From broadband to robots: Full details of projects benefiting from new Govt funding

July 7, 2014

The Government has announced funding of £86.2m for the West of England under its Local Growth Deal. This money is for projects to start in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The key projects to benefit will be:

Terabit West – £15m

A world-first project to ensure that the West is positioned at the forefront of groundbreaking, next generation broadband telecommunication networks, fixed and wireless, and their application to future cities, transport, healthcare and smart energy.

Current commercial broadband is relatively expensive, slow and not suitable for companies looking to test next generation technologies, test equipment and services. Terabit West plans to use the existing but upgraded infrastructure in Bristol and across the region as a research and development test bed for companies to be able to test their technologies, systems and services on a unique open and programmable communication service platform. It will provide increased capacity and volume of broadband on a closed loop system. The test bed will work across Bristol, the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and the five Enterprise Areas at Avonmouth/Severnside, Filton, Emersons Green, Bath City Riverside and Weston’s J21.

Internationally, the experimental network will be the first experimental infrastructure of this kind and will generate new exciting opportunities to pioneer the development of hardware and software technologies for future communication and cloud networking.

Bristol Robotics & the Bristol Institute of Technology – £4.5m (alongside £4m announced last week for an University Enterprise Zone)

Building on the strengths of the Bristol Robotics Lab and the high growth potential of the major cluster of technology businesses in the region, this project will provide essential start-up and grow-on space for technology and knowledge-based businesses in robotics and autonomous systems, bio-sensing and bio-technology, bio-medical and related high tech fields.

It will provide the specialist facilities and necessary support to enable key industry and academic collaboration, bringing together the significant strengths of UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol with industry innovators, technology companies and a range of other partners including the West of England Academic Health Science Network. It has the potential to enable the West of England to become a world-class leader in bio-sensing and biotechnology, biomedical and other related fields.

Innovation in composites for marine energy – £1m

This project will see the development of a new tidal blade test facility at the National Composites Centre at the Bristol & Bath Science Park. There is no current tidal blade test facility and the scale of the industry is insufficient for each manufacturer to have their own facility. This will provide shared facilities to enable collaboration, development testing and accreditation for new tidal blade models, allowing further commercialisation of the research and development in the field.

Composite bridge construction – £2m

This project will exploit advanced technology, drawing on the expertise of the National Composites Centre, to develop an advanced ‘composite’ footbridge structure on the A4174 ring road pinch point at Bromley Heath, part of South Gloucestershire’s cycle routes linking the Filton and Emerson’s Green Enterprise Areas and Bristol Parkway Station.

The intention is that the design of this composite footbridge structure can be developed as a new practical structure, which could be used efficiently and economically in a variety of locations, dramatically changing the way footbridges are designed.

Sustainable transport programme – £20m

Over two thirds of journeys in the West of England are less than five miles and yet more than half of them are made by car. These journeys contribute substantially to congestion and journey time unreliability, which impacts on business. This project consists of a package of transport measures, including new and improved routes and facilities for walking and cycling, public transport improvements such as dedicated bus lanes and priority measures, and other sustainable transport initiatives focused on Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and five Enterprise Areas (in Avonmouth/Severnside, Filton, Emersons Green, Bath City Riverside and J21).

A decision on a separate bid for grant funding of £4m for 2015/16 which will complement the funds provided through the Local Growth Fund is awaited.

MetroBus – £81.5m (previously committed)

MetroBus will provide a new express, sustainable public transport service, separate from general traffic in places, with faster and more reliable journey times. It links key development, employment and regeneration areas across the West of England, reducing car dependency and congestion and is designed to connect with existing rail and bus services. The route is directly aligned to support the further development of Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, and the Enterprise Areas at Emersons Green and Filton, as well as the South Bristol priority growth location. The three interlinked bus routes, Ashton Vale to Temple Meads, North Fringe to Hengrove and South Bristol Link, will create one easy to use network.

MetroWest Phases 1 & 2 – £56.6m (£44.9m previously committed)

Whilst the bulk of funding is already in place for Phase 1, this additional money completes the funding for Phase 1 and allows the continued development work for Phase 2, delivering half hourly cross-Bristol rail services, including reopening the Portishead and Henbury rail lines. MetroWest will link up the major growth area at Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone (with 17,000 expected new jobs by 2030) and the five Enterprise Areas across the West of England region. MetroWest will play an important part in bringing these major employment centres closer to skilled workforce catchment and also link in with the electrification of the Great Western Mainline between London and Paddington and Bristol (via Parkway and Bath Spa).

Further Education Capital Build programme – £32m

The West of England’s economic success is based largely on its highly-skilled workforce. To remain successful the Growth Deal has secured £32m to invest in centres across the region to provide new learning opportunities, ensuring our growing priority sectors and industries have the workforce skills they need, including in nuclear technology, construction and environmental technology, advanced engineering and the use of composites, and legal and professional services. The investment includes:

- providing a Future Technology Centre at Weston College

- extending the Advanced Engineering Centre at Bristol College

- extending the Advanced Construction Centre in South Bristol

- New Construction Centre for Bath and North East Somerset

- West of England Law and Professional Services Academy in Weston

- refurbishing and modernising automotive workshops

- a Business Enterprise Training Centre

Additional £400,000 of revenue funding for SME growth hub business support (with a LEP commitment of £800,000 private match-funding)

The West of England already has well-established business support services delivered by a range of partners including local universities, local councils, business organisations and many others. This project will bring them together to provide a single coherent package of support for businesses with the West of England Growth Hub. This will include access to finance, support for high growth businesses, developing targeted skills training to address skills gaps, a procurement hub, and export support.

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