The Yorkshire Post can reveal that UtterBerry, a firm whose technology has been used on the likes of the London Underground and the Forth Road Bridge, is to locate its manufacturing and innovation operations to Yorkshire.
The firm produces sensors which monitor in real time the movements of infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels to see if there is any hint of potential displacement, movements or changes in temperature that could pose a problem so that workers and users can be warned in advance.
The Leeds manufacturing hub will also be used to design and manufacture UtterBerry’s new contactless Covid-19 symptom scanners, which UtterBerry hopes to roll out across the UK and worldwide.
The Yorkshire Post understands UtterBerry will take up residence in Prospect House on Sovereign Street and hopes to begin operating in the city by the end of the year.
In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, its founder and chief executive Heba Bevan, said she wanted to hire workers throughout Yorkshire who might have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and that she was particularly keen to attract more females into the traditionally male-dominated industry.
“What attracted me to Leeds was I knew there was a huge amount of talent around Yorkshire because you have got amazing universities,” she said.
“There is a huge pool of undergraduate and graduate talent.”
Ms Bevan, who was born in Leeds, has worked in Silicon Valley and at Rice University in Texas, where she carried out work for US defence agency DARPA.
She said her team was already ordering machinery and equipment and hiring people for its new base.
The centre will see the production of its patented intelligent wireless sensors, which weigh 15 grammes and are able to work on extremely low power.
She said the units, which also deploy artificial intelligence, are able to work to sub-millimetre precision and analyse data trends to alert of pending and future events.
“There are so many catastrophes that we could prevent, simply by monitoring,” she said.
“It will be their legacy that they have saved lives, and I think that is massive for engineers.
“Engineers want to do good and provide sustainable developments. The pandemic showed us just how much we are lacking in manufacturing.”
Ms Bevan credited the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for facilitating the deal, with numerous other locations having courted the investment.
“The amount of support I had was incredible,” she said.
“Any issues we had, they stepped up.”
Its chair, Sir Roger Marsh, said: “It goes without saying that I am absolutely delighted to welcome Utterberry to Leeds in a move that will catapult the region into a new frontier as home to one of the most exciting global tech start-ups in the world right now.”
The news was hailed by West Yorkshire’s metro mayor Tracy Brabin who said of Ms Bevan: “Her coming into the region with her energy and her commitment to diversity and inclusion, while being a massive global company, is the West Yorkshire I want to celebrate.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak called the investment “fantastic news for Leeds”.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome Heba Bevan and her world-class technology business to Leeds. The city already has a thriving digital and tech sector and UtterBerry’s arrival can only strengthen our reputation as a great place for businesses working in the field to locate, collaborate and grow.
"It is particularly pleasing to note that this high-profile investment will help unlock the potential of communities in Leeds – and play a part in our recovery from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – by driving an apprenticeship programme and further skills training.”