Support systems for new activities in rural areas
Part 3 - Various techniques
Advice on setting up a business centre
[Technical Factsheet 6]
How to use this guide & Table of Contents
If a "business centre" or "business incubator" type structure is to be set
up, the following guidelines should be considered:
- The location, surroundings and the quality of the building are of paramount
importance to the viability of the centre.
- The minimum size for a sheltered workplace to cover costs is normally
assumed to be 3000m2 (the average size of Business and Innovation Centres
is nearer 5000 m2).
- The recommended duration of stay is normally 2-3 years and certainly no
more than 5 years.
- Contracts and leases should be as flexible as possible (easy in - easy
- It is usual to recommend that rents be set at average market prices over
the entire period of stay. Rents are often lower during the first years and
then rise to more than market rates at the end to encourage firms to move
- Some schemes work on the basis of a revolving fund with firms being offered
the option to buy the property at the end of their stay. The resources
generated are then ploughed back into providing space for other firms.
- There needs to be a clear and simple way of monitoring and charging for the
use of energy, etc.
- The space within the centre should be organised in as flexible a way as
possible. Easily removable wall or partition systems can allow for a range
of spaces depending on needs. In some business centres, no more than 10% of
total floor space is allocated to one firm.
- However, there needs to be a clear division between office space,
industrial activity and the space for common activities (canteen,
exhibition rooms, etc.). Great care needs to be taken to separate out noisy
- The level of staffing depends on the range of common services provided. The
minimum usually includes a common secretary and a centre manager.
- Apart from services relating to the use of the building (cleaning,
maintenance, security, etc.), the main common services are:
- office services (reception, secretarial support, photocopying, etc.);
- normal administrative and accountancy services (tax, legal, etc.);
- training programmes and activities;
- technical support (advice on commercial matters, technology, etc.);
- support for promoting the businesses housed in the centre.
- These services are normally charged at cost. Even so, they cannot usually
break even without also serving firms outside the centre.
- The main common facilities or spaces are generally: a car-park, a
reception, meeting and conference rooms, canteen facilities, exhibition
rooms, laboratories, shared workshops and equipment (especially computers).
- Again, to cover costs and meet the area's needs, these facilities must also
usually be offered to outside firms.