U+I supports new national network of innovation hubs


This week sees the launch of Plus X, an ambitious new business that will create a national network of high-tech innovation hubs, with the aim of supporting entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups to catalyse local economic activity within large-scale brownfield developments.

Plus X will launch its first innovation hub at U+I’s Preston Barracks development in January next year, one of Brighton’s largest ever regeneration schemes. Next will be The Old Vinyl Factory, our major regeneration development in Hayes, where the second Plus X will open in 2020. U+I is also exploring opportunities to put Plus X facilities in its schemes in Manchester, Greenwich, Birmingham and Oxford.

Plus X will go beyond the desk space model of mainstream co-working providers to offer state-of-the-art workshops, biolabs and digital media studios, with leading technology and equipment to enable residents to develop concepts and create product prototypes. The hubs will cater for single entrepreneurs or teams of up to 100 people, offering a range of innovation programmes and business growth services, from marketing to team talent experts. Each hub will also include an accelerator or incubator programme, comprising a cohort of entrepreneurs that will receive intensive business support and mentoring.

The Plus X model is based on a proof of concept innovation hub currently housed at The Old Vinyl Factory, a 17-acre brownfield site that was once home to EMI Records, as well as The Central Research Laboratory (CRL), an institution of British engineering innovation that spawned the development of broadcasting systems, stereo, airborne radar and the CAT scanner. Building on that heritage and reviving the site’s historic name, U+I re-established the Central Research Laboratory in 2015 as an incubation hub for start-ups within the tech, digital, engineering and ‘maker’ sectors.

Since opening, CRL has supported more than 100 businesses, including 25 new start-ups, with more than 60 full-time jobs created and over £5m in investment raised. Building on its success, next year CRL will expand into new 29,000 sq ft premises at the Powerhouse building, becoming the second Plus X.

U+I has a 50% stake in Plus X and the buildings it will occupy in Brighton and Hayes are the subject of a £30m investment by U+I. The business is aimed at creating a hub of economic activity within a development, attracting further occupiers, sparking and accelerating the virtuous circle of business activity essential to the success of large-scale regeneration schemes that can normally take many years or even decades to complete.  

Richard Upton, chief development officer at U+I, said:

“Backing Plus X underlines our commitment to delivering large-scale regeneration projects that are distinctive, local, authentic and genuinely transformational. Our approach to bringing life back to former industrial sites is to work with the heritage of the place and create a new hub of activity and productivity fit for the 21st century. Plus X helps us to do that by catalysing economic activity and creating a magnet that attracts people and businesses into a new area.

“Importantly, we have proven the success of this model at The Old Vinyl Factory: where EMI once drove world-leading innovation we have now supported more than 100 modern businesses who are at the leading edge of the new economy, contributing significantly to the local area. We will now expand this model, working with enterprising local authorities to create a localised national network of innovation hubs that will not only transform once vibrant industrial areas but support a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to remake the UK’s economy.”

Mat Hunter, Co-CEO of Plus X, said:

“Plus X is about creating workspaces that unlock potential, drive business growth, innovation, community collaboration and positive social impact. The success of CRL at The Old Vinyl Factory has shown the possibilities – now we want to expand with a network of innovation hubs in key areas around the country. But this is not about a ‘cookie cutter’ approach: our plans are for a national network but with a localised offer, working with the grain of the local economy to foster entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups that are at the leading edge of the new economy.”

Paul Rostas, Co-CEO of Plus X, added:

“We will help local businesses grow faster and create high value job opportunities, while our in-house innovation and accelerator programmes will attract investment from national and global businesses. This is not just about providing desks; it’s about giving the new generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, start-ups and makers and creatives all the support and facilities they need, including state-of-the-art prototype workshops, bio-labs and digital media studios. All of this will happen under one roof in buildings that are designed by leading architects to be highly sustainable and healthy to work in.”


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