An enterprise zone which aims to kickstart business growth and productivity has been officially launched at Staffordshire University.
The Innovation Enterprise Zone (IEZ) is one of 20 university enterprise zones announced last September, launched with a £20 million investment by Research England.
The new facility is housed inside the Mellor Building at the university’s Leek Road campus and boasts an incubation space, state-of-the-art laboratories and new materials testing and research and development (R&D) facilities.
This includes innovation labs which are equipped with the very latest advanced materials and advanced manufacturing technology for use by companies wanting to design, prototype and test new products.
Staffordshire University’s deputy vice-chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: “The IEZ is part of our civic responsibility to work with employers, primarily small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to help them grow and unlock their productivity challenges; and academics and students are crucial to this.
“We have an important part to play in creating high-value jobs that our graduates can apply for, to drive innovation and growth in specialist areas and provide SMEs with a vital stepping stone to succeed.
“The IEZ is our eco-system in that it is bringing together the businesses, the technology, research and academic expertise in an environment that allows ideas to flourish and innovation to grow.
“It’s important we act now to help the region’s economic recovery from covid-19.”
Marek Hornak, head of employer partnerships and enterprise at Staffordshire University, said: “The IEZ is ultimately an umbrella for provision for businesses in skills, innovation, enterprise and start-ups.
“During the pandemic we have seen companies having to diversify and access new markets, and the IEZ is the perfect place to be.
“Businesses can benefit from a wide range of resources and grants funding and access to students and researchers.
“We have a number of specialist products available where manufacturing companies can access our facilities to prototype new products, including 3D printers and robotic arms, we have specialist analysers in our Materials Lab and we have provision for digital innovation, so companies can adopt new digital products or invest in the development of new products.
“So there is a wide range of resources, expertise and help they can access.”
Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the launch of the facility.
She said: “The resource Staffordshire University is offering is going to be fantastic in helping our SMEs to grow and if we can do that across the board we’ll have a completely different economic base very quickly, and that will make a massive difference to the opportunities for people across Staffordshire.”