Meet the Team – Andy

Andy Stewart, the new manager of the Blythe Valley Innovation Centre in Solihull


Job title: Blythe Valley Innovation Centre Manager

How long have you been at UWSP?

I joined in August 2019 – so just coming up to two years with the University of Warwick Science Park.

What did you do prior to joining UWSP?

I’ve done lots of things previously. For the greater part of my career, I owned and managed a small telecoms business. I did that from 1999 to 2013 when I sold the business.

Since then, I’ve had a number of roles but they have mainly focussed on business centre management in one form or another.

I think the experience of running my own business absolutely helps me in my role with the Science Park. The reason I took this kind of role was that I felt my experience might be useful and that it would be enjoyable to work in an environment of small businesses, of which I have a good understanding.

The role we have here is to be a back office support function and that’s hugely important to the every day needs of a small business.

Sum up your day-to-day responsibilities:

It’s across the board responsibility for the day-to-day activities of the centre. It’s operational, customer service, health & safety and sales, generating  occupancy for whatever vacant space we have.

There’s several balls to juggle at any one time to make sure that the doors are open and that everyone is happy within the building.

Like everywhere, the past 16 months have been very, very strange. The whole Covid crisis started just a few months after I arrived. I was just getting to know the building and just getting to know the tenants and then the pandemic hit. Everybody suddenly went home – and they stayed there for quite a long time!

It has therefore been more difficult to get to know everyone in a way that I would have liked. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the building on my own – which I just never anticipated would happen.

Since then, businesses have started to slowly come back but we are still operating on lower numbers than we would be in ordinary circumstances and we’ll see how that starts to increase now that all restrictions have been lifted.

We’ve had to stay in touch with everyone – but it’s often been via email or remote communication because people aren’t here as they would ordinarily be.

For the most part, the businesses that are back in their offices are looking ahead with confidence. Many have been back in the building for around 12 months and have responded very positively to the situation we’ve all found ourselves in.

Overall, the outlook is positive and that’s reflected in some recent expansions within the centre, where some businesses have taken on more space because they are growing.

Which companies are some of your biggest success stories?

This is difficult for me to answer as my knowledge of the tenants isn’t as intimate as I would like it to be, given recent circumstances. The greatest success story of this centre that I’m aware of is a company called Enzen Group as they went through their initial growth phase of the business from this building and have now grown to be a company of some significance, with a global presence. They are a large business with their head office still based here and that is gratifying.

A more recent example is Wainhomes West Midlands, which is a new Midlands arm of a national homebuilder. They joined us in January with just the MD based here. They’ve already expanded into another unit as they have five or six employees and are looking to grow again to around 20 in the next year or so.

Where do you live?

I live in Pershore, near Worcester. It’s a lovely part of the world and was probably one of my best life decisions – I moved there from north London in 1994.

What do you do away from work to relax?

My time is very much dominated by my family and spending time with them. I am married to Helen and have two kids – Molly (16) and Freddie (13) – and I have a cocker spaniel called Cookie who I spend a lot of time walking with.

I live in a pretty rural location so it’s lovely to have some nice country walks on my doorstep.

I used to play rugby quite a lot but I haven’t done that in a while. I will, however, be keeping a close eye on the British and Irish Lions test series.