‘Shovel-ready’ South West centre for fast-growth STEMM businesses is underway

Construction is underway at Exeter Science Park on a £5million specialist centre for fast-growth STEMM businesses – just seven months after government funding was secured for a ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure project to drive growth and create jobs.

The new three-storey, 14,000sqft Grow-out Space, just off Junction 29 of the M5, will provide flexible office and laboratory space for businesses in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine sectors (STEMM).

Funding was secured in August 2020 from the Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ and allocated to Exeter Science Park by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) from their £35.4 million share of the national pot. It’s one of the first Getting Building Fund projects to begin construction in the area.

The Park has also responded to a growing demand in the last 12 months for laboratory space. With more companies requiring it, the Grow-out Space building design has been changed so that all three floors can accommodate laboratories, rather than just one.

The new development will provide maturing businesses with a much-needed stepping stone from the Science Park Centre’s existing incubation space, which is for small, fast growing companies. When they relocate to the Grow-out Space it will release space for more, smaller start-ups, to move onto the Park, supporting local recovery and driving the South-West’s productivity and economic growth.

Sustainability and the environment is at the heart of the building’s design. It will be BREEAM Excellent – a method used to assess its sustainability and will also be net-zero carbon for operational energy.

The project has seen the fastest turnaround of any building scheme undertaken by the Park and has been made possible thanks to collaboration between client, consultants, contractors and designers. As soon as funding was secured detailed designs were drawn up, planning application submitted, and a contractor procured through the Southern Construction Framework within a few months. Nearly three quarters of the men and women involved during the construction phase will be from the Greater Exeter area.

Contractor Morgan Sindall was appointed in October 2020 and plans to complete work by November 2021. Due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, a virtual celebration is being held on Friday 12th February to mark the cutting of the turf and the start of work.

Dr Sally Basker, CEO of Exeter Science Park, said: “This latest investment is another stamp of confidence in Exeter Science Park helping to grow the very best STEMM businesses by providing the right environment and facilitating collaboration among like-minded, ambitious businesses.

“It’s difficult to emphasise how fast this project has reached this point – it really is quite remarkable. Compared to a conventional build programme, we’ve saved up to 33% of the time involved.  This has required close collaboration between the Exeter Science Park, Morgan Sindall, LHC Design working for NPS South West Property Consultants and the Southern Construction Framework. We only found out on the 1st August that we had secured the funding so this is a great achievement for all involved.

“Exeter Science Park helps innovative STEMM companies to deliver extraordinary growth and these are exactly the kinds of businesses that will help accelerate economic recovery post COVID-19. This development marks the start of the next phase of growth for the park and provides firms with the space to grow and thrive.”

Brian Rice, Area Director for Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “We are really pleased to celebrate the start of work with this virtual ceremony. Exeter Science Park is a key asset for the region’s knowledge economy. The new building will provide the ideal space to scale for innovative SMEs working in high-growth STEMM industries. With a net-zero carbon design, the development will be key to a green recovery and set the standard for sustainable workspaces in the region.

“Taking this project from planning to ground-breaking in just six months required the effective collaboration and early engagement made possible by the Southern Construction Framework procurement route. We look forward to working closely with everyone involved to ensure the scheme is delivered safely and efficiently.”

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The HotSW LEP’s Getting Building Fund aims to support ready-to-go projects that will deliver new jobs and contribute to our area’s post-COVID recovery. We are delighted to have agreed £5m for Exeter Science Park’s Grow-Out building – one of the largest awards we’ve given through this fund. It is fantastic to see the building getting underway so quickly, which will provide a vital stepping stone for SMEs looking to grow their business and create further opportunities for smaller companies to move onto the park.”

The Grow-out Building 3 has been designed by architects LHC Design, working for NPS South West Property Consultants, and procured using the Southern Construction Framework.

Exeter Science Park Limited is the Park developer and has four shareholders: Devon County Council, the University of Exeter, East Devon District Council and Exeter City Council.

For more information about Exeter Science Park, visit www.exetersciencepark.co.uk or to register your interest for space in the Grow-out Building, email contact@exetersciencepark.co.uk.