Jobs promise as Osborne backs region’s £12m enterprise zone

A £12m initiative to help business and university experts work together better and create more than 2,000 jobs has been backed by Chancellor George Osborne.

George Osborne
George Osborne

The project will see a Victorian city centre building in Bradford converted into units for use by small companies who will be able to enlist the help of university academics, council business support staff and telecoms giant BT.

A new £7m centre housing doctors, opticians and pharmacists for use by the Bradford community will also have space for health companies. Students and researchers will work with patients using the centre to test new digital healthcare devices.

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The project is known as a university enterprise zone, one of four announced today by Mr Osborne.

Bradford University vice-chancellor professor Brian Cantor said: “As a world-leading technology university, Bradford is ideally suited to this initiative.

“The Digital Health Zone will enable companies developing new healthcare products and services to connect with Bradford’s outstanding capabilities in healthcare systems research, practice-based medicine and information and communications technology.”

Prof Mohammed Mohammed, professor of healthcare at Bradford University, added: “Ageing society, increasing chronic diseases, smaller budgets and how to deliver personalised healthcare are global challenges and we see this initiative as a major opportunity for the UK to lead on communications-enabled digital healthcare.”

Bradford University bid for the Government cash jointly with BT, Bradford Council and the city’s three NHS trusts.

The Government will invest £3.8m in the scheme with the bidding organisations combining to meet the rest of the costs.

The initiative is designed to help overcome the barriers that stand in the way of university research being turned into goods and services.

Healthcare is seen as one of the areas where Leeds and surrounding areas can develop a global reputation in the delivery of services through digital technology.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, which brings councils and business together to grow the area’s economy, said: “I’m delighted that the Bradford university enterprise zone bid has been successful – it will be a fantastic asset both for Bradford and the wider city region.

“The Leeds City Region is already home to numerous businesses innovating in the field of digital healthcare.

“As home to NHS England and the Department of Health, our region offers many advantages in the health and bioscience sector, and we identified both this and the creative and digital sector as key growth sectors in our strategic economic plan.

“With benefits worth up to £500m over the next ten years, I look forward to seeing the potential of this fantastic initiative realised. ”

The Design Exchange building in Bradford’s Little Germany district is earmarked for the Digital Exchange.

Bradford Council leader David Green said: “This is a further boost in establishing Bradford as being at the forefront of digital technology. We are a ‘super-connected city’ and this is a further initiative which enables us to lead the way in using the latest technology to enable people to help themselves and receive more personalised care.”