NEW developments totalling £20m are set to put Huddersfield University – and the town – at the cutting edge of technology.
The university has secured funding for two major schemes which aim to generate scores of jobs and boost the regional economy.
The project will enable innovative firms to forge closer links with the research expertise and technical facilities available at the Queensgate campus.
European Development Fund cash, secured via regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, will meet more than half the cost of a new £12m Enterprise and Innovation Centre (EIC) at the university.
The university is pumping £3.8m itself into the project while Kirklees Council is contributing £1.3m to the EIC, which will open for business in May, 2012.
Meanwhile, the university’s Centre for Precision Technologies – providing expertise in surface metrology, machine tool accuracy and diagnostic engineering – has secured £8m to create a Centre for Innovative Manufacture (CIM) that will enable manufacturing firms to fit their existing machine tools with devices that ensure almost total accuracy.
The Enterprise and Innovation Centre is the brainchild of Dr Liz Towns-Andrews, director of research and enterprise at the university, who said: “This is fantastic news, not only for the university but the region as a whole.
“The EIC will be a completely new model for the way that universities work with business.”
Plans have been drawn up to transform former industrial premises that were used as the university’s Business School until that relocated to a new £17m centre last year.
The vacated building, Larchfield at Firth Street, will get an extra floor and a large glass atrium.
There will be space for up 100 small business tenants and scope for large firms to establish a presence.
The ground floor of the EIC will become an “innovation avenue” where new ideas, equipment and technology will be showcased alongside the university’s research in fields such as science, technology and business.
Firms will get access to the university’s expertise and facilities – such as powerful computers, imaging, rapid prototyping and metrology equipment.
Dr Towns-Andrews said it was hoped that the new development will become a national centre of excellence.
“University of Huddersfield students will gain massively, especially the large numbers of them aiming to start their own businesses,” said Dr Towns-Andrews.
“They will have a high-powered commercial environment on their doorstep, providing opportunities to study and experience business life.”
The EIC – one of several university buildings clustered alongside Huddersfield Narrow Canal – will be an important element in Kirklees Council’s project to develop Huddersfield’s waterfront area.
Clr Peter McBride, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Kirklees Council is strongly backing the EIC and by investing in it, we recognise the tremendous importance that it has to Huddersfield, Kirklees and the wider region in terms of job creation and business investment. The new centre will be a magnet for businesses of all sizes – it will bring in investment, vibrancy, employment, more people and more money, which is a massive boost for the area.”