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UK's first open access 'pay-as-you-go' factory

12 April 2024

BLOQS is leading the evolution in the maker-economy, providing workspace, education, and access to a huge range of high-end professional machines and equipment for the makers of today and tomorrow.

AS THE UK's first open-access factory, BLOQS offers pay-as-you go accessibility for small businesses. The Lea Valley site houses £1.3m worth of light industrial equipment, including comprehensive wood processing and metal fabrication, engineering mills and lathes, CNC machining, 3D printing, and sewing machines

"BLOQS provides the missing link for solopreneurs and SMEs seeking to bridge the gap between start-up and producing at scale," said Al Parra, co-founder at BLOQS.  With pay-as-you-go access, entrepreneurs can utilise this state-of-the-art equipment as and when they need it, eliminating the burden of fixed and high overhead costs.

A sustainable alternative

Currently, most manufacturing processes involve long international supply chains and invisible production which are almost inevitably environmentally unsustainable. “By making locally in a city, close to the makers’ end users, BLOQS offers a positive alternative,” added Arnaud Nichols, co-founder at BLOQS.

It’s not just being close to the end customer that’s sustainable, but also having more than 700 companies sharing one space. “It’s a matter of ratios. Our factory is 32,000 sq ft,” he explained. “Hypothetically, if we vanished overnight, and a very conservative estimate of only a third of our members were forced to afford an average workshop, their combined footprint would cover roughly 200,000 sq ft, with each workshop necessitating its own embodied energy expenditure for machinery, infrastructure, real estate, and a lifetime of energy use. That's a vast expenditure. Sharing is now an ecological imperative."

Sustainability has been designed into the BLOQS infrastructure itself. All energy from wood waste is recovered by a biomass boiler and used for space heating, central heating, and the building’s various hot water needs. And recently installed solar panels on the roof provide 35% of the site’s electricity.

“BLOQS is a social enterprise whose purpose is the creation of social and economic capital for the communities it serves. We take environmental stewardship seriously, as we look to regenerate urban creative economies by seeding maker hubs where creatives can learn and thrive together” Parra stated.

This energy and model are already delivering commercial success. 380 full-time equivalent jobs have been created, and £15m a year is generated in the local economy by BLOQS members.

A new open-access model

With backing from the mayor of London and sitting on an advisory board for MAKE UK, BLOQS is disrupting manufacturing with a 'WeWork' model for the maker economy of today.

The site in London’s Lea Valley is the first BLOQS, but the goal is for this to be a new kind of productive local economy that could be readily replicated across the country and beyond.

“The alternative to BLOQS was basically to sign a five-year lease in a big empty warehouse somewhere that we would have to fully equip ourselves,” said Alisha Fredriksson, CEO at Seabound and BLOQS member. “That was a really big barrier for us and really hard to justify. It didn’t make any sense.

"At BLOQS you don’t need to pay for a long and expensive lease. You can come for a month, you can come for a day, you can get support and you don’t have to figure it all out in isolation," she stated.

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