A NEW £9million business centre in the heart of Sunderland is set to create up to 650 new jobs.
Sunderland University’s Enterprise and Innovation Hub is expected to attract and create more than 120 businesses and 250 jobs over five years, with a further 400 created long term.
The university has been in talks with city businesses through Sunderland Business Group, the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and Sunderland City Council.
The hub, at the University’s City Centre Campus, will be supported by a £3.5million investment from the LEP, funded from the Government’s Growth Deal programme as revealed in the Echo on Monday.
University deputy vice-chancellor Shirley Atkinson said: “The hub will be a crucial driver for growth in enterprise and innovation in Sunderland and the wider region.
“We have a successful track record in this area, and thanks to the generous support of the LEP and the valuable contribution of Sunderland Business Group and Sunderland City Council, we can build further on this success.
“Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub will create an environment which will encourage and allow the university community to work better with entrepreneurs and businesses in the North East to innovate and create wealth and jobs to support the economy of the North East for years to come.”
Companies will benefit from laboratory space, room to trial new ideas and develop them for market, and space for creative businesses. They will also have access to world-leading academic expertise, student and graduate support and a network of other professionals.
The centre focus on the university’s specialist areas - advanced manufacturing, health, sciences and the creative industries – and allows it to support three times as many businesses as at present.
As well as support for regional business, the university will expand its enterprise and innovation support for students and graduates.
Since 2002 the university has helped hundreds of students and graduates wanting to set up businesses through hatchery incubator spaces, which offer office space, resources and professional expertise.
The new Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub allows for considerable expansion of this provision. Around 30 new businesses per year are currently born out of this programme.
The hub will house the North East’s first FabLab – an innovative project started by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, which enables people to prototype and try out new product ideas.
FabLabs are packed with of 3D printers, CAD software, scanners, and CNC machines which allow entrepreneurs, small businesses, students and schools to experiment with new products, with the support and expertise to bring them to market.