A flourishing innovation centre for start-up and early-stage firms in the South is to have a £6m-plus extension to meet commercial demand.
Scheduled to open in Spring 2018, the new facility in south Hampshire will have 3,400 square metres of floor space, 33 offices, five workshops and parking spaces.
Fareham Borough Council has approved plans to extend Fareham Innovation Centre at Daedalus, near Fareham, with the three-floor building.
The current £5.3m innovation centre, with 24 offices and 15 workshops, is operated by Oxford Innovation on behalf of Fareham Borough Council. It was fully occupied within 12 months of opening in April 2015.
In total, there are 110 people working for 27 businesses on site, plus a further 36 local businesses regularly using drop-in facilities, such as meeting rooms.
UKSPA member Oxford Innovation looks after 24 centres in the UK with more than 900 occupants. The company specialises in running facilities which combine office space and mentoring support, drawing in commercial, academic and government expertise, for start-up and early-stage firms.
It is anticipated that 292 new job opportunities will be created with the extension, with the focus on the engineering, aerospace, aviation and marine industries.
Cllr Seán Woodward, Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: "The extension to the successful existing innovation centre is great news for Daedalus and the Solent Enterprise Zone.
“The existing building exceeded all expectations and reached full occupancy within its first year of opening.
“There are many businesses that want to use space at the centre which will enable them to prosper and grow."
Stephen Brownlie, Regional Manager (Solent), Oxford Innovation – Business & Innovation Centres, said: "The decision to build an extension is excellent news for local businesses, inward investment, the flourishing knowledge economy here in south Hampshire and jobs in general.
"Purpose-built Fareham Innovation Centre achieved full occupancy in April 2016, within just 12 months of opening. All 24 offices and 15 workshops were taken up two years ahead of schedule.
"Given that resounding vote of confidence from commerce, and the fact we’ve had to turn many potential occupiers away because there is no space for them, we anticipate strong demand for the facilities at the new extension, which is scheduled to open for business in Spring 2018.
"The new building will more than double the size of Fareham Innovation Centre and comprise 33 offices, five workshops and two conference rooms, enabling start-ups, early-stage firms and more established companies to work in a thriving, supportive environment where entrepreneurs can mix with well-regarded peers and business advisors.
"A key focus will be to attract businesses from the region’s flourishing marine, aviation, aerospace and engineering sectors – many have already taken root at the first innovation centre and some have asked us to replicate the success of the centre they are in.
"Occupants will also benefit financially from being in the Solent Enterprise Zone, the first such zone in the South to be given the special designation by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Current benefits, which are in place until March 2018, include a 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per qualifying business over a five-year period for being within the zone, helping occupiers ease the burden of costs as they get their ventures off the ground."
Oxford Innovation will manage the new 37,000 sq ft (gross) extension to the innovation centre on behalf of the freeholder, Fareham Borough Council, in an arrangement similar to the first 26,000 sq ft (gross) innovation centre.
Due to its thriving ecosystem, with strong links between entrepreneurs, large employers, local government and further and higher education institutions, the innovation centre received plaudits from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
The innovation centre was awarded the Most Innovative Small Business Friendly, Programme, Campaign or Project in the 2015 FSB awards.