The project will deliver a Northern Centre for Emerging Technologies, which will drive forward research, innovation and commercialisation of emerging technology, in the form of a 2,966sqm building that will be owned and operated by Gateshead Council. The project will provide research and development testing facilities, access to the latest emerging technology equipment, administration offices, meeting rooms, common areas and office accommodation.
The key beneficiaries of the project are digital technology SME's operating mainly in high growth, emerging technologies and the wider SME business community, who will benefit from the early adoption of emerging technology. The innovative application of embedding emerging technology in their operations will enable businesses to remain at the forefront of their markets, without necessarily being located in the building.
The project is aligned with and supports a number of policies and strategies set out on a regional, national and EU level context. These include: ESIF Priority Axis 1: Promoting Research & Innovation; North East's Strategic Economic Plan, UK Innovation & Research Strategy for Growth; UK Government Science Innovation Strategy; EU Smart Specialisation Strategy; Dept. for business Innovation & Skills - Innovation Report. These policies and strategies recognise that the cost of cutting edge research and the latest high-tech processes are greater than ever before, and are often too large for any one company. The strategies emphasise the need to strengthen the ability for businesses to accelerate the commercialisation of emerging technology, and propose the urgent need for provision of specialist facilities that enhance a growing smart specialisation in innovation and emerging technology, particularly in the context of Industry 4.0.
Gateshead has seen organic growth and an increased smart specialisation in the emerging technology sector, particularly around the fields of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. These fields of emerging technology demonstrate the potential to disrupt traditional industries, creating new products/services and bringing forward competitive advantage to the SME business community.
The North East is noted as being an economically deprived post-industrial area whereby overall levels of investment in research and development trail significantly over counterparts in London and the South East. The project seeks to reduce barriers to research and development, and unlock growth potential for both digital technology SME's and the wider SME business community, by encouraging engagement in cutting edge industry research and access to specialist equipment to bring forward new innovation, that in turn creates new jobs and investment.
An independent study on the demand and need for the project acknowledges the decreasing supply of suitable research and development/office accommodation space within the North East of England. The market failure is further pronounced as the private sector currently does not invest in the provision of an accommodation model that is suitable for high growth, knowledge driven SME's and as a result there is a need for the public sector to intervene, particularly to bring forward a development that provides specialist requirements, to ensure the long term sustainability of buildings, and to unlock growth and influence the economic outcome.
- Acquisition and conversion of an existing building of 2300sqm, to bring forward office accommodation, administration offices, meeting rooms, common areas.
- Development of 666sqm annex, linked to the existing building, to bring forward a research and development testing facility, control room, sound recording studio and common areas.
- Increased investment in research and innovation infrastructure, that catalyses collaboration with the SME business community, in sectors identified through smart specialisation.
- Provision of start up and move on office accommodation for digital technology SME's.
European Regional Development Fund
The project is receiving up to £3,250,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Great London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund.
North East Growth Infrastructure Fund
The project is receiving up to £968,830 of funding from the North East Growth Infrastructure Fund. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is the Managing Authority for the fund.