Stephen Fitzsimons, responsible for business growth and investment at Warrington’s private sector-led economic development arm, Warrington & Co, said:

“Warrington continues to be a in a strong position and is cementing its reputation as a home of thriving start-ups and SMEs.

“The Base was established to help us future-proof Warrington’s economy, support local businesses and create jobs. These growth figures, alongside the impressive export levels, tell us we’re heading firmly in the right direction.

Chatbots could lead to the creation of 10,000 new jobs in the North West by boosting productivity.

That’s the view of Chris Bain, boss of Chatbot Labs, located at The Base digital hub in Warrington, which is winning contacts to deliver what he described as “game-changing” boosts to company efficiency.

Chatbots – programmes that automate processes on command – are set to boost productivity per employee by as much as ten per cent a year, leaving them free to do higher value work.  And Warrington-based business Chatbot Labs is already winning contracts to deliver what it describes as ‘game-changing’ boosts to company efficiency.

Mr Bain says the use of chatbot technology in an office environment could be transformational. Chatbots can take verbal or written instructions and interrogate all of an organisation’s software systems and databases to find answers to queries or undertake menial tasks.

“By drawing a link between all the software resources an organisation has, a chatbot can find information or the answers to questions hidden amidst piles of data quickly and efficiently,” he explained.

“If you run a law firm and want to know the latest position on a client’s account you can ask the chatbot to find the information for you whilst you and colleagues get on with something more valuable. Factories have had robots for decades and now offices will soon have digital robots.”

Mr Bain dismisses fears that chatbots could be “job killers”, pointing out that, in manufacturing, automation and technology has ultimately been a job creator. Investment in tech is shown to increase productivity and frees up people to do higher value work.

He added: “The system is in its infancy and we’re one of just a handful of companies leading the way, but it’s moving quickly. Within five years every office will have chatbots, just like many homes now have an Alexa.”

Chatbot Labs is already developing a system for one branch of the NHS to help make the training of over a million employees more efficient by allowing trainers to access and package information on command.

Mr Bain said: “Each chatbot will be unique to the host organisation’s software and data sets.  It learns as it goes along, essentially becoming like a huge FAQ bank.  Every time a new question is asked and answered it’s stored for future replication and even speedier response.

“And because each ‘bot’ is built on a Microsoft platform even the smallest companies can have them developed to suit their needs. Software has a habit of democratising productivity gains and this will be no different.  And as Alexa and Siri have shown us, chatbots’ understanding of natural language is increasingly sophisticated and able to cope with regional accents.

Bain believes that Warrington and the wider north west, with its thriving tech scenes such as those found in The Base, could lead the way in jobs growth.

“Looking at how the tech sector has grown in the North West I’d expect up to 10,000 new skilled jobs in the region over the next five years creating chatbots for every conceivable type of business. We intend to be at the forefront of it.”

A Warrington IT specialist whose programming skills helped support a five-fold increase in on-line training for NHS staff as covid-19 spread is predicting another spike in learning.

Chris Bain from Chatbot Labs, located in The Base on Dallam Lane, says he is expecting monthly training sessions on the E-learning for Healthcare portal to rise again if the predicted second wave of infections strikes in the autumn and winter.

He points to initial on-line sessions leaping from a monthly average of 90,000 to more than half a million before Easter as NHS staff undertook training to help them prevent the spread of covid-19.

Bain’s role was to provide the critical coding that enabled returning NHS staff recruited to operate the country’s Nightingale Hospitals to access training materials from home and refresh their skills.

“It was great to play a part in something so critical to the UK’s ability to deal with the pandemic.  All credit to the retired and former staff who returned to the NHS at the country’s time of need,” said Bain.

His input enabled the new staff to draw quickly and seamlessly on the NHS’s vast databank of training materials and meant that the health service could provide new training content that staff could easily ‘self-serve’ on-line.

He and a wider team are now involved with providing critical coding that enables the seamless import of users participating in the government’s ‘track and trace’ project.

Commenting on Chris’s role, Sylvie Morton, business development manager with Langtree which manages The Base for owner Warrington & Co said: “We have the skills here in Warrington to deal with the most challenging technical issues.  Being at The Base enables Chris to tap into a wider network of expertise to deliver his game-changing work” she added.

Two new occupiers have taken leases at The Base on Dallam Lane in Warrington, the town’s fast-growing technology and engineering hub.

PixelTree Media and Moorgate Enterprises have taken more than a thousand square feet between them in the Grade A office building, joining a range of leading employers, including Ixis, Meritec and the National Skills Academy for Nuclear.

The grade-A offices on Dallam Lane now houses more than 215 skilled staff in a range of businesses and the new tenants say they are looking forward to becoming ‘part of the building’s eco-system’.

“One of the things that attracted us to The Base was the number of technology occupiers,” explained James Hamilton from PixelTree Media.  “It’s got its own eco-system that we can tap in to. Collaboration is key in our industry so to be surrounded by companies with whom we can share ideas and intelligence was a major pull.”

Sylvie Morton, business development manager for Langtree, which manages The Base on behalf of Warrington & Co said:

“Cluster development is critical to Warrington’s economic future and The Base plays a key role in providing the support and resources for fast-growth technology businesses to thrive.”

The Base provides 50,000 square feet of Grade A office space and is home to over 20 businesses in a range of industries.  The building was developed by Warrington & Co, the private-sector led regeneration arm of Warrington Council.  It is home to the successful BaseConnect online networking platform, which provides a networking hub for leading engineering and technology innovators involved in the Warrington area and has more than 260 members.  More information can be found here.

Manufacturers are designing ‘virtual twins’ of their factories to work out how to make them more efficient – and are leaning on the north west’s computer games industry for help.

And, predicts Steve Park, the managing director of Warrington & Co, Warrington Borough Council’s economic development business, the town already has a ‘ready-made solution’ to help the region’s engineering and manufacturing sectors remain competitive in an era dubbed ‘Industry 4.0’.

“Creating a digital copy of a factory helps engineers work out how to improve efficiency without the expense of having to close production lines and move equipment around to see if their ideas will pay off” explains Mr Park.

“The problem is that these ‘virtual twins’ aren’t particularly easy on the eye, which is limiting the gains that can be had.  Exploiting the skills of computer games designers is dramatically improving the user experience and therefore the outcomes from the investment.

“Fortunately, Warrington is able to feed growing demand for games designers with new courses at its UTC and dedicated office space at The Base, which was set up specifically to support businesses involved in Industry 4.0.”

But, he cautions, employers are going to need to think about their workplace environment and cultures if they want to attract and retain the best talent.

“It’s like two worlds colliding,” he says.  “The best games designers want to work in funky offices surrounded by like minds.  Jaguar Land Rover down the road in Manchester understand this, but others seem to be struggling to make the cultural adjustment and they may find it harder to attract and keep the talent they need,” Mr Park suggests.

JLR recently chose Manchester as the global base for its new software, IT and engineering hub to support its famous engineering base in Warwickshire.  The move, suggests Park, points to the north west’s strengths in games design and other digital technologies – and he believes Warrington is well-placed to capitalise on this.

Commenting on the rapid changes facing the region’s manufacturers Sylvie Morton, business development manager at Langtree, which manages The Base on behalf of Warrington & Co said: “The Base was specifically developed as a hub for engineering and software firms with the design focus that such firms favour.  So far more than 230 new jobs have been created here.  We have a highly innovative tenant mix that can bring these two worlds together and the challenge for our manufacturing and engineering sectors is to embrace what Industry 4.0 means for their competitiveness.

“There’s no room for complacency,” argues Morton.  “The pace of change is staggering and without this continued investment Warrington and the wider north west could stand still.  The Base, and what goes on in there, should ensure we avoid that problem.”

Baker Mallett, a provider of professional services to the construction industry, has moved its head office to The Base on Dallam Lane, Warrington.

The company, which was founded in 1919 and is currently celebrating its centenary year, offers quantity surveying, project management, building surveying and health and safety services to the property and construction industry.  It has a number of supporting offices across England.

The firm has taken the penthouse suite and two extra supporting offices at the town’s high technology hub as it expands to meet client demand.  The move sees the number of firms operating out of The Base reach twenty-three and the number of staff now occupying the building to 246.

“We’re delighted to welcome such a long-standing and successful business to The Base,” said Jayne Furnival, group property director for Langtree, which manages the building on behalf of Warrington & Co.

“Baker Mallett is a very forward-thinking business with huge investment in IT to support the work it does across Europe and there is a ready-made eco-system in the building of technology-driven businesses with whom it can collaborate as it grows,” added Furnival.

Commenting on their move, Baker Mallett’s Chairman Neil Griffiths said: “The Base is the best Grade A space in Warrington and we wanted to make sure that we offer our employees the best working environment possible.  The connectivity to the rail and road network is ideal for us to service our clients across the UK.’’

Warrington’s booming high technology hub, The Base in Dallam Lane, has passed a key employment milestone thanks to the town’s thriving SME sector.

The building is now home to more than 200 employees spread across 21 businesses, with growth being fuelled by expansion of existing tenants as much as new arrivals, according to Sylvie Morton, business development manager at Langtree, which manages the Grade-A office building on behalf of Warrington & Co.

“We add another 10 per cent to our number of employees each year just from the growth generated by our tenants,” she explained.  “It’s an impressive run-rate and certainly outstrips the national figure.  Many of our tenants are providing the technological know-how to support the shift towards Industry 4.0 and as they grow they’ll future-proof the town’s economy.   They tell us that we offer the flexible, high quality space many are looking for to support their ambitions.”

The Base has attracted a wide range of employers involved in software, IT, engineering and technology consultancy, with 13  new arrivals in the last twelve months.  Three companies have expanded their office space so far this year and in a survey in 2017 tenants recorded average sales growth of 52.2%, year-on-year.

“The Warrington economy has a great SME base to match the large number of major employers attracted by its connectivity and availability of suitable premises,” says Steve Park, managing director of Warrington & Co, the private sector-led regeneration arm of Warrington Council.

“The Base has developed its own eco-system, with many tenants collaborating on projects.  The energy of the place is compelling,” added Mr Park.

The Managing Director of Warrington’s private sector-led economic development agency says that Warrington’s economic growth ‘stands or falls on collaboration between local firms.’

Steve Park of Warrington & Co, the partnership between the council and private businesses, says he sees each day how collaboration between tenants at the council’s hi-technology office building The Base on Dallam Lane, is leading to new products, jobs and investment.

The 50,000 sq ft grade A office is now home to more than 220 staff at 21 firms, many ‘routinely collaborating’ to secure larger contracts or to develop new products, says Mr Park.

“We’re all collaborators now.  You either tap in to complementary skills and expertise or you go backwards.  And the same holds for cities as it does for companies,” says Mr Park, who points to the dedicated collaboration space and a carefully-conceived programme of networking events at The Base as key to igniting tenants’ collaborative ethos.

“It’s developed a life of its own, with people meeting in our collaboration space and exploring how they can work together.  It’s its own eco-system now and occupiers like Avanite are starting to grab the headlines.”

Avanite was the first beneficiary of a new business angel investment network established by Warrington-based corporate financiers DSW.  The half million pound working capital injection it secured will be used to develop the sales potential of the company’s unique technology called Web Data Control.  The service removes unwanted cookies from machines and corporate networks, speeding network performance and efficiency.

Avanite’s neighbour, Resulting-IT, is launching its new SAP Success Optimiser and along the corridor Iris Networks are collaborating with a leading north west university and a major private sector partner on a yet-to-be-revealed technology project which the company describes as a ‘game changer’.

The point, says Park, is that with some critical intervention from the public sector Warrington has added a new string to the town’s thriving technology economy – and one which is starting to feed off itself.

“When I look at what is going on at The Base I see how Warrington’s economy can branch out and develop further,” he adds.  “The appetite for innovation, for risk and for sheer hard work never ceases to amaze me and a whole new layer of significant employers is being created that will future-proof our economy over the next decade or so.”

THE BASE

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Warrington
WA2 7NG

01925 568254
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