BARCLAYS has chosen Dorset as one of the first sites in the country where it devotes space to helping start-up businesses collaborate and grow.

AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe officially opened one of the bank’s new Eagle Labs at its County Gates offices.

It is one of the first three such 'labs' in the country, offering resources including 3D printers, laser cutters and events spaces.

Eagle Labs comprise Maker Spaces and Incubators. The County Gates site has a Maker Space, offering 3D printers and laser cutters so businesses can produce and test prototypes without having to import them. The space will also be available for community events, digital Tea and Teach and LifeSkills sessions.

Incubator sites will target high-growth firms and entrepreneurs projecting 20 per cent growth or more, with opportunities to collaborate with other like-minded businesses and mentoring.

Other Eagle Labs will be launched at Cambridge and Brighton in the coming weeks.

More than 70 guests from Bournemouth’s business community saw Eddie Howe and assistant Jason Tindall launch the Eagle Lab Maker Space by cutting a plaque on a laser cutter.

Mr Howe said: “It was a real privilege to be invited to the opening of the Barclays Eagle Labs. It is clear that the resources they provide will benefit many individuals and businesses."

David Shepherd, of Barclays Personal and Corporate Banking, said: “We’ve created the Barclays Eagle Labs because technology is transforming the speed at which start-ups can grow and scale. Simply having access to a 3D printer can now help people turn a clever idea into a business success overnight, and by providing practical resources along with our financial expertise we intend to help many businesses succeed.

“The Barclays Eagle Labs will take our relationship with local entrepreneurs one step further, providing them with access to the tools and resources that will help them accelerate growth.”

The latest Barclays and BGF Entrepreneurs’ Index revealed the number of start-ups is at its highest in three years, up seven per cent for the South West and 3.86 per cent nationally in the first half of 2015.

However, the number of high-growth businesses had declined, showing more must be done to supporting growing businesses thrive and survive.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “With a rapidly growing and developing local digital economy, the launch of the Barclays Eagle Lab is a tremendously exciting initiative for the area. This will be an invaluable space and has the full support of Dorset Chamber and we look forward to working with Barclays and engaging both our members and partners with the lab.”