Birmingham Science Park Aston announces shortlist for £35 million Digital Plaza

Birmingham Science Park Aston (BSPA), which is wholly owned by Birmingham City Council, has shortlisted three potential joint venture partners to undertake development of the proposed £35 million Digital Plaza.

Bruntwood, Thomas Vale Construction Ltd and Trebor Developments/Hortons Estate consortium have been selected from the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) process, which attracted over 80 initial expressions of interest. The joint venture partner will be chosen this summer. A planning application will then be prepared.

The earmarked site is next to the Park’s flagship Faraday Wharf building, accessed off Holt Street/Enterprise Way and A38 Aston Expressway.  The vacant development plot has been identified within the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP’s Enterprise Zone proposals, which covers 27 sites within the Big City Plan area. It is envisaged that the Digital Plaza will be the first Enterprise Zone development to get underway.

All three shortlisted parties have backed the plans to create a high-tech business incubation centre to be named iCentrumTM, as the first of the four proposed Digital Plaza buildings. BSPA is striving to create a series of industry-led incubators to drive new innovative businesses in the key sectors of the regional economy.

Cllr Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council and Chairman of the Park said: “Birmingham Science Park Aston demonstrates the vital importance of actively supporting start-ups on their path to becoming successful businesses in the high-growth technology sectors. The Entrepreneurs for the Future incubation facility, launched at the Park just over two years ago, has already created 54 new companies, with 82 employees and directors. It must continue to expand and embrace new sectors in order to create many more new high value jobs for local people.

“The Park already enjoys an international profile, and the Digital Plaza with the new iCentrumTM building will create a science park fit for 2020 and beyond here in the heart of Birmingham. I am delighted that the plans are progressing so well and that a joint venture partner will be announced in the coming months.”

The OJEU notice specified that BSPA is seeking a joint venture partner to undertake funding/investment; design and development; construction; facility operation and management for the Digital Plaza, which is envisaged to provide a total gross area of over 100,000 sq ft within four state-of-the-art buildings.

The Enterprise Zone designation may enable this project to benefit from an accelerated planning process, as well as Business Rates relief. Subject to planning, construction work could commence speculatively on the iCentrumTM building – which is expected to be circa 40,000 sq ft – before the end of the year.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Birmingham Science Park Aston said: “It is vital that we push forward with our plans to develop the Park to meet the needs, aspirations and work patterns of the city’s growing number of highly talented and innovative tech entrepreneurs.

“The iCentrumTM building will represent a state-of-the-art connected real estate in the city centre. It will bring together agile and smart working environments with the business incubator culture, creating a statement facility that will enable us to reach out to the world. We can then support and nurture local talent by bringing the best to Birmingham.

“Along with our ultimate joint venture partner, we will create a new workplace that will define Birmingham’s knowledge economy.”

BSPA is the gateway to the Eastside learning and knowledge quarter. The Park’s internet connection is unrivalled across the country; UK Broadband implemented a 4G trial on site; and together with Cisco and JANET, BSPA has become the UK’s first Science Park Without Walls and the first active node in Cisco’s National Virtual Incubator network.

While the nature of the work in the hi-tech and digital gaming industry typically lends itself to people working from home, BSPA’s thriving mix of tenants strongly advocate that businesses can grow more effectively working from a specialist hub environment. Faraday Wharf, which incorporates an extensive suite of high-tech meeting and conference rooms – as well as the Park’s nationally acclaimed Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) incubation centre – is now over 95 per cent let, with 17,684 sq ft of space let to Small to Medium sized Enterprises.

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