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Lincoln Science and Innovation Park could create 2,000 jobs

As phase one of the city project nears completion, site director Tom Blount explains his vision...

One man hopes his test-tube business community will be a breeding ground for trust and mutual understanding. 

Tom Blount is bringing businesses and academics together inside the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park, close to Ruston Way.  He hopes medium-sized firms and academic talent moving on to the site will create new innovations and growth together.  The park could create £50 million of investment and 2,000 jobs by the time it is finished, in 25 to 30 years' time.

"Part of the rationale for a science park here is to co-locate business and academia – that injects innovation," director Mr Blount said.  You create opportunities to make use of those really highly skilled, interesting and innovative students, but also you create an environment that is designed to nurture mid-sized businesses .  That is important because those are the businesses that are small enough to be really innovative, but large enough to have the resources to bring new products to market, whether that be to consumer markets or to sell into big businesses.  Yes, we are putting buildings up, but we are not a traditional property developer. Buildings are just the physical manifestation of what we are really doing, and that's building a community."

A £33,000 master plan was approved by City of Lincoln councillors on August 3, and some planning applications for phase two of four could go before the public and planners in 2016.  Mr Blount said this is a chance for local businesses to shape the facilities they need to grow.  "There is an opportunity right now to influence what we are doing, to talk about how we can build a site that is suitable for as wide a range of firms as possible, whether they be tenants or visitors," he said.  "I'd be very keen to talk to anybody with ideas, because it is meant to be something for the business community, and to be driven by the business community." 

Mr Blount's vision is already becoming a reality.  Since starting the venture three years ago, around £15 million has been spent giving Lincolnshire a world-class laboratory in the form of the Joseph Banks Laboratories.  Phase one of the park is almost completed, with the already-built Think Tank, Minster House and Joseph Banks facility.  A planning application for the Boole Technology Centre, named after Lincoln-born self-taught mathematician George Boole, is on the horizon. Phase two land will have a 75 per cent split between commercial buildings and academia.  Phase three is for land west of the site, and will need a highway to create a loop road and open up development plots nearer to the railway.  Phase four is south of Beevor Street, could see single or double-storey buildings created for film studios, engineering and testing facilities or conference space.  "We have raised the best part of £7 million to do our next phase of development, plus bring the phase one site up to scratch," Mr Blount said.  "Phase one will have by the end of next year 13,500 square metres, split 50-50 into academic and commercial. Phase two is designed to extend that, so we will have a 75 per cent commercial presence on phase two.  "They might be individual businesses occupying their own building, for example.  "We will build some speculatively, but equally we will work with businesses to meet their needs, whether that be price or fit-out. We'll start marketing our next build, the Boole Technology Centre, in the autumn and hope to fill it relatively quickly."

Future phases three and four will need private sector interest. However, Mr Blount said it is all part of the wider plan for the park, which he wants to see invest back into the economy.  "One of the nice things about science parks is because you are putting up buildings, those have a very obvious business model around them," he said.  "As you start to bring in the added value services, you are able to attract much more private sector money to do future developments.  Ultimately, once you have a profitable business you can reinvest back into the local economy."  That could mean satellite sites across Lincolnshire created or helped by the park.  "To a certain extent they already exist, there are incubator centres in lots of areas," Mr Blount said.  "One of the problems is they don't necessarily have links into one another. If those don't exist in particular sectors or in areas, then we could look to help create them.  I'm very keen this isn't seen as a Lincoln development, because science parks have long reaches.  This has to be something being done for the whole of Lincolnshire.  Everyone talks about Lincoln's great industrial past – Lincoln's got a great engineering present.  We just need to find a way of unlocking that so the benefits spiral out into the wider economy."


Source: Lincolnshire Echo

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