Members of Sunderland Business Group met recently at Hope Street Xchange, the University of Sunderland’s new centre for enterprise and innovation, designed to support the city’s entrepreneurial growth.
Hope Street Xchange is a £10m centre for enterprise and innovation, funded by the University of Sunderland and supported by £4.9m investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund. The centre supports fledgling start-ups and offers space for existing businesses to develop and grow. Located on the University’s city centre campus, it also serves as a gateway to the University’s research, expertise and problem solving provision.
Sunderland Business Group was behind the initial proposal for a one-stop shop to increase entrepreneurship in the city and tackle the low levels of enterprise and business start-ups in the region. Representing leaders from public and private sectors, the Business Group works collaboratively on strategic projects to support Sunderland’s growth and prosperity; the University is one of the group’s founding members, and has been central to its many successful initiatives, all of which have benefited the city.
Shirley Atkinson, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland, commented: “The Business Group’s vision was to create a hub where businesses can interact with the University to support their innovation and growth. That could be for internships and placements, knowledge transfer partnerships or higher or degree apprenticeships. We also wanted to support creative endeavour through access to facilities and laboratory space – including the region’s first FabLab where designers and entrepreneurs can prototype ideas using the latest digital fabrication facilities.
“The approach proposed by Business Group partners resonates with our University’s vision, as outlined in our Strategic Plan ‘We are the Tomorrow Makers’. This plan, which we launched last autumn, sets out a bold ambition for Sunderland graduates to become the future leaders of societies and economies. The plan also articulates the University’s role as an anchor institution in the North East, making significant social, economic and cultural contributions to its locality. A recent independent economic impact study estimates that the University generates £432m GVA for the North East economy, supporting 5,400 jobs, we’re very proud of that impact and that our ‘Tomorrow Makers’ vision will become reality through this University and city initiative.”
Now open, Hope Street Xchange will accommodate 49 established businesses and 150 new business ventures, creating almost 400 jobs in innovative, high-growth sectors linked to the University’s academic strengths and research practice, including advanced manufacturing and technology, health sciences, business and finance, and the creative and cultural sector.
Hope Street Xchange will also provide immediate access to a wealth of ‘real life’ applied research, practical business advice, expert mentoring, knowledge transfer partnerships and support through student work placements and graduate interns.
Hans Moller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “The finished building provides a nurturing environment to support innovative entrepreneurialism and welcomes businesses large and small to engage with the University. We’re excited to see the great things that will no doubt emerge from such an enterprising initiative.”
As well as the region’s first FabLab the centre includes hatchery and hot-desk space for University staff and student enterprise projects, flexible light-industrial, laboratory and office space for businesses seeking to co-locate with the University, a new home for the University’s graduate enterprise development facility, and a choice of 30 Grade A offices plus workshops, conference area and meeting spaces.
A team of advisers, including a dedicated business development support team provide a wrap around service for the Hope Street Xchange community of entrepreneurs, businesses, and fledgling enterprises.
The £270m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.