INNOVATION centres in Torquay and Paignton, which provide incubation space for new and growing businesses, are proving to be vital for a number of firms.
In particular, businesses at Paignton's Vantage Point Innovation Centre and the Lymington Road Innovation Centre in Torquay have shown early success.
At Paignton, FireMaster (SW) has been able to expanded its service offering and Daniel Maddock's mortgage and insurance business has rapidly expand. And at Lymington Road, accountants Marke and Co has taken on more clients.
Mark Evans of FireMaster (SW) moved to the Vantage Point Innovation Centre after spending five years working out of his bedroom.
The fire safety consultancy providing fire safety advice such as fire risk assessments and fire strategies for building design, and is in the process of becoming third party certified and accredited, a process which will attract larger clients.
He said: "The industry is unregulated at the moment which unfortunately allows unqualified people to carry out this important work.
"I am already registered with the Institute of Fire Safety Engineers as a fire risk assessor and in addition am in the process of having my company certified by the British Approvals of Fire Equipment so my customers can be assured that when they instruct me, they have done so with due diligence and can be confident that my advice is totally professional."
Currently Mark is one of only four fire safety specialists in Devon and Cornwall to be registered with the IFSE.
He added: "Fire risk assessment should always be independent — if a fire alarm and or fire extinguisher company gives advice, it should always be remembered they have a vested interest.
"I also give advice to architects and designers who need solutions to regulatory problems. More often than not I can save them significant amounts of money as they can often over specify fire safety precautions. Design freedoms can also come from using BS9999 guidelines rather than building regulation guidance. It's a complicated area needing independent advice but by using FireMaster the outcomes can be most beneficial."
In addition to the extra certification, Mark is also expanding his business to include the testing of dry rising mains, a niche area in fire safety which few companies are able to carry out.
"Specialist equipment is needed," he said. "Dry rising mains are installed within many tall buildings and regulations require that the equipment should be annually tested by a person with the relevant qualifications and experience, something we are able to do."
And he said being at the Innovation Centre had definitely helped his business develop. "It's brilliant being here. It's great being able to mix with other businesses and use them as a sounding board. The facilities and services are excellent," said Mark.
Also based at the Vantage Point Innovation Centre is Daniel Maddock who specialises in niche mortgage products.
An independent mortgage broker and insurance specialist, he set up his business, DWM, 18 months ago dealing in insurance products primarily for families including life insurance, buildings and contents and business protection.
He has now expanded into offering mortgages specialising in products for people with bad credit history get on to the property ladder.
"More than 50 per cent of my clients have something in their credit file that makes it harder to find a mortgage — from negative equity to those who are struggling financially and have debts giving them a bad credit rating," said Daniel.
"There are still some lenders lending to people with bad credit and not many insurance brokers dealing with these mortgages. Owning a home is something most people aspire to so it's nice to be able to help customers achieve their aspirations."
Daniel, who works closely with Nathan Holmes of Small Biz Accounts, also based at the innovation centre, says being at Vantage Point has helped his business expand dramatically.
"Another key area I specialise in is buy-to-let mortgages and let-to-buy mortgages. Many people can't sell their houses so are renting them out and need to take out a mortgage to buy their new house. I'm focusing on providing mortgages and usually families want to take out insurance products at the same time.
"It's really taken off since I've been here and as such we've moved to a larger office here. I'm building a lot of professional relationships; it's definitely changed my business," he said.
Paul Marke, who runs chartered accountants and business advisers Marke and Co, moved into the Lymington Road Innovation Centre last year.
"I previously worked for an international firm of accountants and then ran my own practise in north Devon, he said. "I moved to Torbay around seven years ago. Since being based at the Innovation Centre, I've picked up many more clients around the area from all sectors including manufacturing, retail and tourism"
He works with sole traders, partnerships and limited companies, looking to help them make more money.
And Paul praised the Innovation Centre as an ideal base for an office with its cost-effective overheads and easy access to its meeting room.
He said: "It's working out very well. I'm very pleased to have moved in here."
The South West Innovation Centres are operated by TDA on behalf of Torbay Council.