The power of an inclusive community

Engine Shed’s highlights of 2023 were our new Event Series and a full redesign of our Engine Shed Membership. Both highlights involved lots of community input to help us shape our offers to appeal to a wider audience than our existing network.

Mike Paton
Mike Paton, Director of Engine Shed

I think we’re all agreed that community is central to the success of Bristol’s innovation ecosystem. We’re a collaborative bunch, from the plethora of community meetups hosted weekly to The Bristol Bath Network, a unique forum where leaders from incubators, accelerators and other ecosystem actors come together to work on bettering the support available to high growth businesses in the region.

Bristol also boasts a strong network of founders and entrepreneurs who share challenges and support, alongside established links into local universities, advisors and investors to name a few. There aren’t many challenges where support is more than a couple of contacts removed, so being a part of this community is valuable to all of us working in the innovation space.

All of this raises an important question: how easy it for new people to access this community? There’s a risk that a strong, cohesive community also becomes exclusive, and avoiding that is essential for the continued growth and flourishing of our ecosystem.

This risk was on our minds as we launched the Engine Shed Event Series, with the purpose of providing open access for people to engage in select areas of technology innovation: healthtech, fintech and quantum so far. The initial results are good: 52% of our event bookers were new to Engine Shed. We have a goal to grow our reach further this year, as well as work with our partners to design inclusive events and ensure that invitations reach the breadth of our community.

Improving access is also a key principle behind the new Engine Shed Membership, which gives entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes direct access into the community through our Members’ Lounge, events, training workshops, and network of advisers. We’ve already welcomed more than 10 new members as of January 2024.

Beyond Engine Shed, I’m inspired by the work going on across the community, too. To pick a few great examples:

All of this leaves me excited for the future of our community, but we can all contribute to making sure that it’s vibrant, open and inclusive. If you have any ideas on how to improve access by new people to communities that Engine Shed could support on, please contact me at


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