Government approves funding for new Lancaster University Enterprise Zone

Alexandra Square at Lancaster University

A new ‘University Enterprise Zone’ for Lancaster will drive economic growth, create jobs and help businesses develop innovative new products and services.

Building on Lancaster University’s strengths in data science, advanced manufacturing, health innovation and cyber security, the ‘Secure Digitalisation University Enterprise Zone (SecureD UEZ) will support businesses to benefit from digitisation in a safe and secure way.

SecureD will encourage the widespread adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies to drive economic growth, while ensuring vital digital elements are safe and protected. This will be achieved through a package of bespoke support, as well as delivering a suite of world-class manufacturing facilities for businesses to benefit from.

SecureD, which will focus on the key regional priority sectors of advanced manufacturing and digital health services, is to be funded with more than £1.47 million from Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, announced today by Science Minister Chris Skidmore.

He said:  “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Lancaster has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.

“Alongside this, many of Lancaster’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.

“Today’s funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Lancaster University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”

The UEZ will support high-growth technology businesses through a package of bespoke assistance, via a Secure Digitalisation Accelerator Programme. This programme builds on an existing pilot, and will support new and existing companies in adopting industrial digital technologies, such as additive manufacturing, securely and safely.

This support activity benefits from Lancaster University’s strong track-record of delivering business support packages to more than 10,000 SMEs creating and safeguarding more than 10,000 jobs, includes tried and tested features such as mentoring, peer to peer networking as well as the opportunity to hear from a series of inspirational speakers.

Lancaster University is recognised as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research by the NCSC and EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). The creation of a new suite of world-class secure digital fabrication, and secure data handling facilities will supplement Lancaster University’s substantial existing investments in industrial-focused science and technology capability. 

New investments will enable access to sensitive public-sector data sets (for example Health, Social Service and Criminal). This will offer opportunities to glean data science insights that will drive rapid innovation and commercialisation of a range of services to help deliver wider benefits to society, for example through real-time monitoring of patients or developing personalised treatments and improve health outcomes and products.

There will also be investments in additive manufacturing facilities for high temperature polymer technologies – a capability that is currently very limited across the UK. These technologies and techniques benefit a range of applications such as components for aerospace, medical or healthcare. The new facilities, along with academic expertise, will be available to businesses helping them to access sensitive data sets securely and rapid-prototype customised, high-end products.

Dion Williams, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation at Lancaster University, said: “As we seek to address the national productivity gap, the SecureD University Enterprise Zone presents a fundamental opportunity to deliver increased uptake of industrial digital technologies across our region’s business base and particularly by Small and Medium sized Enterprises.

“By bringing together the combined expertise within our academic faculties and research institutes, along with the provision of new and existing world-class facilities that would otherwise be beyond the reach of many SMEs, SecureD will provide a critical mass to drive skills and innovation, and deliver local, regional and national economic growth.”

Lancaster’s SecureD UEZ responds to three Government strategies: The Made Smarter review, the National Industrial Strategy and the National Cyber Security Strategy.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “These 20 University Enterprise Zones funded by Research England will be important focal points for collaboration in business-friendly environments, driving innovation and delivering benefits that will be felt across economies at the local, regional and national scale.”

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: "The University Enterprise Zones will act as focal points for collaboration in business-friendly environments, driving innovation and delivering benefits that will be felt across economies as local, regional and national scale.

“They demonstrate that universities are at the cutting edge of technology incubation and are committed to delivering on the government's place agenda." 

The SecureD University Enterprise Zone, one of 20 University Enterprise Zones nationally, benefits from the academic and research excellence of Lancaster University, ranked among the top-10 nationally by all UK league tables, and builds on a strong pedigree of business engagement, further cementing the University’s position as an economic anchor institution for the region.

SecureD builds on several key Lancaster-led programmes: the Digital Accelerator Programme for Lancashire, delivered in partnership with the Lancashire local Enterprise Partnership; the Advanced Manufacturing Skills Development and Employer Engagement project in partnership with BAE Systems and the Lancashire Enterprise Zone; the University’s involvement in the Government’s Institute of Code, which aims to raise digital skills across the UK; and the Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry project, which works alongside SMEs to drive business growth from cyber security innovation regardless of the SMEs industrial sector.

Lancaster University also has two joint research centres, in digital joining technologies and additive manufacturing, with TWI, a leading research technology organisation.

Lancaster University Management School collaborates with the Government’s Be the Business campaign and leads the Productivity through People programme, which develops leaders at manufacturing SMEs to raise productivity in the sector.

Lancaster University also co-led the Government-commissioned Lancashire and Sheffield Science and Innovation Audit, which detailed how integration of digital technologies in manufacturing will increase productivity and add value for businesses.

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