Leeds University plans £25m enterprise hub

Innovation and Enterprise Zone at Leeds University
Innovation and Enterprise Zone at Leeds University
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LEEDS UNIVERSITY has revived plans to develop an enterprise hub on campus.

The £25m building will provide a base for early stage start-ups and allow them to access business support and expertise from academics.

At 70,000 sq ft, it will be large enough to accommodate 15-20 companies.

Professor Nigel Lockett, who is leading the project, told The Yorkshire Post: “We want Leeds to be seen as the most enterprising university in the UK and this building will be part of that.”

He said universities have a civic responsibility to support economic growth in their local areas.

Leeds University was developing plans for a st ate-of-the-art science park in the heart of the city called Innovation City Leeds, but the project was shelved due to the downturn in 2010.

Yesterday’s announcement comes after the leading industrialist Sir Andrew Witty called for a new era of collaboration between academia and business to help Britain keep up in the global economic race.

In his review for the Government, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline said the UK has an extraordinary wealth of ideas, technology and human energy, but is losing out to foreign rivals who are better at exploiting research.

The Witty review urged closer working with small and medium-sized enterprises, said that funds from local enterprise partnerships be directed towards universities to support enterprise and recommended universities forge closer links with UK Trade and Investment.

Prof Lockett said university support for enterprise will remain constant whatever the complexion of the next government, unlike regional development agencies and local enterprise partnerships which are vulnerable to political upheaval.

The former entrepreneur outlined the ways that enterprise takes place at the university.

First, he said the university makes its students fit for work.

Second, he said the university is supporting increasing numbers of graduates who are setting up their own companies as a legitimate alternative to a hotly contested jobs market.

Third, he said the university backs staff enterprise by helping academics to commercialise doctoral theses.

Fourth, he said the university develops intellectual property for exploitation.

Fifth, he said the university is opening its doors to businesses, particularly SMEs, who might be in need of help in areas like research and development.

Leeds University has already obtained planning permission for the enterprise hub.

It will accommodate staff from the city’s three universities’ business engagement teams.

Leeds University said this will enable the institutions to provide a more coherent business support programme.

It has identified a need for the facility – there is only 45,000 sq ft of incubation space directly linked to the universities and student base in the city.

This is dwarfed by the space available in rival cities Sheffield and Manchester.

In a briefing note yesterday, Leeds University trumpeted its successful track record in research and enterprise; it is ranked second nationally for the number of spin-out companies with recent notables including mobile technology firm Filtronic, waterless washing machine manufacturer Xeros and procurement software specialist Science Warehouse and its current company portfolio – which counts regenerative medical firm Tissue Regenix, transport software group Tracsis and oil data business Getech – represents the largest number of market-listed companies of any UK university.

Published last October, Sir Andrew Witty’s report said universities should be incentivised to play a greater role in local SME support and supply chain creation as well as coming up with breakthrough inventions and suggested this should become their “third mission” alongside research and education.