Plymouth University is in the running for a major national award for its role in helping boost job creation in the Westcountry.
The Cornwall Innovation programme, managed by Plymouth University on behalf of Cornwall Council, has created hundreds of jobs and attracted millions of pounds in investment since it opened its first innovation centre at Pool in 2010.
Now it has been shortlisted in the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category of the 2014 Times Higher Education Awards.
It is the latest accolade linked to the University’s enterprise agenda, which now also includes plans to expand the outreach of the innovation programme outside Cornwall.
In 2013, its Formation Zone and Innovation Centres were independently ranked among the world’s best by UK Business Incubation (UKBI), while it has successfully bid for millions of pounds in Government funding, which – through the Growth, Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) – has been distributed to local businesses.
Professor Julian Beer, pro vice-chancellor for regional enterprise at Plymouth University, said: “The key focus of our enterprise agenda is to create a climate where businesses across the region can thrive, and generate opportunities for them to succeed and grow.
“It is an approach held as an exemplar both locally and globally, with public and private sector recognising our expertise can help them both create jobs and attract inward investment.
“This nomination is further proof our work is having a genuine impact in transforming lives and communities, while growing a sustainable knowledge economy that benefits both the region and the University.”
The Cornwall Innovation programme is centred around three hubs – the Pool Innovation Centre (PIC), the Tremough Innovation Centre (TIC) at Penryn, and the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre (HWIC), on the Cornwall NHS Hospitals Trust site in Truro – which were built with £45 million of European funding.
Together they are home to dozens of small firms and by providing relevant support and expertise, the three centres have enabled their clients to create a total of 216 jobs, safeguard a further 76 and grow revenues by more than £9.3m.
Amanda Barlow, managing director of skincare manufacturer Spiezia Organics, said: “Moving to HWIC made the most amazing positive changes to how quickly we’ve been able to grow and expand.
"As a result of the fantastic facilities at HWIC for our manufacturing labs and the very tangible support from the Cornwall Innovation team, we’ve been able to improve productivity, expand sales, link in with other businesses who can help us, and grow at a much faster rate than we would have been able to if we were based anywhere else.”
Julian German, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, said: “The impact of the Cornwall Innovation project upon the tenants has been transformative and with more than 200 jobs created, and growth rates more than double the average, we are seeing the benefits of knowledge transfer from higher education to our SMEs.
“One of the reasons for that success has been the supportive communities and networks that Plymouth University has helped create within each centre, across the three centres, and further afield and we have every confidence in its continued development.”
The Times Higher Education Awards winners will be announced at a ceremony in London in November.