Construction work is underway on The Exchange - a new enterprise hub at Colworth Science Park, Bedfordshire, which is being developed by Unilever and leading research and business space provider Goodman.
Contractor Kier is carrying out the construction work and the development is expected to be completed in January 2011.
Designed by architects RMJM, The Exchange, is named to reflect its open innovation design that will help drive the exchange of knowledge and ideas. The complex will provide 21,000 ft²(approx. 1,945 m²) of dining, conference and meeting space complemented by a 35,000 ft² Innovation Centre, all located at the heart of Colworth Science Park.
The Exchange will enhance the Park's open innovation environment where networking and collaboration are integral to the campus culture by providing modern flexible laboratory and office suites, a café-restaurant, and modern meeting plus conference facilities for up to 200 people. These facilities will be open to businesses off site to use in addition to those on the campus.
The development will support economic growth in Bedfordshire and the UK by bringing together academia, SMEs and other life science companies to drive technology transfer. This has been made possible following the investment of £13.7 million (approx. 15 million) from the Goodman:Unilever joint venture and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).
EEDA has supported the development of The Exchange, including the Innovation Centre, with £4.4m of funding. EEDA's support will enable IFR Extra, Cranfield University and the University of Cambridge's Institute of Manufacturing (IfM) to establish a presence at Colworth Science Park. The groups will be based alongside one of Unilever's global research centres and over 17 small and medium size enterprises in a variety of fields which undertake cutting-edge research, prototyping and product development.
The Innovation Centre will offer flexible laboratory and office suites designed to accommodate growing businesses and academics in a collaborative environment. Goodman and Unilever, which formed a 50:50 joint venture to develop the 1,200 acre site, hope the Innovation Centre will help address a shortage of scientific lab space in the area with an 'easy in/ easy out' leasing policy.
To mark the occasion global property group Goodman was joined by representatives from funding partners Unilever and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), as well as leading figures from IFR Extra, Cranfield School of Management and Cambridge University's Institute for Manufacturing, at a ground breaking ceremony on the campus.
Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, Director of Colworth Science Park said: "This scheme has been in development for some time and represents a substantial investment by Goodman, Unilever and EEDA. Having already attracted three world-class academic institutions to locate amongst leading scientists, from blue chip and start-up companies, we are confident that The Exchange will act as a catalyst for attracting additional businesses to Colworth and lead to new jobs for the area."
Paul May, Executive Director Innovation, at EEDA said: "Once complete, The Exchange complex at Colworth will enhance the region's position as a world leader in life sciences and will be of national significance. It is unique in that it will offer companies the chance to access world class academic institutions and R&D facilities."
Dr Genevieve Berger, Chief Research and Development Officer, at Unilever said: "The development of The Exchange at Colworth is a major milestone for Unilever's Open Innovation strategy and will help us to leverage a wider knowledge base to drive growth in our business."
Colworth Science Park is situated between Cambridge and Oxford in the village of Sharnbrook, near Bedford. It sits in 1,200 acres of natural parkland providing an outstanding research environment. Occupiers have access to a wide range of specialist scientific services and facilities. Accommodation services, including 24 hour manned security, on-site printin