At BEC we are busy developing the Buzz Station in Whitehaven.

The vibrant office and collaborative space complete with artisan food offer will be the region’s premier space for tech, digital and creative businesses.

Our region is crying out for growth in these sectors in order to bring skills diversification, increased employment at all levels and more opportunities for our young people.

Providing a space for these ambitious and disruptive firms to thrive is crucial if Cumbria is to capitalise on the significant upward trend of economic growth from these industries.

Last month, in our in-Cumbria feature, we talked about how we intend to bring forward the best possible development by collaborating with those with an ambition to be in the space.

We’ve been engaging with a wide range of businesses and local people over the whole North Shore scheme since its launch in April, but a few weeks ago we ran our first dedicated Buzz Station consultation.

With representatives from the region’s home-studio finest, including Wit & Wisdom and Ruby & Bean, growing SME innovators like Design Code, Buzy Bee Software Services and Blue Shadow Marketing and a handful of willing volunteers from larger organisations, including CFM and the Buzz Station’s strategic Investor Sellafield Ltd, we explored what dream offices might look like and what challenges we needed to solve to make those dreams a reality.

The experience was really eye-opening.

We had already considered elements like great light, the best broadband possible and exploring inside green spaces, but we really enjoyed hearing about new things to consider at the next phase of design.

Here are some of our most interesting discussion points:

Open plan is not for everyone

People often talk about buzz and vibe and the benefits of open plan.

But as we debated in the session, sometimes it’s the quiet moments that are needed to bring the ideas forward.

For some it’s a quiet room or pod to pop into away from a co-working space, for others it’s a ‘real’ office with four walls shielding out the noise… but still within striking distance of a cuppa and a chat with others.

All under one roof: Prototype and Produce and Pack

We’d already thought about office spaces large enough to accommodate packing benches and workstations for Cumbria’s designer makers, but what about collective space for this?

Could this be supplemented with digital fabrication access for rapid product prototyping and flex-warehousing for the Christmas stock boom?

Discrete disability assistance can bring creative ability

Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act is essential, but what if we can go a step further and enhance the building’s atmosphere while improving not just the access but the overall comfort?

Interchangeable colour lighting doesn’t just help those with headache-causing conditions, colour can really set the tone for great creativity and productivity.

One stop shop support

Large businesses are used to having a myriad of support departments or contractors. Need a website? Have an IT issue? Got a finance question

You’ll have a contact for that. But growing firms can’t afford that kind of on-tap advice and ad-hoc support often comes with a price tag that makes a budding entrepreneur wince.

Could bringing key support elements into the same office space open up collective economic models that make such support accessible?

Cash is king and flexibility gives comfort

This one, we predicted. Ambitious firms are nervous about long term contractual commitments and biting off more than they can chew.

Business is going well today but what about tomorrow? One of the most interesting comments on this topic was not just the financial fear but the credibility fear.

Young businesses in this space don’t want their reputation tarnished by moving offices too much, so a strong support mechanism is needed to help with flexible financial planning.

It’s facilities management, but not as we know it

BEC is already a dab hand at facilities management, operating the vast Westlakes Science Park.

But one thing was in clear agreement at our event - the Buzz Station needs its own unique operating culture that doesn’t just influence resident behaviour. This is about supporting a tight-knit community, not just managing suppliers.

Does it come in my colour?

Our last take home is a common sense but crucial one. The Buzz Station’s resident tech, digital and creative stars will need to make the space their own in a way that exceeds a plaque on the door with a logo.

We left with significant food for thought. We can’t be all things to all people, but the coming months will see us evaluate how we can meet as many businesses needs in a creative way that delivers commercial sustainability for Whitehaven and its new businesses for years to come.

One thing is certain – Cumbria’s got some serious talent and we cannot wait to open this space in 2019.