Sunderland's renovated Elephant Tea Rooms to house new business centre backed by British Library
An historic Wearside landmark at the heart of Sunderland’s regeneration could also become a key base for its post-pandemic recovery.
The renovated Elephant Tea Rooms reopened earlier this year (May 2021), housing the city’s Local History Library and is also soon set to offer services for North East entrepreneurs to ‘turn an idea into a successful business’.
The new Business and IP Centre (BIPC) is due to be one of six new outposts of the British Library-backed scheme in the region, which has been operating from a Newcastle base since 2011.
Cllr Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “It is fantastic to see that Sunderland’s entrepreneurs, inventors and business owners can now access this valuable support from their own local libraries.
“The BPIC is an excellent addition to the city’s business support network and to the excellent range of services already provided by Sunderland Libraries Services.”
The British Library (BL) set up its first BIPC outside London in Newcastle in 2011 and since then has supported more than 14,000 new or expanding firms, offering resources such as up-to-date market research and business databases, as well as workshops and one-to-one mentoring.
During the coronavirus pandemic its services have helped protect about 600 North East jobs.
A £13 million government grant has helped the scheme expand even further, with £690,000 of this to back six new centres in the North East.
As well as the three in Northumberland, further outposts are planned for North Shields and South Shields, which will take it’s tally from 14 across the country to more than 100.
The city council’s library teams at Washington Town Centre, Houghton Library and Sunderland City Library will also be able to point fledgling firms towards services on offer at the new BIPC.
Liz Jolly, the BL’s chief librarian, said: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with professional staff who have a mission to connect people with information.
“BIPC Network harnesses the power of libraries, bringing in expertise from the local community to help people from all walks of life turn an idea into a successful business.”