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Second of three innovation centres will boost the knowledge economy


As it turns out, PIC has been a success with recent figures showing that more than 40 new jobs have been created by SMEs operating out of the £12 million building, with occupancy levels ahead of targets.

The reputation of its sister building, Tremough Innovation Centre manager Richard Snell admits, has helped make TIC an easier sell, with a similarity of design and approach – both are run by Plymouth University under its Growth Acceleration and Investment Network banner – meaning that many prospective tenants are well aware of TIC.

"It's a lot easier having the reputation of PIC to follow. Some of their stats around job creation and business success has raised our own credibility. Before PIC arrived, it was an unknown entity. It has been tremendously supportive and positive. We hope to do the same for the Wellbeing Innovation Centre," he said.

The third of three centres, WIC, is under construction next to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust site, in Truro, and is expected to be completed in late October.

The idea is that while the three centres will operate separately with different focuses – IT, creative and environmental and health and wellbeing respectively – they will have a strong ethos of collaboration with a shared vision of fostering links between growth-orientated companies and organisations including University College Falmouth, including its Academy for Innovation and Research, the NHS and Exeter University.

TIC opened at the end of January and has nine tenants already with a further eight or nine to due move in over the coming months and a capacity for a total of 70 tenants.

The project was led by Cornwall Council, supported by the Cornwall Development Company, with £9,841,626 of funding coming from the European Regional Development Fund, part of the Convergence programme, and £3,280,542 from the South West Regional Development Agency's single pot fund.

It offers accommodation ranging in size from 12sq m to 60sq m with broadband upload and download speeds of 100Mbps and access to facilities such as meeting rooms and business support.

Tenants will largely be based in the creative, media or environmental sectors to reflect the expertise on offer from the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth on the adjoining Tremough campus.

TIC will also have a few tenants from the service sector – such as outsourced admin provider – who are likely to pick up work from the specialist businesses.

All must be ambitious and focused on growth, said Mr Snell.

"It's a business acceleration facility. We need to see the vision and the goal and we need to see that they're backed up with financial data. But growth is not always just about profit – a social enterprise like Cool Earth will be looking at growth but it will have different goals," he added.

The idea is that by creating a hub that is focused around a particular sector, the scope for collaboration and investment will be increased.

"Developing the knowledge economy helps the local economy to create more high-level jobs and to attract highly skilled businesses and more foreign companies who could invest in the area," said Mr Snell.

"Potential investors are more likely to make the journey from London to Cornwall if they can see 20 businesses, rather than two, at the same time."

It is this role of developing Cornwall's knowledge economy by focusing on high growth businesses and by building links between firms and HE and other organisations that should see the innovation centres create more high-value jobs, boosting the county's GVA.

"The importance of TIC and the whole suite of innovation centres is that they provide a hothouse for taking ideas and making them into business opportunities," said Mark Yeoman, deputy director of the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the isles of Scilly.

"We know that UCF and the University of Exeter have great research programmes and by bringing in people with great ideas and linking the two, we can make them into a reality.

"The three innovation centres in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are important individually but, as a collective, they will start to rebalance the economy."

ARTICLE SOURCE: ThisIsDevon website

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