Sheffield Hallam University has secured £900k government funding to set up a University Enterprise Zone to support regional economic growth and innovation.
The successful bid will provide funds to create a Wellbeing Accelerator at the University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), situated on Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
The AWRC, which is due to be completed at the end of the year, will be the leading research and innovation centre for health and physical activity in the world, dedicated to improving the health of the nation.
The Wellbeing Accelerator at the AWRC is one of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), launched with a £20 million investment delivered by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation.
It will provide incubator space, specialist facilities, laboratories, and a clinical research facility, supported by a range of specialists and access to key networks.
The Accelerator’s aim is to increase the likelihood of, and reduce the timescales for, innovations to be brought to market through a period of intensive testing and development.
The project will work with start-ups, SMEs, funders and agencies to accelerate the development of health and wellbeing technologies and applications.
Professor Roger Eccleston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Adacemic) at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “From ground-breaking research to extensive and pioneering partnerships and training programmes, Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative solutions that enable healthier lives.
“Health innovation is a key regional priority and co-locating research and innovation alongside education, health, leisure and business will help to contribute to economic growth and the quality of life in and beyond the region.
“The Wellbeing Accelerator will make a significant contribution to the innovation and business ecosystem at the heart of the Sheffield City Region’s Global Innovation Corridor.”
University Enterprise Zones (UEZs) are specific geographical areas where universities and business work together to increase local growth and innovation.
The zones aim to encourage universities to strengthen their roles as strategic partners in local growth to engage with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), building on existing capabilities and partnerships.
They also stimulate development of incubator or ‘grow-on’ space for small businesses in locations that encourage businesses to interact with universities and to innovate.
Dr Chris Low, Deputy Director of AWRC, added: “Across the UK, investment in health and wellbeing innovation is substantial yet there continues to be a significant time lag for products entering the market.
“What is required are intensive periods of access to expertise and equipment, clinicians and end users, to support product development testing and proving design – which is exactly what the Wellbeing Accelerator will do.”
UEZs have access to business support packages and the specialist facilities and expert knowledge offered by universities.
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MBE MP said: “Our region is home to thousands of innovative and progressive businesses, and the economic strength of the area is dependent on their success.
“By supporting businesses, Sheffield Hallam’s AWRC, backed by government funding, is driving economic growth and building on our region’s reputation as a leading centre for innovation.”
Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Sheffield has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.
“Alongside this, many of Sheffield’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.
“Today’s funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Sheffield Hallam University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”