Lancaster Environment Centre expands
Forty businesses have been given a preview of part of the £8.4 million extension to the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) which will include accommodation for companies wishing to benefit from Lancaster University’s expertise and provide a new home for the University’s Department of Geography.
LEC is a £25m million joint venture between Lancaster University and the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
The three-storey extension, which is still under construction, has been made possible by £3.5 million of pledged external funds from the European Regional Development Fund and the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), in addition to University funding.
When complete early in 2007, a significant part of the third phase of development will provide accommodation for businesses wishing to co-locate alongside the Lancaster science base, house LEC’s Enterprise and Business Partnerships team and provide space for the Research and Development activities of several larger commercial organisations as well as accommodation for start-up businesses from both outside and within the University.
The 40 companies on a tour of the extension included environmental consultants, contaminated land experts and the individuals from the nuclear industry. Following the tour, companies joined with their host Professor Trevor McMillan (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research) and the guest of honour Joe Dwek CBE (Board Member of the NWDA) for a celebratory dinner in the main atrium.
Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Enterprise & Business Partnerships said: “The event has provided some of our partner companies with an early opportunity to view the facilities we’re developing and understand how co-location alongside such a significant centre for R&D can add value into their businesses.
“By 2012, we have a target of 45 companies who will have moved through here and we hope some of these who looked round will co-locate in these facilities.”
Also moving into the new extension is the Geography Department, which will leave its current home in the Physics building for purpose-built laboratory and office premises.
Geography’s Head of Department Professor Barbara Maher said: “This re-location will enable much closer collaboration and everyday interaction between Geography and its fellow LEC departments and CEH, leading to new research opportunities and greater integration of teaching and administrative provision.”
The new construction will also provide facilities for the training of students in the environmental and biosciences fields in the principles and practical aspects underpinning the commercialisation of scientific research and technology innovation in business.
Dr Bacon said: “This project will see that science graduates from Lancaster will be better equipped to enter into careers within high-technology, science-based businesses, many of which are located within the North West.
“The project is designed to make a significant, measurable impact on the economic development and prosperity of the North West by tapping into the expertise held at Lancaster University. We will help businesses and their employees working in partnership with LEC, by providing new market opportunities to safeguard and increase sales and jobs.”
The new building will also create an outdoor courtyard space at the centre of LEC providing staff and students with a place to relax, study and plan new research projects.
Mark Hughes, NWDA Executive Director of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills, said:
“Encouraging stronger collaboration between businesses and universities is vital to improving the region’s competitiveness, enabling businesses to exploit the wealth of knowledge and expertise available through our world class learning and education sector. The Agency is pleased to support this scheme, which will provide businesses with a strong link to the research and development facilities of Lancaster University, and will be a powerful tool for the creation of new enterprises.”