£25m BioVale Centre takes step forward

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THE CREATION of a new centre aimed at driving the growth of Yorkshire’s biorenewables and wider bioeconomy sector has taken a step forward after a project manager was instructed to oversee the new build.

Peter Kemp, senior project manager at Leeds-based building consultancy Faithful & Gould, was appointed to the £25m public sector-backed BioVale scheme in York after the project won £8m of government support from the Local Growth Fund to kickstart development.

The building, which is expected to be built on York University’s Heslington East site, will provide 85,000 sq ft of laboratory business incubation space and facilities for biotech companies to develop and grow as well as creating a new home for the Biorenewable Development Centre.

It is hoped that building will get underway next spring and be completed within two years.

The building is part of a wider £50m initiative, which is being led by York University. The vision is to create a commercial innovation cluster to establish the region as an international centre for bio-based research and development, stimulating sustainable economic growth and encouraging inward investment.

The BioVale concept is being developed in collaboration with industry by the Biorenewables Development Centre, the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, and the Green Chemistry Centre at the University of York, working with the City of York Council and SCY, formerly Science City York.

Dr Joe Ross, director of the Biorenewables Development Centre, based at York Science Park, said: “The appointment of a project manager is significant because we are starting to spend some money, which is somewhat of a risk before everything is in place, but we are keen to get the project underway and get the building built. We will lose time if we wait.”

The project still needs final approval from the university, which is expected before Christmas, while final funding approval is expected early in the new year.

In the meantime, Mr Kemp will start the planning process, obtaining detailed designs from the architect and appointing the relevant consultants to get the project underway.

Dr Gesa Reiss has been appointed research development officer at Biorenewables Development Centre to look look into sustainable materials for the new building, which could include timber frames and breeze blocks made out of hemp.

Dr Ross said many of the 150 businesses the centre had worked with in recent years had expressed an interest in establishing a presence in the new building. “There is a definite attraction to having a base near the development centre and near other similar businesses,” he said.

The new centre is likely to be built next to York Sports Village on the university’s Heslington East campus. The site is also home to student accommodation, the Ron Cooke Hub and some academic departments. “But this is a very different venture because it’s commercial,” said Dr Ross.

Tracey Smith, managing director, York Science Park, said: “The proposed new Biovale building on the University of York’s Heslington East site will provide much needed facilities and space for new biotech companies to develop and grow. We know that there is demand for the laboratory space.

“The technological advancements the BDC act as a catalyst for are really exciting and York Science Park has nearly 20 years of experience incubating companies to ensure growth.”