BIG, which stands for Business, Innovation & Growth, in South London is a new programme of support which brings together the world-class knowledge, expertise and facilities of six universities for the benefit and economic recovery of South London based businesses and communities. It is an ambitious and pioneering programme of activities crucial for unlocking opportunities for knowledge-based economic growth in the SLP boroughs. The purpose of the South London BIG programme is to support innovation-led economic growth by helping local businesses to grow and improve their productivity through support from and engagement with the 6 South London Universities. BIG will also bring forward the delivery of affordable workspaces across all SLP boroughs through a network of 7 innovation and start-up hubs.

Powered by the South London Partnership, a subregional collaboration of five London boroughs; Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Sutton, BIG draws on the resources of the six universities in that region – Kingston University, Roehampton University, Wimbledon College of Arts, St Marys University, London South Bank University and Sussex Innovation Centre. The six partner universities, which serve a total student population of 45,000, already have an impressive array of services on offer to start-up founders, businesses and not for profits including world-class research expertise, student and researcher business placements, professional short courses and access to specialist facilities.

BIG will look to address three key challenges that South London is facing:

  • low productivity – Office for National Statistics Regional and Sub-Regional Productivity in the UK (February 2019) show ‘Outer South London’ is the least productive part of London. Specifically, GVA per hour worked is 42% higher in the most productive part of London (‘Inner West London’) that in Outer South London. One key reason for the low productivity levels is due to low-skilled sectors featuring heavily in the business base. Low-skilled sectors are increasingly subject to structural economic change, which can limit their earning potential;
  • low levels of engagement – between South London businesses and Universities, despite the richness and diversity of the Universities and Research Intensive Organisations (RIO’s) across the sub-region, there is reported low take up of knowledge exchange services in the sub-region, resulting in the local economy not benefiting as much as it could from the value knowledge exchange can create. This is primarily to low awareness of the both existence of services and their relevance and the potential benefits for businesses and communities;
  • lack of affordable and flexible start-up and scale-up workspaces – despite the growth of the flexible workspace industry, there is a relatively small number of affordable and flexible workspaces accessible to small businesses in the SLP sub-region as recognised in the Mayor of London’s Economic Development Strategy (2018).

 What we hope to achieve through the BIG South London partnership and programme: 

  • increased productivity – arising from more businesses engaged in developing and applying innovation to their businesses through collaboration with South London Universities, resulting in job creation, greater prosperity, higher earning jobs, and increased local spend in high streets;
  • growth in strategic sectors – through targeted promotion, engagement and investment in knowledge-intensive clusters resulting in creation of new high-quality jobs in knowledge-intensive industries, outer south London becoming more attractive for inward investment and supply chain relocation and growth, growth of creative industries, and growth of knowledge-intensive supply chains & clusters unique to South London;
  • greater range and availability of workspace – through the Knowledge Exchange Hubs for new and expanding small businesses, resulting in increased business births, less out commuting, job creation, greater survival rates, retention and attraction of SMEs and highly skilled talent;
  • support economic recovery – assisting individuals to set up new businesses and helping small businesses to downsize or get more affordable accommodation, and helping businesses survive through developing and applying new ideas, new ways of doing things, new products and services, new technologies and new business models — which combined results in increased survival rates, retention of jobs and growth.

For further information please refer to the BIG South London website or contact Paul Kirkbright, Head of Knowledge Exchange & Partnerships, at