Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry visited the University of Sunderland’s new centre for enterprise and innovation yesterday (21 August), a centre created to support the city’s entrepreneurial growth.

Launched earlier this year, Hope Street Xchange was developed by the University with £4.9m investment support from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Local Growth Fund.

Based on the City Campus it links the University to the region’s small business community by supporting fledgling start-ups and offering space for existing businesses to develop and grow. From here businesses can access students and graduates with the skills they need – through a range of options including placements, internships and knowledge transfer partnerships – as well as connecting them with the University’s world-leading research base, sector expertise and specialised hi-tech equipment.

The Minister toured the once derelict Grade II listed building formerly  a Gas Board showroom but now providing a vibrant and creative space for  the region’s first FabLab, new emerging enterprises and more established small businesses.

Mr Berry said: “The Northern Powerhouse is about economic growth and creating jobs. When I visited the Hope Street Xchange this morning, I saw the University of Sunderland’s commitment to fostering strong links with local businesses and helping their graduates launch their own start ups.

“This is an excellent example of businesses and a university working together to unlock the economic potential of the region.”

Shirley Atkinson, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland introduced the Minister to a number of the tenants at Hope Street Xchange, which offers a hatchery and hot-desk space for emerging entrepreneurs, flexible light-industrial, laboratory and office space for businesses seeking to co-locate with the University, a choice of 30 Grade A offices plus workshops, conference area and meeting spaces. Hope Street Xchange is also the new home for the University’s graduate enterprise development facility.

Shirley Atkinson commented: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Northern Powerhouse Minister to our University today and give him a tour of Hope Street Xchange, our centre for enterprise and innovation. The focus of this building really demonstrates how, through our place-shaping work, we are supporting the makers and inventors of the North East to succeed and prosper. I’m sure he grasped our enthusiasm, the gathering pace of change and the ambitions we have for our graduates, our partners, the city, the region and the North.”

The centre was initiated by Sunderland Business Group, which aims to support entrepreneurship and increase the number of business start-ups with support from the North East LEP.

Chair of the North East LEP Andrew Hodgson commented: “Hope Street Xchange is a project that embodies what we are trying to achieve in our Strategic Economic Plan. Supporting small businesses with the space and skills they need to scaleup is critical to the Plan’s success.

””The LEP contributed £4.9m to the Xchange from the Local Growth Fund, which supports projects that will improve skills, innovation, infrastructure and transport in the North East. Investing in these areas contributes towards the ambition set out in our Strategic Economic Plan to create 100,000 more and better jobs in the North East by 2024.

“Mr Berry’s visit was another opportunity for us to emphasise the commitment in the North East to being a key contributor to the Northern Powerhouse and rebalancing the UK economy.”

Mr Berry was announced as Northern Powerhouse Minister in June this year.

More information about Hope Street Xchange is available at: www.hopestreetxchange.com