HUNDREDS of hi-tech jobs could be created in a North Yorkshire innovation centre which allows academics and entrepreneurs to work together.
Around 100 staff are expected to move to the Sand Hutton Applied Innovation Campus this year, as fast-growing firms in the science sector seek investment and world class research facilities.
It is hoped that many other jobs will follow, as Sand Hutton builds up a critical mass of science-based SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).
The Sand Hutton site includes the York Science and Enterprise Centre, which was part funded by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund).
The centre has state of the art laboratory facilities which can be used on a “plug and play” principle. In other words, the labs can be changed to meet the needs of each company as it develops.
Dr Patrick Bonnett, a spokesman for the Sand Hutton Applied Innovation Campus, said it would become a “multi-occupancy site populated by a range of knowledge rich science and innovation based organisations”.
The Sand Hutton site is best known as the home of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), an executive agency of the Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Research carried out by Fera helps to support the food chain and protects the world from biological and chemical risks.
Mr Bonnett added: “Both private and public sector organisations currently occupy the site, with Fera being the anchor business, employing 750 staff. Businesses are focused on the areas of food, environment and applied life sciences with the common theme being ‘translational’ research.
“They are working across scientific disciplines to deliver practical applications that help people and society.
“Fera is actively encouraging organisations to move on to the site, so they can take advantage of the specialist facilities and newly refurbished accommodation that the site offers.
“The site was recently elected to membership of the UK Science Park Association (UKSPA).”
The UKSPA is involved in supporting the development of science parks that provide a home for knowledge-based organisations.
Mr Bonnett added: “There is a great deal of interest from companies who are keen to move on to the Sand Hutton Applied Innovation Campus and benefit from the unique assets, collaborative opportunities and world class science being undertaken there.
“Interest is being seen from organisations ranging from small start ups to medium sized companies, who are keen to grow but find that there is a dearth of suitable accommodation for specialist high technology businesses.
“All have expressed delight – and relief – that Yorkshire’s science and innovation ‘jewel in the crown’ is open for business and able to help.”
According to Mr Bonnett, five organisations are in talks which could lead to them establishing a base on the site, which is eight miles from the centre of York.
Recently Fera has freed up space on the site, as a result of scientists using smaller analytical equipment than their predecessors.
The site also has a 250-seat conference hall, along with meeting rooms and a video conferencing facility.
The York Science and Enterprise Centre, is being created as part of a wider project with Science City York and the University of York, to stimulate research and development and improve regional competitiveness in the science and technology sectors.
In 2009, the European Commission approved a £19.7m investment to nurture hi-tech businesses.
By 2014, the project, which is being led by Science City York in partnership with the University of York and Fera, is expected to increase the productivity of the region’s hi-tech industries by £37m.
The development at Sand Hutton also complements work being done to improve scientific research facilities at the University of York.
In 2007, following a public inquiry, the university acquired a 116 hectare site on Heslington East.
The first phase of the development was completed in October 2010, and included the Goodricke College, along with lake, landscaping, paths and roads.