East Devon District Council’s Cabinet last night agreed to invest £1.1m in the development of a new Open Innovation Building at Exeter Science Park, in the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone.
The investment will bring forward 20,000 square feet of space under one roof for growing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) sectors.
Funding has been raised against future business rates income from the growing list of businesses seeking to establish offices and laboratories alongside leading regional science and tech companies already based at Exeter Science Park.
Councillor Ian Thomas, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is a significant and strategically important development site for the area, with the potential to create over 10,000 jobs.
“This investment will bring forward the opportunity for up to 158 high value jobs in the Open Innovation Building for local people as well as boosting the local economy.
“The £1.1m grant is 15% of the total cost of the building, providing an additional 20,000 square feet of employment space at the Science Park. It means the Open Innovation Building can be ready for occupation in the second half of 2020.”
The Enterprise Zone investment will help fund the building, including the fitting-out.
Dr Sally Basker, Chief Executive of Exeter Science Park Limited, said: “Exeter Science Park is growing rapidly and is on-track to become a community of around 700 people by 2021.
“The Science Park helps innovative STEMM companies to deliver extraordinary growth and this Enterprise Zone grant will help us meet accommodation needs of STEMM businesses – both those already located at the Science Park and new firms wishing to take the next step in their growth journey and create a sustainable business.”
Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is part of the Heart of the South West’s multi-site enterprise zones offering economic opportunities in the area’s key sectors. These enterprise zones, with other sites at Oceansgate in Plymouth and at Gravity in Somerset, enable the local areas to retain a greater share of business rates to re-invest and attract new jobs and growth.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “This is another welcome investment in the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone. The site is key to economic growth in Devon and the Open Innovation Building will add to the portfolio of excellent facilities being developed within the Zone. New infrastructure will attract new businesses and help create high value job opportunities in the area.”
The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is in its second year of operation, with businesses benefiting from Government-funded business rate relief.
In April 2018 the Council agreed in principle to borrow up to £8m, with detailed approval for £3.4m of expenditure. Projects include the launch in September 2018 of an enhanced ConnEXions bus service with free wifi, a park and change site near Exeter Science Park which will be delivered this year, and design work for an upgrade to Long Lane adjacent to Exeter Airport.