Colchester’s Knowledge Gateway drives innovation and business growth in the east
Despite launching in the middle of a national lockdown, a new business investment platform has had a phenomenal first year with over £7.7 million pledged to develop innovative business ideas.
Angels@Essex, which matches investors with those needing funding, was launched by the University of Essex in May 2020, and so far 11 businesses have shared £4.9 million. A further £2.8 million has been committed.
The platform’s success shows the huge potential of the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, based at the University’s Colchester Campus, to drive growth in the East of England. Investors are backing Angels@Essex, companies are being supported, Essex researchers are providing their expertise and more and more businesses are moving in. More space comes on stream in 2023.
John Stenhouse, who runs Angels@Essex, said: “New ideas will be key to rebuilding our economy and Angels@Essex is nurturing those ideas. We aspire to create a more sustainable future, which will create a healthier economy.
“Some doubted the wisdom of launching a business investment platform during lockdown, when businesses across the country were struggling to survive. But our success has shown even a pandemic cannot stop innovation and there are always people confident to invest in those ideas.”
The biggest beneficiary has been Conigital, whose founder has a vision to create cleaner, greener and safer public transport by developing driverless vehicles, available on demand. Within six months he had raised £1.5 million, with more on the horizon.
The University is worth around £584 million to the local economy, and it has been a long-term ambition to become a national centre of excellence for businesses in high-value, knowledge-based sectors linked to the University’s research expertise.
Dr Rob Singh, Director of Research and Enterprise, explained: “Benefitting society through our research is part of our DNA and we have been working hard to establish an even wider range of connections to business and the public sector over the past few years.”
The University invested over £60 million in the 43-acre Knowledge Gateway, which includes Parkside Office Village and the Innovation Centre – which together provide 71,000 square feet of office space – as well as Essex Business School.
The first two phases of Parkside are complete, are 91% occupied and are home to 21 businesses with 250 employees. Work on the next phase – providing a further 120,00 square feet of offices – starts this year.
The Innovation Centre provides space, plus hands-on support, to up to 50 start-ups and businesses looking to grow. Interest in space has been strong as lockdown lifts.
The University is involved in nearly 40 Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects, allowing companies to access University expertise to develop innovative new services and products.
In 2019 the Knowledge Gateway was designated a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) with Research England and the UK Government providing £800,000 towards the £1.3 million project to nurture digital and creative businesses.
The UEZ has unlocked millions of pounds of investment through Angels@Essex and the Space to Grow programme has delivered hundreds of one-to-one sessions and webinars providing support to budding entrepreneurs.
Investment platform launched by University of Essex to drive forward innovation and support tech start-ups
The University of Essex is launching the Angels@Essex investment platform to support entrepreneurs with innovative and market-disrupting business ideas by giving them access to a network of investors. Angels@Essex aims to help develop and grow the regional economy by...
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