Attracting companies from as far away as Aberdeen, the Centre for Innovation, located on the Swans North Tyneside site, is now home to a range of businesses.
Its enviable position within the River Tyne North Bank Low Carbon Enterprise Zone has made it an ideal base for small and medium-sized businesses specialising in the advanced engineering, sub-sea, marine, oil, gas or offshore renewable energy sectors.
And today (July 29), North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon and Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn officially opened the £1.9million development.
Speaking after unveiling a ceremonial plaque, MP Mary Glindon said: “I was delighted to open the Centre for Innovation and meet some of the businesses based there.
“It’s fantastic that the development has attracted so many different businesses and it’s a major coup for North Tyneside Council that a company from Aberdeen – the energy capital of Europe – has chosen to locate part of its business at the centre. It shows that North Tyneside is firmly establishing itself within the oil, gas, renewable energy and marine sectors.
“This is such an exciting time for Wallsend – with extensive regeneration of the town centre and now this great facility at Swans.”
The development has involved the conversion of two floors of a five storey office block owned by North Tyneside Council.
The centre is a major part of a wider and ongoing £100million project, led by the council, to transform the former Swan Hunter shipyard into a hub for the renewable energy and marine sectors.
North Tyneside Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn added: “I’d like to personally welcome all the businesses to the centre and wish them every success for the future. North Tyneside has a fast-growing and dynamic business community and I am pleased they will play such a big part of it.
“With the Centre for Innovation now occupied, it strengthens the borough’s reputation, on a national scale, as a first-class and accessible location for the global oil, gas, renewable and maritime industries, where businesses can grow and thrive.
“Swan Hunter shipyard had a worldwide reputation and I have been determined to get Swans back on the global map – I am therefore delighted we have succeeded in bringing it back to life.”
The ground floor of the Centre for Innovation has one large open plan office at 242 square metres and four smaller offices ranging from 17 to 26 square metres, with the first floor offering nine small to medium-sized offices.
The upper floors of the building – which have been occupied for many years by Swan Hunter North East Limited – will continue to be used by them.
As an Enterprise Zone, the Swans site has appealed to firms because they’re able to take advantage of a number of benefits if they locate to the area before March 2018 – including up to five years’ business rate relief, a simplified planning scheme and superfast broadband.
Kier Property is the development partner for the project, and in keeping with Swans’ site designation as a Low Carbon Enterprise Zone, the work has been carried out to prioritise energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Mark Robinson, Director of Kier Property, said: “We’re delighted that the Centre for Innovation is now officially open and has got off to a great start by attracting a number of new and varied businesses to the site.
“The Centre not only offers a unique hub for the energy, renewable and maritime industries in a prime location on the banks of the River Tyne, but also allows opportunity for small and medium-sized firms to take advantage of a number of business incentives, making for an advantageous all-round package.
“We wish each of the businesses already on site the best of luck in their new base and look forward to welcoming more new arrivals to the Centre for Innovation in the months ahead.”
One of the businesses that recently moved into the Centre for Innovation is M2 Subsea Limited.
The Aberdeen-based company, which specialises in subsea remotely operated vehicles and provides diverless intervention services worldwide, has established its global technical support centre at the Centre for Innovation.
Mike Winstanley, Business Development Director at M2 Subsea said: “We were attracted to the region by the positive attitude and encouragement from the local authority to be located at Swans.
“Key drivers were the assistance available for new businesses in the area, the availability of experienced engineering personnel, and the proximity to one of our main supplier who is based in Newcastle – with all of these factors, the decision became obvious.”
One of the other businesses joining them in the building is specialist recruitment agency Jackson Hogg, which has moved from the Newcastle Quayside.
Jackson Hogg specialises in recruiting skilled workers for clients in the energy, engineering, manufacturing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors.
Director of Jackson Hogg, Anthony Broadhead said: “Given our focus on the energy, manufacturing and engineering sectors, our expertise and our interests, we decided to relocate to the Centre for Innovation.
“Swans’ engineering heritage was a big pull for us and gives us the opportunity to be in the heart of the sector and work even closer with our clients in the industry.
“The great facilities at the Centre for Innovation and ample parking were also another reason for our move.”
The Centre for Innovation project has been part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing just over £1 million of ERDF investment.
The investment is part of a £100million project to redevelop the wider site, using a mix of funding from the European Regional Development Fund, Homes and Communities Agency, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, private sector and council investment.
Andrew Hodgson, chair of the North East LEP said: “Innovation is at the heart of the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan for creating more and better jobs in the North East. To have this Centre for Innovation launching in North Tyneside is a real asset for the region and demonstrates that the benefits offered by Enterprise Zones are a major draw for businesses.”
Included in the project, some of which are already complete, are site improvements, infilling a redundant wet berth to create an additional development plateau for investors, dredging the river at the quay edge, quay repairs and new business accommodation.