Working from home in 2021: how to ensure your business will thrive

In April 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that pretty much half of the UK was working from home as a result of the pandemic (49.2%). It’s likely that as the restrictions ease, many of us will return to some form of office or coworking space. But for now, how can we make sure our business thrives while we work from home?

Despite the obvious benefits – more time with loved ones; time and cost savings from ditching the commute – we know that depending on the nature of your business, it’s not always that easy. For those operating in the STEAM sectors (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), or any sector for that matter, it can be tricky without the right support in place.
Tips to improve productivity at home

If possible, try to create a quiet, comfortable workspace with plenty of natural light. To reduce anxiety levels, clear your workspace of any clutter and distractions. If you live with others, agree times in the day when you’d rather not be disturbed.

A great way to ensure your wellbeing is to maintain your usual routine. We all thrive on a bit of structure in our lives, so try to get up at the same time every day and follow the same working pattern. Make the most of not having to commute by going for an early morning walk. Perhaps treat yourself to your favourite coffee to get yourself ready for the day ahead.
Various studies have shown that the boundaries between our work life and personal life have become blurred, so set yourself a time to finish work, and stick to it.

Take regular breaks and leave your workspace to enjoy lunch. If you struggle to maintain focus, try the Pomodorotechnique. This involves breaking the working day into digestible 25-minute chunks, followed by a five-minute break.
And, most importantly, keep in touch with others. Schedule virtual tea breaks with mentors, colleagues, or even friends if you work alone. Take time to talk about something other than work.

What other support is available?

Co-working is an increasingly popular choice for those craving the comradery of the traditional office environment. The community and culture that co-working spaces nurture can be invaluable to small business owners and start-ups looking to share ideas with likeminded individuals. While it’s true that most co-working spaces have needed to temporarily close their on-site facilities during the restrictions, centres such as STEAMhouse have worked hard to adapt their services to support those now working from home.

During the past couple of months, the STEAMhouse tech team has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to provide a series of remote services for our members, proving that anything is possible when you work collaboratively.

Our STEAMhouse PORTAL online learning platform provides members with a mix of virtual group events, as well as one-to-one mentoring with in-house business consultants and skilled technicians. To find a full list of our online events and workshops, visit the STEAMhouse events page.

Our STEAMhouse MAKER BOX subscription service provides specialist materials and step-by-step training – including a launch event and evaluation session – across a wide variety of areas: woodwork, moulding, bio lab, electronics, computer-aided learning and virtual reality.

Finally, our STEAMhouse BUREAU is where the magic happens. Once members have honed their skills via the PORTAL and MAKER BOXES, they can send in their designs (complete with production specifications) to be transformed into prototypes.
For more details about the above services, check out our recent blogpost.

Don’t forget to get social!

Social media is great for promoting your business, but it’s also proving an essential lifeline for many start-ups during the pandemic as a way of tapping into remote support from peers, colleagues and mentors. Like many organisations during 2020, we have worked hard to ensure members receive lots of support and information via our social media pages. For instance, our STEAMhouse Members Group on Facebook serves as a friendly open forum for budding entrepreneurs to communicate and share ideas.

Meanwhile, our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages are also buzzing with news and blog posts on the most up-to-date thinking across the STEAM sectors, as well as guidance on how to access our latest online workshops and seminars.

Start-ups across the globe are proving that if we work together, and adapt to change, anything is possible – whether at home or in the office. By creating a stress-free environment, looking after our mental wellbeing, and seeking remote support, 2021 could be a great year for business.

To find out more about how our STEAMhouse remote services can help you progress from idea to prototype and beyond, enquire today.

STEAMhouse services: COVID-19 update, April 2021

Update to restrictions

Despite the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions as part of the Government’s road map STEAMhouse will continue to remain closed to members due to current Government rules around prioritising certain course activities and teaching for students in Universities.  It is likely, however, that there may be ongoing restrictions due to a number of technical matters which we will continue to update you on.

Services

We will continue to provide online support to members offering a range of events, workshops, 1-2-1 mentoring and business support, grant opportunities, STEAMsprints, and remote technical support.

We will continue with our programme of remote learning with live and self-paced courses which introduce a range of processes including bio-material development, laminating and forming wood and mould-making, and support digital development using software including Blender, Fusion 360, Z-brush Core Mini and Unity Game Engine.

Additionally we will continue developing UX design prototyping support for the development of apps, websites, services, and products, and can offer knowledge exchange opportunities to work with BCU academics to support your prototyping needs.

We are currently unable to offer our bureau service of 3D printing, CNC printing, and laser cutting at this time but we will be aiming to continue with this service as soon as it is safe to do so and restrictions allow.

We continue to monitor Government and University guidance and advice and we will inform you if there are any further changes.

Thank you for your patience, and stay safe.

From the STEAMhouse team.

Santa joins STEAMhouse

Santa joins STEAMhouse to keep Christmas deliveries on track.

We recently received a telephone call from Santa in a bit of pickle. You see, lockdown restrictions don’t just apply in the UK. Up in the North Pole, Santa has also found it difficult to carry out his operations amid the disruptions of 2020.

Around this time of year, Santa would normally be busy in his workshop, supervising the elves and making sure all the toys were in perfect condition ready for delivery on 25th December. Aside from this, he would also be working with his senior elf management team, experimenting with new ideas to improve work tools and to streamline the production line in the run-up to Christmas. But this year, alas, his workshop was forced to close and he was left searching for alternative business support.

Luckily, STEAMhouse was able to lend Santa a helping hand with a number of operations, from admin to assembly, and everything in between. The PORTAL, MAKER BOXES, and BUREAU services were a lifesaver for keeping the toy-making going – but also for driving new innovations – all while keeping Santa’s elf workforce safe and working from home.

STEAMhouse PORTAL – for online learning

Using the new PORTAL online learning platform, specially designed to support members remotely during the pandemic, Santa was able to book meeting time with STEAMhouse’s in-house business support consultants and skilled technicians. He was also able to join a like-minded community for regular virtual events and courses, which helped him make the most of his brand-new subscription to MAKER BOXES.

STEAMhouse MAKER BOXES – for practical skills and prototype development

As part of STEAMhouse’s remote support programme, the tech team has built specialised member tool kits to help across each discipline, for instance woodwork, textiles, digital and more.

Woodwork Box: Not only had Santa been putting off repairing his sleigh, but at the back of his mind, he knew it was time to innovate. With an introduction to lamination, and guidance from STEAMhouse’s resident wood technician Jan, Santa was able to completely overhaul and remodel his sleigh. Next year, using his newfound skills, Santa is planning to experiment using different materials such as metal. The box also helped Santa make a number of design improvements to some of his more traditional toys in need of an update.

Moulding box: Once Santa had decided on the modifications needed, using this box he was able to put his creativity into practice and completely remould new components for his sleigh – as well as new toys – according to his own design specifications.

Bio Lab Box: Sustainability is top of mind for Santa, so he loved receiving his Bio Lab Box, which enabled him to experiment with natural ingredients, and to develop and test his new bio-degradable wrapping paper. Santa also took part in his first STEAMhouse ‘Materials Club’, in which up to 20 members meet each month to discuss material exploration, as well as developing new materials using abundant waste streams and natural resources.

Electronics Box: Before joining STEAMhouse, Santa’s electronics skills consisted of changing the bulb in his lantern. But he knew that one day, developing a state-of-the-art light system for his sleigh would help his reindeer navigate their route much faster. An introduction to programmable electronics turned Santa’s vision into a reality and taught him the skills he needed to implement a brand-new environmentally friendly smart lighting system to help guide the way.

Fusion 360 Box: Experimenting with different materials (wood, paper, smart lights) was a great start, but Santa needed a way of designing the prototypes in order to get them into production. This box provided Santa and his tech-savvy elves access to a cloud-based platform in which they could hone their skills in CAD, CAE and CAM (Computer Aided Design, Engineering and Manufacture).

XR Box: This was without doubt the most exciting box for Santa, as he got to experience a virtual round-the-world tour – without his feet leaving the ground. With an introduction to photogrammetry, Santa was able to make use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies to refresh his memory of the route before the big “eve”, something he could only have dreamed of back in the North Pole.

With STEAMhouse BUREAU, Christmas is a wrap

With all of this newly gained knowledge and motivation, there was only one thing left for Santa to do, and that was to get all of his ideas into production before Christmas. The STEAMhouse BUREAU service is a new prototyping and production service to help those who can’t make use of their normal workspace during the pandemic. Within minutes, Santa was able to submit his files via a ticket system, including specifications for method, size, colour etc. The Bureau’s fully automated system then tracked the progress of Santa’s festive projects and generated regular status updates to keep him informed. Once machined, Santa’s new products were sanitised and delivered straight to his door.

Within six weeks, Santa learned new skills, consulted with technicians and fellow learners, experimented with new materials, tapped into various design methods and modelling technology to develop a range of prototypes, and received his finished products.

Santa now has enough knowledge across the entire operation to supervise his elves, maintain high levels of productivity – and even drive innovation – to ensure every last present is delivered on time.

But it doesn’t end there. Santa is so excited that he’s already registered for next year, when he’ll be back exploring new technologies to create a whole new range of smart toys for children across the world.

To find out more about how the STEAMhouse PORTAL, MAKER BOXES and BUREAU services could benefit your business during the pandemic, get in touch with the STEAMhouse team today.

Enquire now. 

Craft Expertise workshop series tackling racism and inequality in craft

Created by Dr Karen Patel,

As part of the Craft Expertise project I worked with STEAMhouse in Birmingham to run a three-day workshop series (or STEAM Sprint) which ran over three weeks from November-December 2020. Participants in the workshops included makers who had been involved with this project, Craftspace and Crafts Council UK. The workshops were initially going to be face-to-face but due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic we adapted the format to run online, using the Miro collaborative software.

The methods STEAMhouse use for a STEAM Sprint are based on design thinking approaches. Together with Patrick Bek and Sophia Tarr from STEAMHouse, we created activities that focused on discovery and idea generation, enabling participants to work towards innovative policy development. It was a collaborative and generative process which yielded many interesting insights.

During the planning of the workshops, we established the key question which needed to be addressed. This was:

How might we create actionable policy recommendations that address
racism and inequality in the craft sector?

Before the workshops we asked the participants to complete a worksheet, which included a list of questions about their experiences in the craft sector and the changes they would like to see, and links to the Craft expertise website and Maker Stories podcasts which I have produced, so that they familiarise themselves with the research underpinning the workshop series. The research is crucial because it provides a foundation for the work to follow, particularly in the first workshop.

Session 1 – problem framing

The aim of the first workshop was to get the participants to immerse themselves in the research and get to grips with the challenge of racism and inequality in the craft sector. This problem framing workshop included a variety of exercises to flesh out the problem and its root causes.

After introductions in the online video call and an icebreaker exercise, I shared anonymised quotes from the research which illustrate the key themes from the research which we would try and address. These were:

  • Craftspeople of colour experience racism and microaggressions in craft spaces
  • Craftspeople of colour are made to feel like they don’t belong in the professional craft sector
  • Craft made by people of colour is devalued or judged unfairly

Next there was an empathy exercise, where a character based on responses from the research was created (a maker called Yasmin) and participants were asked to think about:

  • What does Yasmin think and feel?
  • What does Yasmin hear?
  • What does Yasmin see?
  • What does she say and do?
  • What are her fears, frustrations and anxieties?
  • What are her wants, needs, hopes and dreams?

We all participated and many of the responses could be grouped into themes which loosely resonated with the findings from the research so far, such as feeling like their expertise is unfairly questioned, and feeling out of place in certain craft spaces. However, there were additional themes around precarity and lack of stability, problems in craft education, and the need for support and networks.

Next we moved on to the Why Tree exercise to think through the potential root causes of these problems. There were three trees which centred on the three themes from the research, as below:

Participants were asked to add, to the orange post-its, the possible reasons for that particular issue. For each reason, you ask again why that might be, until you come to the root cause. So for example, the below tree is for ‘Craftspeople of colour experience racism and microaggressions in craft spaces’. The orange post-its include the top-level reasons, then below those are the possible underlying reasons for that, or root causes. As you can see below, participants suggested that the root causes of racism and microaggressions in craft are related to wider societal issues, particularly around education and attitudes.

Other themes emerging from the Why Tree exercise, with regards to the potential causes of the three key issues, include:

  • The audience for contemporary craft is not diverse enough
  • The popular idea of British craft is white and promotes a particular (and exclusive) aesthetic
  • A perception of craft techniques and aesthetics which do not adhere to white, Eurocentric aesthetics as inferior
  • The craft education system foregrounding white, Eurocentric techniques and aesthetics. Related to this is the fact that people who define the canon and build the curriculum are white
  • Lack of knowledge about craft traditions from around the world and their historical contexts

These insights would help to feed into the problem statement, which we developed before the next session.

Session 2 – inspiration and idea generation

To develop the problem statement before workshop 2 we asked the participants to answer the following questions, after thinking about their own experiences and their contributions to the first workshop:

  • Who experiences the problem(s)
  • Describe the problem(s)
  • Where does the problem present itself?
  • Why is this problem worth solving?

Patrick then drafted a problem statement which was presented in the second workshop, and which the participants were asked to feed back on. You can download a copy of the problem statement below.

View the ‘Problem statement‘.

Download.

In the second workshop we also spent some time completing a People and Connections map, which allowed us to get a sense of the entire craft ecosystem, and the people/organisations who could help us address these problems.

Before this workshop I worked with Sophia and Patrick to ‘flip’ the root causes from the Why Tree exercise in the previous session to form ‘How Might We’ questions. Below are the key ‘How Might We’ questions we took forward for the idea generation exercise:

These questions aim to address the key themes which by now emerge frequently throughout all of the exercises – around the craft canon (and how certain crafts are valued), education, representation, belonging and decision making. For the rapid idea generation exercise which followed we each worked on three of these ‘how might we’ questions, coming up with ideas about how we could address them. Then, to develop these ideas and think of more, we moved on to ‘alter egos’. For alter egos you consider what a famous person would do about the problem (e.g. what would Oprah Winfrey do?), or a ‘what if’ question (such as, what if we had unlimited budget? What if we had no budget?). These types of prompts help to think outside of normal constraints and stimulate creative thinking. You can see the process I worked through in the image below.

Before the end of the session we chose our top three ideas, ready to present at the final workshop.

Session 3 – crafting policy recommendations

There was lots of great discussion in this session, with much of it focusing on craft education and the curriculum, but also ways in which certain craft events can be exclusionary. We finished presenting ideas from the idea generation exercise in the previous session, then went on to begin thinking about which ideas we could take forward. Many of the ideas could be grouped into themes. We went through a voting process to vote on the top themes and most compelling ideas within those themes. The top themes were:

  • Reframing narratives/amplify and tell stories
  • Build and grow networks/create new spaces/forge partnerships
  • Gather and re-evaluate data
  • Finance and funding

Some interesting ideas included:

  • Look at visuals and narrative on crafts and revise/question/critique this
  • Transparency about how decisions are made
  • A ‘Trustpilot’ style review system for the craft sector
  • Guilds working in collaboration with social justice organisations
  • Union of black and ethnic minority creative practice

We didn’t have time to finish the other activities planned for this workshop, which included thinking of different policy tools to implement ideas, and more ‘what if’ questions to generate ideas about making things happen. I will now use the insights from these workshops to begin building policy recommendations in collaboration with Crafts Council. These recommendations will be shared in a report in early 2021.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in the workshops, for your effort, expertise, time and emotional labour. Also thanks to Patrick and Sophia for putting these workshops together.

Start your own STEAM Challenge

STEAM Challenges guide participants to tackle problems and explore solutions in a quick, intensive and highly structured innovation process. If you, your business, or organisation have a critical business or social challenge that you’d like to tackle fast, get in touch to find out how we can support.

Enquire now.

Claire Cotterill commissioned to create collages on heritage walks

‘Community Routes’ @ Roundhouse, Birmingham, is a new collaborative project between the National Trust, the Canal and River Trust, and partly funded by Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims to co-create with community members, three self-guided walks from the Roundhouse, exploring the local area, it’s heritage, through its people, places, and their unique stories.   

As part of the project, one of our STEAMhouse members, Claire Cotterill, has been commissioned to create artworks inspired by these stories, for exhibition at Roundhouse, Birmingham in the spring, 2021. As a way of engaging with people around these themes in these unprecedented times, Claire has created a collage kit, with specific heritage materials for each walk, to send out to people in the area surrounding Roundhouse. It invites participants to create collages, sharing with others what they love about their communities. Claire is really excited to see what people create and these collages will inspire her final artworks, with some of the gathered collages forming part of the exhibition itself. If any of our members live in the B16 area, you are welcome and encouraged to take part in this too!

For further info and to see how the project develops, please follow Roundhouse Birmingham’s social media channels or via Claire’s website and blog at https://www.clairecotterill.com. 

Feeling inspired? Apply for your fully-funded STEAMhouse membership here.  

STEAMhouse Update: James Hannam

In this podcast, we speak with James Hannam, our Operations and Prototyping Manager, about projects and new services that the STEAMhouse team have been working on.
Thank you to all the hardworking technicians at STEAMhouse.

 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any topic further, get in touch or reach us on our social media platforms!
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Facebook @STEAMhouseUK
LinkedIn @STEAMhouse

TCCE establishes a new National Centre for Academic and Cultural Exchange (NCACE)

The Culture Capital Exchange (TCCE) will develop the National Centre for Academic and Cultural Exchange (NCACE), with Regional Hub partners including: Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University, Birmingham City University and Bath Spa University.

NCACE will focus in particular on evidencing and showcasing the social, cultural, environmental, as well as the economic impacts of Knowledge Exchange (KE), after evidence emerged from previous projects co-designed with or led by TCCE highlighted the importance of such exchanges across sectors.

The National Centre will develop a raft of activities over a four-year period, in collaboration with with Hub partners across the country, and will work in several key areas including; collaborations and networks developments, skills and capacity building, evidencing and impact development, as well as showcasing and communicating key findings to a national audience.

“I am excited to be investing in this new centre that hopes to bring a step change in the ability of universities to support KE with the arts and cultural sector in this difficult time.” David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England

This is an important opportunity to better understand, demonstrate and further support and nurture the exceptional collaborative work that is being done across the country, and for Research England and universities to support the wider resilience of the sector into the future.”

NCACE will be led by TCCE Co-Directors, Evelyn Wilson and Suzie Leighton, who said:

“NCACE is a key and very timely opportunity to advance knowledge exchange with the arts and cultural sectors, building on TCCE’s track record of innovation and thought leadership in this exciting and quickly evolving field. The exchange and creation of new knowledge to help meet key challenges of our time has never been more important.

We look forward to working with our partners to showcase existing excellence, support future skills development in Knowledge Exchange, increase capacity for collaborative research, and provide robust and relevant evidence to help underpin the future development of the sector.”

Further details of the National Centre for Academic and Cultural Exchange can be found on the TCCE website at www.theculturecapitalexchange.co.uk until the website’s launch in January 2021.

Green Recovery STEAM Challenge – Collaborating on climate issues in a post-COVID world

STEAMhouse has recently hosted (online, of course) a new STEAM Challenge, ‘Green Recovery – Collaborating on climate issues in a post-COVID world’, here’s what happened…

“At WHG we are exploring how we can adopt design thinking to solve big challenges, so working with STEAMhouse was very helpful. I learned a great deal about how design can be applied to tackling problems that might result in a new service or process. The techniques that STEAMhouse guided us through enabled some great insights we had not imagined and ideas and solutions came about through a highly collaborative, interactive, and creative approach. I highly recommend anyone to engage in the STEAM Challenge process. You won’t regret it!” – Richard Haynes, Innovation Manager Walsall Housing Group

Collaborating across sectors during lockdown

Typically a STEAM Challenge takes the form of a one or two day workshop designed to enable organisations and individuals from across disciplines to tackle product, service, or social challenges, and test new ideas through a design-thinking innovation process. We guide participants through a series of creative activities that help them get under the skin of the problem they’re trying to solve, generate new ideas to tackle the problem, and begin to test those ideas with lightweight prototypes. Think mapping, sketching, analysing, and making – not the easiest thing to replicate while we’re all stuck at home. Thankfully, our latest STEAM Challenge provided the perfect opportunity to dive in and create our first series of virtual collaborative workshops!

Convening for creative collision

Every STEAM Challenge starts with a big question. A few weeks into lockdown we were asked by three passionate individuals to help assemble a team from across sectors and disciplines to tackle a particularly knotty one:

“How might we find ways for businesses – and the networks that represent them – to collaborate and act on climate issues in a post-COVID world?”

The Challenge Leads, Jules Todd (Climate Activist and Engineer), Richard Haynes (Innovation Manager at WHG), and David Middleton (Sustainable Development Advocate and Author) knew that to get to the heart of the question and uncover opportunities, we needed to bring together people with a variety skills, knowledge, and perspectives on the problem. Thankfully such a well crafted and compelling challenge question inspired a group of designers, sustainability experts, students, business owners, academics, engineers, investors, and policy advisors to take it on.

What we did

Participants came together to collaborate across five two-hour online workshops, designed and facilitated by STEAMhouse. These collaborative sessions were complemented by individual tasks, completed in-between workshops, using STEAMhouse designed digital worksheets. The focus of this challenge meant we concentrated our efforts on the first three phases of the STEAM approved design-thinking process; Research, Ideas, and Concepts.

Workshop 01 – Problem Framing

Innovation teams often try and come up with solutions to problems as quickly as possible. But if they are actually solving the wrong problem, what’s the point? It’s more important to take time out, ensure the problem has been framed correctly, and then​ put effort into finding opportunities for solutions. Problem framing workshops help teams uncover and challenge assumptions, analyse research insights, and ultimately align on the problem they need to solve. We designed a bunch of activities to help participants do just that and by the end of this first workshop the challenge group had understood, defined and prioritised the problem they were going to tackle.

Workshop 02 – ‘How Might We?’

By defining themes and research insights in the first workshop, participants had identified problem areas that pose challenges to the people they were designing for. This session was all about flipping those insights into ‘How Might We’ questions to turn challenges into opportunities for design. How Might We questions work because they suggest solutions are possible and because they offer a group the chance to collaborate and answer them in a variety of ways. The process can feel a little unnatural but it’s always worthwhile and it meant that challenge participants generated 39 inspirational How Might We questions from the problem space, not bad!

Workshop 03 – ‘Individual Idea Generation’

Coming up with ideas is hard but with the help of STEAMhouse idea generation techniques, participants came up with over 500 ideas that sprang from their How Might We questions! This might sound crazy, but at this stage no idea was considered a bad idea, this was all about quantity over quality. These could be ideas for products, services, or interventions, anything that tackled an aspect of the Problem Statement.

Workshop 04 – ‘Group Idea Generation’

This session was designed to be highly collaborative and critical conversation was encouraged. Each participant was given space to describe their three most promising ideas to the group, they could do this however they liked; drawing, writing, storytelling – anything goes. The group then encouraged each other to pick out parts of ideas that responded well to the challenge aims, and tackled the problem effectively, they then built-on and merged ideas to find themes and generate opportunity spaces for development.

Workshop 05 – ‘Challenge Review and Action Planning’

It’s critical that every STEAM Challenge ends with a proper review of the process and outputs to help teams create a viable action plan for developing the ideas and opportunities that emerge throughout the process. Thankfully, by this point in the challenge participants had forged a strong collaborative relationship and were working as a team. All we needed to do was provide the tools and activities that enabled them to critically reflect on the work and articulate their plan of action.

What’s next?

At STEAMhouse, we’re here to support people and their ideas to flourish. We always recommend that promising ideas created during a STEAM Challenge are taken to the next stage of the design-thinking process – Prototyping and Testing. We’re currently supporting the Challenge Leads to make that happen through our STEAMhouse and STEAMincubator programmes. Every person that participates in a STEAM Challenge has the opportunity to become a STEAMhouse member and bring their ideas to life!

“I really enjoyed the sessions I have attended and would like to congratulate you for running such excellent, well-structured, and thought provoking sessions. The outcome of the STEAM Challenge is very relevant to the work I am doing, and I will share it with the relevant people to assess potential avenues for delivery of the opportunities.” – Serena Bacuzzi, Regional Senior Energy Projects Officer Midlands Energy Hub

Start your own STEAM Challenge

STEAM Challenges guide participants to tackle problems and explore solutions in a quick, intensive and highly structured innovation process. If you, your business, or organisation have a critical business or social challenge that you’d like to tackle fast, get in touch to find out how we can support.

Enquire now.

Transformation of STEAMhouse Belmont Works progresses

The building will be opening in 2021 with state-of-the-art teaching, production space, co-working and incubation, featuring facilities for immersive technology, the latest Wifi and 5G.

“Works to the new STEAMhouse building on Belmont Row are progressing well during these unprecedented times. The underpinning works to the locally listed Belmont Works building has been completed and the steelwork frame to this historic building has now commenced. The new build concrete frame to the rear of the building is now constructed to the third floor with the vertical columns and walls progressing from the third floor to the fourth floor. Over the upcoming months, the new build façade will commence in addition to the mechanical and electrical services installation.” Nicola Callanan, Specialist Project Manager, Estates at BCU, stated, “This is an exciting project for Birmingham City University leading to opportunities for students, graduates and businesses alike.”

STEAMhouse will continue to build on the excellent work and commitment from the STEAMhouse team and partners so far. It will be a supportive space to amplify, experiment, and develop knowledge, products and services, inspired through our STEAM approach and an established community of practice. The new facility enables Birmingham City University to bring STEAMhouse to the heart of the economy as we look forward to expanding support and reaching out to an even wider range of individuals in the years to come.

VIEW THE GALLERY HERE.

Watch this space for more updates.

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or contact: steamhouse@bcu.ac.uk

Sharpen up your social strategy: five ways to use Facebook for business

There’s no doubt; social media has forever changed the way we shop, spend and engage with brands. This is particularly apparent in 2020, with the pandemic pushing traditional high-street shoppers online and adding to the already astronomical pool of online users across the globe.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are now essential tools for any start-up, entrepreneur or small business looking to gain the edge in their market. They are uniquely designed to reach, nurture and engage your target audience, regardless of geographical location.

The UK is currently the largest market for Facebook in Europe, with 44% of the UK online population using the platform more than once every day. It also ranks as the world’s third most visited website, with a userbase of 90 million small businesses.

So, if you’re ready to engage a ready-and-waiting global audience, here are our five top tips for using Facebook to supercharge your business, start-up or idea:

1. Use Facebook Messenger as part of your customer communications strategy

Solid relationships are key to success in today’s crowded market. All lasting relationships begin with a conversation, and Facebook Messenger facilitates this beautifully.

Conversational commerce shortens the time gap between seeing and buying. An essential tool for potential customers in a myriad of ways, Facebook Messenger can be used throughout the entire customer journey, from facilitating fast, tailored product research, to organising flexible delivery of products post-purchase – all whilst building a trusting, personal relationship to ensure future business.

2.  Add a call-to-action button

Facebook pages that provide a call-to-action button (directing customers to engage via Facebook Messenger, website, email or phone, or simply view products or read reviews), have been shown to drive 185% more click-through than pages without one. To add this feature, simply click ‘Add a Button’ under your page’s cover photo, select the most relevant call-to-action from the options, save it, and test it.

3. Make the most of video 

We all know the power of imagery for building brands, but video posts can be even more compelling, particularly if your product or service has strong visual appeal. Video posts merge smoothly into your target audience’s newsfeed – especially how-to posts, FAQs and mini documentaries – as long as they are kept short (maximum two minutes) and eye-catching. It’s best to shoot your videos in a vertical format, as they gain 50%more impressions than those shot in landscape.

Also, try to focus on ‘native’ videos (i.e. posts uploaded straight to Facebook rather than from a third-party channel such as YouTube), as these will command three times the number of shares, and twice the number of views, than third-party content.

If your video contains speech, always add text. Facebook videos autoplay in mute mode, with research showing that 85% of videos today are watched without sound. You can either generate and edit captions automatically, or you can upload a SubRip (.srt) file.

And with users spending three times longer watching Facebook Live posts than pre-recorded content, it’s also worth considering adding live videos into the mix.

4. Use a content calendar to keep control of your social media platforms

If you’re using a multitude of social media platforms, it can be tricky to keep on top of what you’re posting and when. Social media management platforms such as Hootsuite, Buffer or SocialOomph offer free basic services which will make managing your brand considerably easier.

These tools allow you to manage multiple profiles simultaneously, by automatically sharing and tweaking posts across platforms, as well as scheduling posts in advance. The additional benefit of social media management software is the ability to map analytics across your platforms, as we discuss below, to evaluate which ones are working best for you.

5. Use analytics to future-proof your brand

Whether you’re a start-up, entrepreneur or small business using Facebook, it is essential to track your successes, failures and audience impressions. While Facebook Insights tracks likes, page views, and more; Facebook Analytics dives a bit deeper to tell you who your audience is and how they’re interacting with your page. By tapping into this intelligence, you can be confident of both fuelling future campaigns for repeated success – and future-proofing against repeated mistakes or failures. Here’s a handy guide to get you started.

If you’re unsure where to start with your Facebook marketing strategy, our STEAMhouse Incubator provides tailored, expert advice that can help you hone your social media skills and give you the confidence to launch your own campaigns. So don’t delay, get social on Facebook today!

STEAMhouse offers support, advice and workshops led by industry experts, and is ideal for turbo-charging your budding idea, start-up or small business. Get in touch or apply to join today! Alternatively, join our mailing list to receive regular tips and advice.