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East Devon Council to invest £1million in Science Park

Preliminary artist impression of the Open Innovation Building, produced by LHC Design

The new building could create around 150 jobs

The 20,000sq ft building is set to create between 134 and 158 jobs if the building is 100 per cent occupied and subject to funding, should be open by summer 2020.

The council’s cabinet unanimously recommended to the full council that £1.11m is invested in the Open Innovation Building on the Exeter Science Park.  The money will be borrowed from the future ring fenced business rate income from the park.

The Open Innovation Building will provide accommodation that will cater for medium sized businesses and a £5.5m grant from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and a land value contribution of £0.191m has already been secured.

But Naomi Harnett, Enterprise Zone Programme Manager, told councillors that without the additional funding, only the basic shell of the Open Innovation Building can be built.

She added that the LEP has confirmed they require the match funding to be in place to allow the full specification to be delivered as this has the best prospect of securing STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) jobs, and a failure to secure the final element of the funding package would therefore put the whole project at risk.

It would accommodate 134 jobs, which could rise to 158 jobs if the building is 100 per cent occupied, she added, but the £1.1m of Enterprise Zone funding was needed.

Cllr Philip Skinner, deputy leader of East Devon District Council, said: “The Grow on building is 100 per cent and we are already seeing what we want to be delivered at the Science Park, and this will add to what is already on the site there. I am really keen to see this upgrade and for it to move forward.”

In April 2018, the Council agreed detailed approval for £3.4m of expenditure on projects at the Science Park, with the enhanced bus service, Park & Change and design work for the Long Lane upgrade having already progressed.

Cllr Dean Barrow, who is the council’s Exeter Science Park Board Shareholder Representative, added: “Things have been happening and I can only disclose that this investment is a good thing to do to benefit the area.”

Cllr Tom Wright also supported the plans, saying it would help bring better jobs to East Devon.

The report to the cabinet from Mrs Harnett added: “The Enterprise Zone designation provides a positive way of supporting the delivery of new commercial space and jobs within the designated sites.

“The delivery of the Open Innovation Building on Exeter Science Park is dependent upon match funding from the EZ to deliver a fully functional building and ensure delivery of the scheme.

“The requested grant represents 15 per cent of the total cost of the project which will deliver a further 2,000sq m of employment space on the Science Park. This will ensure continued growth of business rate income, jobs and delivery of floor space within the Enterprise Zone.”

February’s full council meeting will be asked to approve the funding of £1.1m to the project.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr 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.”

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.”

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