£16.5m hi-tech enterprise zone to be set up at UWE Bristol

July 3, 2014

Bristol has been named as the location for one of the UK’s first four University Enterprise Zones to help the next generation of hi-tech companies set up and expand.

The Enterprise Zone, which is expected to create more than 500 jobs and generate £50m for the local economy, will provide a business ‘hatchery’, incubation and grow-on space for businesses specialising in robotics, biosciences, biomedicine and other hi-tech areas. 

It will be located on UWE’s Frenchay Campus in former HP Lab buildings. The £16.5m project is supported by £4m from the Government with match-funding from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), business and UWE Bristol.

The announcement was made yesterday by Chancellor George Osborne. It follows the Centre for Cities/McKinsey & Company report earlier this week which championed the Bristol and Bath region as a world-leading centre for innovation in hi-tech, creative and digital media.

And last week SETsquared, the mentoring and support service backed by the universities of Bristol and Bath, was ranked as the world’s second-best hi-tech business incubator.

The Bristol area’s world-leading expertise in hi-tech and creative areas as diverse as animation, robotics, microchip design, mobile telephony and 'big data' is putting it firmly on the international map as a hothouse of innovation.

The new University Enterprise Zone will promote university-business collaboration, provide space for new and growing businesses, access to specialist facilities and expertise, and business support. The 11,000 sq m building will provide laboratory space, offices and workshops, share start-up ‘studio’ space, communal space for networking and meeting, access to specialist equipment and technical support and business services.

The zone has been developed in collaboration with the LEP and the University of Bristol with strong support from South Gloucestershire Council, the University of Bath and the West of England Academic Heath Science Network.

UWE pro vice-chancellor for research and business engagement Prof Martin Boddy – who led the project for the university – said: “The university has a strong track record of working with a whole range of partners to support innovation, business growth and the skills to meet business needs through innovation networks, knowledge transfer partnerships, the i4G Growth Fund and other initiatives. 

“The University Enterprise Zone now provides a tremendously exciting opportunity to build on this success with a new venture that will help to drive forwards the major cluster of high-growth, innovative, technology-based businesses in the West of England. This is one of a small number of national pilot projects which provides the opportunity to demonstrate how collaboration between business and universities can drive innovation, jobs and business growth.

“This will be much more than just a building. It will provide access to the sorts of facilities and expertise that would otherwise be out of reach for new and growing businesses. It will provide ‘wet labs’ – currently a real gap in the market, it will promote collaboration and networking between businesses, university researchers, students and graduates and there will be dedicated business support and services from the university, Bristol Business School and partner organisations.” 

Prof Boddy said the zone would complement Bristol and Bath Science Park, the LEP’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and and the five enterprise areas in the West of England as well as the Engine Shed Incubation Centre at Temple Meads and the Bath Innovation Centre.

“Together these provide a fantastically rich and fertile ecosystem to support business growth and innovation across the whole city-region,” he said.

LEP chair Colin Skellett added: “This will create opportunities for greater university-business collaboration, providing grow-on and incubator space alongside leading-edge university research and research and development facilities.

“The West of England is being seen more and more as a leader in a number of areas, including robotics, hi-tech, creative and digital innovation, which also form a key part of our strategic economic plan. The University Enterprise Zone very much compliments our plan.”

The other three university enterprise zones announced today will be in Liverpool, Bradford and Nottingham.

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