Wednesday, January 29, 2014

News: Sheffield universities can get in the zone

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Universities in Sheffield can bid for part of a £15m government fund to establish University Enterprise Zones and help to drive local growth plans and support entrepreneurship and innovation.

University Enterprise Zones will provide funding to locations across England and lead to the development of new business spaces within universities. These spaces will host a range of start up, high-tech companies, that can benefit best from universities' expert knowledge.

The government hopes that the zones will encourage universities to engage further with business and with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in driving innovation and growth at a local level. In Sheffield, Professor Philip Jones, vice chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, has a place on the LEP board.

There is also a hope that the zones will encourage businesses with innovation potential to engage with universities. The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham is a world leading model partnership between industry and academia that focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

The zones could also address the issue that there is little or no appetite in the private sector to invest in buildings on science parks providing office, workshop and laboratory space for small firms (incubator and grow-on space).

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "As part of our long-term plan to help secure Britain’s economic future, I want to see higher education and enterprise work hand in glove to boost growth and create even more jobs. Our world-leading universities have historically been at the heart of innovation but we need to give them the tools to be even better at cultivating the seeds of growth as well as knowledge.

"University Enterprise Zones will unlock the potential of so many students who will be able to move into affordable business space and start to build their own business straight after their degree. I want to see University Enterprise Zones help create the next Yahoo or the next Microsoft – bringing jobs and prosperity to both the local and wider economy and helping us succeed in the global race."

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Our world class universities are the perfect places to drive innovation, support the growth of the local economy and keep the UK ahead in the global race. The expert knowledge base we have combined with new business ideas will make University Enterprise Zones powerful tools for local success."

Sheffield city region's enterprise zone is set to receive a cash injection of up to £14.2m to speed up delivery of vital infrastructure at Markham Vale, a leading business and industrial park near Chesterfield. The grant will generate a further £95.7m of private sector investment, create more than 2,100 jobs and build new access roads, around 16,720 sq m of commercial floorspace, and unlock a further 33 Ha of land for development.

The announcement follows on from £1.8m awarded to Sheffield Business Park (also in the enterprise zone) to improve local roads and drainage will help expand the business park, making it more attractive to new investors.

The Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone is based on a series of key sites that will focus growth within the advanced engineering and technology sectors.

These include a number of key employment sites in Rotherham such as areas of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and Templeborough.

Companies located in the zone are benefiting from simplified planning rules and tax breaks for businesses. One of the main benefits that the zones will offer is a business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per eligible business over a five year period.

Companies within the zone could also take advantage of enhanced capital allowances (instead of business rate discounts) for plant and machinery.

Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone website

Images: The AMRC

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