Students Staff

16 October 2015

Plans submitted for Innovation Centre to drive forward new business opportunities at the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway

Artist's impression of Innovation Centre

Artist's impression of Innovation Centre.

Plans have been submitted this week for a £10 million Innovation Centre at the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway to drive business growth in the eastern region.

The Innovation Centre will provide a focal point for the University’s 43-acre science and business park - the Knowledge Gateway - with work possibly starting as early as spring 2016.

The Innovation Centre plans include 66 individual offices designed to accommodate businesses of between two and nine employees. Up to 400 jobs could be created by the proposals within the first 10 years as part of a masterplan which envisions 2,000 people eventually working at the Knowledge Gateway.

The Innovation Centre will act as a dynamo for growth across the whole site by offering the space, resources and expertise to attract innovative businesses, develop young companies and foster hi-tech start-ups. The aim will be to support businesses to become sustainable commercial successes which can grow within the Knowledge Gateway site.

The proposals for the landmark building have been developed by leading architects ADP and Oxford Innovation, which operates innovation centres across the UK.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “We have a world class reputation for research and we are totally committed to transferring that knowledge to help create jobs and support growth in the eastern region.

“We want to connect Essex researchers, businesses and the public and voluntary sectors by providing a thriving business environment at the Knowledge Gateway. Our new Innovation Centre will deliver a step-change in the use of our cutting-edge research to improve productivity, support companies across the technology, professional service and creative sectors and create high quality new jobs.”

The Knowledge Gateway is being developed as a world-class science and business park focused on science, technology and the creative sector, drawing on the University’s global reputation for analytics and data science and outstanding support for SMEs. Businesses will also be able to recruit from a vibrant pool of talented students and highly-skilled graduates on their doorstep.

Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2014 the University of Essex is working closely with Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council to deliver a step change in business engagement which will fully exploit the strengths of the University and drive forward prosperity in the region.

The Innovation Centre will meet the growing demand from high tech firms which are already being attracted to the science and business park’s Parkside Office Village – now home to close to 20 businesses. It will also integrate with the expertise and support available at the neighbouring £21 million Essex Business School, which opened this year.

The designs by architects ADP allow for two wings to be added to the core £10 million Innovation Centre building at a later stage as more and more businesses and organisations move on to the Knowledge Gateway. Subject to planning approval and funding work can start on site in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, phase two of Parkside Office Village is expected to start early in 2016 with additional space in the pipeline.

Ranked in the top 4 universities for Social Science research in the UK and 19th in the UK for the quality of our research, the University of Essex is among the top 2% of universities in the world.

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Further background

Work on the Knowledge Gateway started in 2010 with a £9m investment to create an impressive science and business park that has a dedicated entrance and superb infrastructure, including a major signalised road junction off the A133 dual carriageway, landscaping works roads, utilities, pavements, footpaths and cycle routes.

The 43 acres of the Knowledge Gateway have been carefully planned to ensure the science and business park is an accessible and welcoming place, drawing people in through a tree-lined avenue and an engaging landscaping that fosters formal and informal interaction. Our plan has focused on excellent architecture and high-quality buildings, notably the iconic £21m Essex Business School.

Backed by £2.4m from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SE LEP), phase one of Parkside Office Village covers 1,305 sq m and opened in the spring of 2014. A community of SMEs now occupy the nine modern office units, creating a flourishing business community. Sectors include security technologies, digital marketing solutions, cloud-based technology solutions and web design. One of these companies is an Eastern Enterprise Hub-backed computer gaming start-up, whose products are already on the market. Encouraged by demand for Parkside and supported by additional funding of £850,000 from SE LEP, the University of Essex is preparing to create a further 435 sq m of office space.

Occupants of the Knowledge Gateway are not just tenants but members of the University community with access to shops, a post office, restaurants, three banks, a world-class library and Wivenhoe Park Day Nursery. The University also offers a wide range of lectures, and sporting and cultural events. Most importantly, the University is a major source of talent. Already, tenants at Parkside have taken on 17 Essex students and graduates to grow their businesses.The Knowledge Gateway team works with each tenant to develop a tailored membership package, including access to high-tech research facilities which may be of interest to members.

Interest continues to grow in the Knowledge Gateway with Blue Abyss, a project to create a space and marine research facility including the world’s deepest diving pool that latest high profile proposal.

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