Real business stories

The BioCity story: how incubators drive business growth

At the Business Finance Guide, we love a business success story, and the BioCity business incubator story isn’t just one success story. With a 91% survival rate, it’s also a celebration of how they have helped multiple new companies to prosper.


First, a definition. Business incubators are designed to advance the growth of early-stage businesses by offering a range of resources such as physical space, coaching and networking.

We spoke with Ayokunmi Ajetunmobi, Venture Development Manager at the UK’s largest life science incubator and business collective, BioCity, to find out more about how incubators can help businesses grow.

As well as sharing the BioCity story, this article explains the benefits of business incubators, how they work and what they provide. So, if you’re interested in growing your business, read on.

Setting the scene

Bio-science is an industry with many barriers to entry, with entrepreneurs typically requiring significant experience and backing to start their business. However, in more recent years, with improving capital requirements and human resources, a lot of younger scientists have begun setting up new ventures in the sector.

For this new wave of entrepreneurs, it’s key to explore the options available to them, both for funding their businesses and to find the right support at each stage of their business journey.

A quick intro to BioCity

BioCity logo

    • Set up in 2002 in former pharmaceutical company, BASF’s facilities
    • Invests in early-stage life science businesses
    • Currently home to 200+ start-ups & growing business in 5 locations across the UK
    • Works with entrepreneurs coming out of university, the NHS and international companies looking to start up in the UK

Role of BioCity

BioCity Incubator

“Essentially, the role of BioCity is to support early-stage start-ups. We provide them with a support structure to help them to build out their commercial strategy and funding to accelerate their business,” says Ajetunmobi.

“These businesses come to us at an early stage with a kernel of an idea and need support in developing and growing it. We take them throughout that development journey, all the way through to the point where they are ready to stand on their own two feet”.


6 benefits of a business incubator

      1. Potential seed funding opportunities
      2. Business development support from industry experts
      3. Access to talent and resources
      4. Hands on support from peers who are going through a similar business journey
      5. Space to grow regardless of business size
      6. Being part of a specialist network and business community

“We’ve found that the company’s likelihood of success has increased by being a part of the incubator community they are in. One of our studies revealed that over a twelve-year period, companies based at BioCity Nottingham had a 91% survival rate,” said Ajetunmobi.

BioCity success stories

was acquired by Ergomed, a clinical development organisation, a year after it went through its drug development and clinical trial journey at BioCity.

Sygnature Discovery – A drug development company that provides facilities for biotech and pharmaceuticals to undertake and outsource their drug development. Sygnature Discovery started with BioCity as a team of four and now boasts over 300 employees.


Best of both worlds

Traditionally, business incubators provide a physical space to grow, funding and access to support. BioCity’s approach is different because they are a hybrid of an incubator, business collective and accelerator programme. This allows them to also offer qualifying businesses the opportunity to take part in a bespoke eight-week programme to fast-track their journey.

accelerator workshop

The accelerator programme is specifically designed for scientific founders and clinical entrepreneurs. With their new innovative ideas or prototypes, these businesses can join the programme to receive personalised advice on how to create a structured path and become investment ready.

“We have quite a holistic approach” says Ajetunmobi. “We believe the hybrid module has a massive impact on the likelihood of a company’s success, particularly in life sciences”

The accelerator programme follows a three-stage approach:

Pre-accelerator workshop

      • Aims to give businesses a sense of the tools, mentality and processes that BioCity uses in order to accelerate them along their journey

Core eight-week programme

      • From the workshop, 6 to 8 businesses are chosen to take part in the eight-week programme where they’ll learn how to identify gaps in their business, evaluate risks and create a comprehensive business model
      • During this time, BioCity also provides access to senior industry figures they would otherwise struggle to gain access to
      • At the end of the eight weeks, the businesses pitch against each other for a place (for three to four successful participants) in the third stage

Investment stage

      • investment stageThis is an invite-only part of the programme where BioCity put seed, and pre-seed capital into just three or four chosen businesses and offers them a space in one of their business parks
      • This successful businesses are then given 12 months of support, in which time BioCity aims to get them to a point where they can raise their next round of funding themselves
      • Along with the gifted facilities, these businesses will also receive ongoing support through peer-to-peer networking and access to resources

“The BioCity option can take a company from an idea on the back of a napkin, right through to negotiating an exit with a large pharmaceutical company”, Ayokunmi Ajetunmobi, Venture Development Manager at BioCity

Look out for our upcoming feature which will compare accelerators and incubators and offer useful links to help you find the right support for your business.


Looking for advice on how to grow your business? Visit the ‘invest in advice’ section here

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