Universities are often seen as impenetrable to businesses, hindering commercial progression. The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in Huddersfield was developed to break down those barriers, to enable the transfer of knowledge and drive forward innovation and regional regeneration by connecting businesses with the University of Huddersfield.

Having just celebrated its fifth birthday, the 3M BIC has made a substantial impact on the growth of many local and regional businesses, through its simple yet effective model that focuses on the needs of SMEs.

Investment in technology, expertise and building partnerships has been key; closing that gap between industry and academia, with its links to the University of Huddersfield, and growing a network of professionals and associated businesses that collaborate, advise and share knowledge on all aspects of business.

Prof Liz Towns-Andrews, CEO of the 3M BIC and Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Huddersfield, said: “We provide SMEs with access to technology that would usually be out of reach due to budget constraints to produce prototypes, limited manufacture, visualisation for marketing purposes, or metrology to detect faults in new and existing products.

“Complemented with the commercial support through our Business Engagement Centre and our links to the research centres at the University of Huddersfield, companies can literally take their business from concept right through to taking their first product to market.”

“Providing businesses with the tools they need to grow can help drive entrepreneurship leading to greater levels of innovation and commercialisation.”

Over £4m has been invested in technology at the 3M BIC over the last 5 years, including the recent Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project (HIIP), a £2.9m grant from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal – a £1bn package of government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

Of its 55 tenants over the five years, 81% have experienced business growth during their tenancy, with 50% creating new jobs. Twenty students from the University of Huddersfield secured placements – over half of those with tenants and many taking on permanent roles. The centre has also supported over 300 associate businesses.

Successful University and Business Collaboration

Associated United Supplies (AUS) Limited, a leading manufacturer and distributor of specialist equipment to the Electrical Supply, Telecommunications and Railway Industries, based in Huddersfield, wanted to bring new products to a highly regulated and safety critical market. They developed a more user-friendly railway product that was lighter, cheaper and easier to use, but lacked the technical knowledge or data to validate their new designs and test its efficiency against the older product.

Utilising the expertise of the Business Engagement Centre within the 3M BIC, they were signposted to the University of Huddersfield and agreed a three-year KTP to help determine the performance of the new product compared to the previous model, as well as introduce computer-aided design (CAD) in the manufacture of its products.

“The company saw that there was a gap in their capability,” said Dr Simon Barrans, Lecturer and Reader within the University of Huddersfield’s Turbocharger Research Institute. “A lot of parts used for overhead lines were designed back in the 1960s and have never been developed since.

“Once AUS have the capability to do the computer simulation, they will be able to optimise the designs so they are not using as much material, or they can use manufacturing processes which are less costly,” Dr Barrans adds.

For more information, visit www.3mbic.com.


© Image: Mark Hemingway