Economic development award - Norfolk CC
Norfolk CC was at the vanguard of establishing an economic development strategy with a sector focus as far back in 1997. The advanced engineering sector has been ever-present at the heart of the strategy.
Following extensive consultation with the industry (with key input from Lotus and at least 12 other major players in the sector), the concept of a centre to incubate new, and actively encourage the growth of existing, business was developed. The drive, both within and external to the centre, has been through supporting innovation, the adoption of new technology and the spreading of best practice.
The original 3,000m2 £5m Engineering Centre, largely funded by the county council with support from East of England Development Agency and South Norfolk Council, provided incubation space (27 units - offices and workshops), meeting rooms for networking and collaboration as well as technical facilities and a Learning Skills Centre focused on schools, colleges and universities.
The winning council had put great emphasis on building a culture within the hub around a constant drive for best practice, innovation, skills development and above all to make the environment inspiring to young people
The site for the Hethel Engineering Centre (HEC) was carefully chosen next to the Group Lotus site and its test track - where more than 1,200 highly skilled staff are employed. It is part of a longer-term vision to create a science and technology park on an adjacent 55-acre site. The Lotus Science and Technology Park will more than double the size of the existing cluster, to be a major centre of engineering excellence containing 4,000 highly skilled engineers - one of the largest advanced low carbon automotive clusters in Europe.
The county council has been proud of this project from the outset and, whilst it has been celebrated widely at a local level, we have had little opportunity to present it to the rest of the UK as a significant intervention. By the end of 2009-10, the centre was full and had incubated 32 new businesses, with only two business failures. Those businesses created around 114 high skilled jobs, and the businesses supported by HEC in the wider community safeguarded a further 40 jobs. Over 4,400 businesses were supported by HEC resulting in nearly £3.1m in added value.
Also, HEC had delivered over 7,050 training people-days and HEC’s Learning Skills Centre engaged over 8,100 students. This success led to the need to expand, and a further £2.1m was raised (half from EEDA, and the rest from the county and South Norfolk Council) to build a further 1,000m2 of space and that was opened in autumn 2010. This was a key milestone and provided the ideal opportunity to present a highly credible project to the country through a submission to the LGC awards.
Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk CC, said: “The award by the LGC is recognition of the drive to support excellence in the region and a celebration of the strong regional partnership that has built up around HEC.
“However, it also presents a great opportunity to develop links on a national or even international stage. The vision has a great deal further to go, if it is to create 1,000s of new jobs and the centre management would like to work more closely with some of the other iconic engineering centres across the UK and beyond if it is to succeed.
“HEC has already become renowned as a venue for high profile events, conferences and exhibitions. The award will give added impetus to the drive to bring even more people and businesses to the centre during the coming months.”
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