The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth has formally launched construction work on a new £22.3 million research, teaching and training facility set to drive growth in the regional and national bioscience industries.
The National Horizons Centre, which is being built by Wates Construction on behalf of Teesside University at Central Park in Darlington, will concentrate on developing the technical, innovation and management skills and knowledge needed for the sector to continue to grow and generate jobs and wealth in Tees Valley and the UK.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry joined Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Teesside University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Paul Croney to mark the start of the build programme, due to be completed in spring 2019.
The National Horizons Centre is being established to support the bioscience sector, which includes biologics, biomedical sciences, industrial biotechnology and digital. It will play a key part in driving STEM skills and economic growth in the Tees Valley, through industry-focused education and training and collaborative research and innovation.
It has been financially supported by the Local Growth Fund, via the Tees Valley Combined Authority, and the European Regional Development Fund. The Local Growth Fund contribution of £17.5m represents the single biggest investment by the fund in the Tees Valley.
The centre will house academics and business development staff from Teesside University, working in partnership with regional, national and international industry partners, including the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Fujifilm Diosynth, to provide specialist education and training for the current and future workforce, and to promote industry-focused innovation and research.
Its imaginative design includes an exciting blend of teaching, learning and collaboration spaces, together with hi-tech laboratories and a state-of-the-art computing suite.
Together with CPI’s adjacent National Biologics Manufacturing Centre and the University’s Centre for Professional and Executive Development (CPED), the centre will be at the heart of a cluster of excellence on Darlington’s Central Park.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Jake Berry said: “I was delighted to be here celebrating the start of the build of the National Horizons Centre today, which has received £17.5m government investment.
“This is the Northern Powerhouse in action because this Centre will not only be of regional importance but will be a nationally significant asset too.
“It will train our young people to become the scientists of the future and continue to drive forward the Tees Valley as a leader in research, science and innovation in the UK and the world.”
The £22.3 million investment in the National Horizons Centre is part of Teesside University’s ambitious campus masterplan, which will see £300 million spent over the next 10 years in transforming its estate to continue to provide an outstanding student and learning experience.
Professor Croney said: “The National Horizons Centre is the result of significant work with industry and our partners, to identify how best the bioscience sector can reach its full potential through provision of the right education, training and collaborative innovation.
“A key priority of Teesside University is to help drive the knowledge economy, by growing the high-level skills base, building partnerships with industry and the professions, and creating graduates with the knowledge, aptitude and mindset to add real value to business.
“Our investment in The National Horizons Centre is an example of this in action. It will play a vital role, providing first-class facilities and programmes to grow knowledge and research in sectors that are set to transform the UK economy.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is the single biggest investment we have made so far. The new National Horizons Centre will be a beacon of all we are good at here in the Tees Valley.
“Our rich history of innovation, research and development is set to continue thanks to this state-of-the-art facility in Darlington. I’m pleased the Northern Powerhouse Minister has come up today to launch this exciting project.
“The new economy will be built on biologics and digital – key sectors we need to support. This massive £17.5million commitment is testament to the importance we have placed on securing jobs for the future.
“Helping Teesside University to achieve academic excellence is a major strand of my wider education and training plans. I look forward to continuing to work with the university and its partners as they deliver the high-quality skills training needed to build a Tees Valley fit for the future.”
Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “Darlington Central Park is one of our flagship developments, where business, residential and learning sit side by side.
“We are particularly excited to see the National Horizons Centre complement the National Biologics Centre and our own Business Central, which both opened in 2014, to create a place where science and innovation can flourish.
“STEM skills are top of the agenda and this first class facility will give our young people fantastic training opportunities in the future.”
Paul Dodsworth, Business Unit Director for Wates Construction Yorkshire and North East, commented: “As a national company with a Darlington office, we welcome this huge investment in the local area, and we are honoured that Wates is to play such a pivotal role in this landmark project for both the Tees Valley region and the bioscience sector across the UK. Our excellent North East team is in place to deliver the National Horizons Centre, and we look forward to working closely with our partners on what is set to be a fascinating project for all involved.”
Kirsty Thirwell, Chief Executive at Aura, who are providing quantity surveying services on the project, said: “Aura has successfully supported the University on a number of projects over the last five years and we are delighted to have been chosen to work with them on such a prestigious initiative as the National Horizons Centre.”