There aren’t many places in the UK where you can walk out of your office and access world-class research facilities in a range of sectors by taking a few short steps.
At the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP), businesses are nestled among carbon neutral laboratories for sustainable chemistry, a leading Geospatial Institute, an Advanced Manufacturing Building and a, soon to be opened, Research Acceleration and Demonstration building among others.
This, and the leading experts working in these buildings, is one of the unique selling points of the Park which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Adjacent to the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus and situated on the former factory site of bike manufacturer Raleigh, UNIP has eight research institutes (from Aerospace to Mental Health) and an entrepreneurship lab supporting student and alumni-led start-ups.
The Innovation Park is home to 93 businesses and a community of more than 900 people occupying over 10,000 square metres of office space. Its tenants are technology-driven and knowledge-intensive businesses looking to engage with the University and make the most of the opportunities, whether this is using facilities, employing graduates, commissioning research or taking part in Knowledge Transfer Programmes.
The Innovation Park is home to 93 businesses and a community of more than 900 people…Its tenants are technology-driven and knowledge-intensive businesses looking to engage with the University and make the most of the opportunities, whether this is using facilities, employing graduates, commissioning research or taking part in Knowledge Transfer Programmes.
Operations Director Dr Mark Tock, who has been head of UNIP for more than two years, says: “Businesses that have been at the Park since the beginning could see the University’s ambition when we created the Park in 2008. They have grown and developed alongside it, and many of them today report an annual turnover of more than £63 million (2017).”
Romax Technology, which has built a global reputation for its specialist simulation software, used by leading automotive and wind energy businesses around the world, is one of its largest single clients.
Another is Footfalls and Heartbeats, an exciting developer of smart garments with broad applications in healthcare, space, and sport which the University has co-invested in. Their neighbours include names such as Ordinance Survey and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
And while one of the latest tenants is the Bank of England’s East Midlands Regional Office, businesses from further afield are keen to join the community.
“We’ve recently attracted entrepreneurs from California’s film industry and our Ingenuity Centre is going from strength to strength”, said Dr Tock.
“We’ve just completed the first incubator project for the UK Space Agency and delivered slightly over target which has been a massive coup and been rewarded by further funding.
“Providing a working environment which helps the businesses on-site to develop and achieve their goals through making the most of their proximity to cutting-edge research, brings benefits to both University and client.
“We act as landlords and our clients buy services from the University, enhancing its reputation through the projects carried out.
“One of the best examples of this is the work we’ve done with Romax Technology. UNIP introduced them to our careers service at the time when the University changed its approach to sandwich years in industry for students. That proved to be a real game changer.”
As the anniversary celebrations continue throughout the year with a number of roundtables and special events planned, Dr Tock is now considering the vision for the next 10 years of the Park.
“We’ve grown so much in the last 10 years and I’m really proud of the value UNIP adds to the University. We have to stand on our own feet as a business and make regular financial contribution to the University accounts.”
“We are almost at capacity space-wise so our interests now will be looking internationally, echoing the University’s own strategy. We have a sister incubator project at the University’s Ningbo Campus. What could be better for businesses than having the option of being able to test their products in China and for their Chinese counterparts to do the same here?”
The vision for UNIP will be launched as part of celebrations later this year.