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06:41 on Wednesday
25 June 2003

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Flexible Learning in Peterborough

New appointment strengthens university links with Innovation Centre

Julian Base

Links between Loughborough University and Peterborough's proposed new Innovation Centre have taken a major step forward with the appointment of the university's director in Peterborough to the innovation centre's steering group.

Julian Base will join the steering group this month (June 2002). He said: "The university and the innovation centre each have much to offer the other. There are clear opportunities for the university to offer assistance with training and research, for example.

"And in the longer term we need to look at other possible links between the two organisations in areas such as commercialisation of university research."

John Durance, chairman of the steering group, said: "The involvement of the university at this senior level is another demonstration of the importance of this project for Peterborough."

Initial plans for the development of an innovation centre to encourage the growth of knowledge-based companies in Peterborough were revealed last year. It will provide young high-tech firms with premises and a range of support services, helping them to grow and provide more high-quality jobs.

The steering group behind the project is in detailed negotiations about finance to build and run the centre and the purchase of a site. Although the centre could be financially self-sustaining within four years - and will be built primarily with private sector funding - some public sector money is essential to make it viable. The steering group is currently waiting to hear the outcome of an application for funding from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

It is planned that the building should be between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet (2,800 and 3,700 square metres), offering small, growing companies units ranging in size from 250 square feet to 1,700 square feet (23 to 160 square metres). Tenants will have shared access to meeting rooms, a restaurant, reception and post and photocopying facilities.

Last month (May 2002) a contract to undertake a detailed study into the scale of demand for space at the innovation centre was awarded to St John's Innovation Centre in Cambridge.

The study will produce updated estimates of current and future likely demand, identify the sizes of units most likely to be required, and examine issues such as rents, preferred locations and the provision of support services. It is being funded by Greater Peterborough Investment Agency.

Armed with the results of the report, the steering group hopes to finalise negotiations for grants from public sector bodies such as EEDA and loans from commercial sources.

June 2002




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