Keele University has today (20 September 2019) been awarded University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) status, heralding a new era for what is already the highest value employment site of its kind in Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire.
Investment from Research England in the Keele Growth Corridor University Enterprise Zone will leverage £33million of public and private sector investment. This investment will harness the emergence of the University as a national research and development facility for innovation and at scale demonstration of smart digital technologies in the energy, transport and biomedical technology sectors. New investment will also pump prime the creation of a seventh Innovation Centre on the Keele University Science & Innovation Park, with a focus on commercialising research on artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.
UEZs are specific geographical sites where universities and businesses work together to increase the role of universities in driving innovation-led growth locally, and today’s award puts Keele amongst only 25 such zones in the UK. UEZ status is awarded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Research England to those institutions that can demonstrate how their research and development can be used to drive local business growth.
The case for enterprise zone status capitalised on the established ‘New Keele Deal’ partnership between Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust that was formed to exploit the role of Keele University in driving innovation-led growth across and beyond the local area. Launched in 2017, the Deal targets the delivery of an extra £200million per year of growth in the local economy by 2023 in addition to the £200million a year that the University already contributes to the local economy.
The Zone forms part of the Keele Growth Corridor - a priority area for future housing and job creation in Newcastle-under-Lyme identified in the draft Joint Local Plan. It also ensures that national Research & Development collaborations forged by the University with major businesses including Siemens, Cadent and Amey have long-lasting local economic impact. The Enterprise Zone status aims to ensure that the University fully exploits the government funding it receives to support research, and strengthen Keele’s role within Midlands Innovation: the eight research-intensive universities within the Midlands Engine.
Speaking about the award, Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, said: “We are delighted to have been named as a University Enterprise Zone and to join the small group of universities in the UK with this status.
“Through our work with local partners, Keele is already leading the way in a wide range of innovative business support initiatives, demonstrators and accommodation, and this new UEZ status will enable us to further build on these successes by providing much-needed incubator facilities and grow-on spaces for local businesses whilst also attracting new businesses to the region.”
Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Staffordshire has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.
“Alongside this, many of Staffordshire’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.
“Today’s funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Keele University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”
Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader, said: “This is fantastic news. We have a formal working partnership with Keele University and have supported the construction of its Innovation Centre Five and the Smart Innovation Hub, which has just been completed. The Science and Innovation Park is one of our prime sites for high value research and development businesses and now it has Enterprise Zone status it will further strengthen its reputation as a leading location to invest and for job creation.”
Cllr. Simon Tagg, Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, said: “This is fantastic news and the positive implications will be felt across the whole borough and not just at the University. The Council is involved in ongoing dialogue with Keele over what can be done to enable it to unleash the full long-term economic potential of the University as well as its Science and Innovation Park. Last year we announced the Keele University Growth Corridor which identified exciting plans for jobs and housing growth in the area to the west of Newcastle.
“This latest announcement builds on that vision and we shall certainly be continuing the dialogue with our partners at the University to ensure we realise ambitions for jobs and investment in our borough. The Council is working hard to deliver a thriving and aspirational borough and this welcome announcement about the enterprise zone certainly supports that goal. It is great news and I am delighted Keele’s application has been successful.”
Alun Rogers, Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Vice Chair and Digital Lead, said: “The Keele University Enterprise Zone will underpin the University’s research excellence in smart-technology development and demonstration, providing us with additional tools to encourage local businesses to follow in the footsteps of over 300 other firms working with Keele by increasing their expenditure on research & development. This will support the delivery of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy and we’re delighted with this announcement.”