A planning application has been submitted for a purpose-designed centre to make it easy for SMEs to engage with Birmingham’s five universities. The Universities Centre will be developed on land within Innovation Birmingham’s Faraday Wharf site.
AHR Architects has spent three months preparing the planning application, following the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) award of a £2.49m Local Growth Fund grant for the capital project in June 2015. Subject to planning approval, the new facility will be open in August 2016.
The Universities Centre will create an additional 540sqm (5,812 sq ft) of enterprise space, as a detached extension to Innovation Birmingham’s Faraday Wharf building, which was completed in 2001 and is fully let. Over half of the space in the new facility will be dedicated to flexible co-working space. The remainder of the space is purpose-designed for training sessions and events. The centre will feature state-of-the-art communications equipment, and all five universities in Birmingham will have a high definition video conferencing suite installed as part of the project.
The Universities Centre is the second of five new developments totalling £40million planned on the Innovation Birmingham Campus, which is visible from the A38M Aston Expressway. The first – iCentrum® – is a 3,881sqm (42,149 sq ft) technology incubation and collaboration building, which will open in March 2016.
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “I am delighted that a planning application has been lodged for Innovation Birmingham’s dedicated centre for university engagement. It will provide the city region with a catalytic facility, creating a novel edge in how we can help to support start-ups and growing SME businesses.
“While Birmingham’s five universities already run a range of initiatives to engage with business, we will promote more active engagement, as well as coordinate specific, bespoke programmes that will enable SMEs that have never thought of collaborating with a university to see how it could add value.”
International evidence suggests that true connectivity and communication between universities and business can add 8-10 per cent in increased, sustained growth. The Universities Centre will reduce the perceived and actual barriers to effective collaboration between early-stage businesses and local universities. The aim is to promote SME formation and business growth through enhanced engagement.
Michael Carr, Programme Delivery Director for GBSLEP said: “Having a dedicated, neutral centre where SMEs and researchers, staff and students from the five local universities can meet and collaborate on projects will be a new asset for the city region. Innovation Birmingham will work with Aston University, the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Newman University and University College Birmingham to drive activity that will resonate with SMEs.
“The technology and digital sector is one of the GBSLEP’s target growth areas, and this £2.94m Local Growth Fund grant award will lead to many new relationships and projects being forged year on year, which will contribute to the regional economy.”
The Universities Centre will be delivered by Midlands headquartered Thomas Vale Construction Ltd, a Bouygues UK company. Significant investment has ensured the Innovation Birmingham Campus benefits from a 30Gbit/s broadband service – equalling the fastest internet connection available anywhere in the UK.