HE has worked for businesses of all types and sizes.

Now Bury-born Patrick Allen – who served his “apprenticeship” on his uncle’s fruit and veg stall and went on to a senior role with the Co-op – has embarked on a new challenge in the heart of Huddersfield.

Patrick, 51, has been appointed managing director of Huddersfield University’s £12m 3M Buckley Innovation Centre – with the task of helping companies ranging from start-ups and SMEs to major corporations become true world-beaters.

The centre, which is set to open its doors officially in the new year, aims to work with companies to develop new products, access finance and expand in to new markets in order to boost their own business, create jobs and bolster the economy.

The centre at Firth Street will draw on the expertise of the university’s academic and research arms, an array of hi-tech equipment and a team of experienced mentors to help firms meet the challenges they face developing their businesses.

Taking the role of managing director of 3MBIC is a challenge Patrick relishes. “It’s the challenge of doing something new,” he says. “I’ve been given the opportunity to work with colleagues who are professionals in their own fields and by working together develop a unique concept.

“It is about building relationships with the companies we want to bring in here. It’s something I have done in the past – building relationships with supply chains and customers. Because of my background, I can also empathise with businesses of all sizes – start-ups, small businesses and larger organisations.”

Patrick says: “I grew up in Bury and all my family were running their own businesses. My first job was running a fruit and veg stall in Bury with my uncle. It gave me a great grounding.”

Patrick left the family businesses for academia. Having gained a degree in philosophy and social psychology, he realised an ambition to become a university lecturer. He also gained an MBA and went on to join accountancy firm Parnell Kerr Forster in its corporate advertising department before moving to Electronic Data Systems in London.

He returned to the north to run his own marketing consultancy and soon found things were less simple. “One of the major problems was having ‘credibility’,” he says. “People knew Patrick Allen representing PKF or Electronic Data Systems, but Patrick Allen representing Patrick Allen? Who’s he?”

Gaining his PhD at Bradford University helped in the credibility stakes – landing him globetrotting roles for clients including Allied Domecq, Emirates and IBM.

The next change in direction came with an invitation from client Yorkshire Co-operatives to join the business – a move which eventually saw Patrick appointed marketing director for United Co-operatives, where he helped build turnover from £300,000 to £2.5bn in three years.

On its merger with the Co-operative Group, Patrick became executive director of marketing and played a key role in reviving what had become a tired brand – helping to build a £14bn turnover business with one of the highest profiles in corporate Britain.

The Co-op group’s market share rose dramatically from a position outside the top 50 of British retailers to a place in the top six. He headed a 450-strong team which helped the retailer achieve the ranking of sixth most valuable retail brand in 2009. He was also voted Marketer of the Year in 2010 by Drum Magazine.

Patrick is aiming to repeat that success at the 3MBIC, where he hopes to help “create a culture for growth”.

“As business people, you are so busy that you never get the chance to lift your heads up to see what’s happening around you,” he says. “By building a community network of companies big and small we aim to help clients to grow their businesses and generate more jobs.

“We don’t open officially until the new year, but we are building our marketing programme. As people see the building and ask what it’s all about, we are already taking tenancy agreements.”

Patrick says the role of the university was crucial to the success of the project. “It is a great testament to Bob Cryan, the university vice-chancellor, and his vision for a wider university,” he says. “We sometimes under-estimate the contribution of the university to the local economy. The university in a business itself, contributing £200m a year to the economy.

“Huddersfield University is an exemplar of how to get out into the community. It has research contracts with organisations such as Network Rail and employer partnerships with local firms – partnerships which will also come into their own in this centre.”

Says Patrick: “It is not just about intellectual capacity, it is about applied capacity – for example how things like neutron beams can be applied to help companies develop products. It’s about bringing together invention and commercialisation – and the centre is a crucible for that.”

Helping mastermind the launch of the 3MBIC keeps Patrick more than busy, but he still finds time for his love of sport.

Patrick, who lives at Harrogate, coaches Ripley Rockets under-sevens football team. His six-year-old son Freddie plays for the team while older son William, eight, is in the under-nines. “It’s great fun,” says Patrick. “You don’t have to think about anything other than teaching football. They come off the field smiling. It’s about them enjoying themselves and being the best they can be. That’s no a bad philosophy for what we do at the centre.”

Patrick played football for university sides and rugby for London Scottish. He says: “I’m still tempted to pull on the boots occasionally, but my wife Amanda isn’t so keen on me getting my nose broken! I still play squash and do gym work to keep fit. It gets harder every year, but you have to keep at it! Living in the Yorkshire Dales, I also enjoy walking.”

Patrick says: “Television for me means sport. The London Olympics was great and it still brings a lump to my throat to watch the medal ceremonies – seeing these athletes who have worked so hard for four years and how that hard work suddenly boils down to that 10-second sprint or that one event makes me quite emotional.”

Role: Managing director

Age: 51

Family: Married to Amanda with sons William, eight, and Freddie, six

Holidays: Greece

Car: Volkswagen Golf

First job: Working on my uncle’s fruit and veg stall

Best thing about job:  Putting a team together and seeing the excitement they get from being successful. It is a very proud moment.

Worst thing about job: Seeing someone try really hard and not have things go their way. The disappointment they feel can be quite touching

Business tip: Have the courage of your convictions

Work: Growing businesses

Employs: Six

Site: Firth Street,

Phone: 01484 473331

Email: info@3mbic.com

Web: www.3mbic.com