A Cornish town is in line for a £10 million technology and design business centre as well as performance and educational facilities.
The proposed Smart Innovation Hub would be a collaboration between Wadebridge and Falmouth University and is planned for a riverside site on the opposite bank to the Camel Trail.
Along with the contemporary-designed building, a new footbridge is proposed to span the water.
A team from the town travelled to Falmouth this week to discuss the proposed centre with representatives of the university’s Academy of Innovation and Research (AIR).
They included the mayor, Tony Rush, members of Wadebridge Chamber of Commerce, community groups, including The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) and Cornwall councillor Stephen Knightley.
The hub is seen as an exciting new concept bringing together new businesses in developing fields, including smart energy and tele-health, using digital technology and superfast broadband to connect to global markets from within Cornwall.
The facility will provide growth and employment opportunities, with high-calibre jobs to retain Cornwall’s talent in Cornwall, so that students graduating from Falmouth or other universities will have more opportunity to stay in, or return to, the county.
It will also integrate cultural, performance and educational facilities within a space open to the public.
Professor Anne Carlisle, vice-chancellor of Falmouth University, said: “Creativity is as much a part of innovation as technology, and the university is keen to expand its collaboration with Wadebridge to explore the benefits that can come from addressing these opportunities.”
The visitors toured the university’s performance centre, to see digital technology at work in music and dance, and the design centre, where students work in various materials and use 3-D printing to create designs with practical and commercial application in healthcare and other areas, to gain a better understanding of what the hub would do.
Adrian Jones, chairman of the chamber of commerce, said the hub as an arts venue would attract people to the town, as well as providing new jobs.
Mr Knightley said the site being considered would open more of the river to the public, making better use of one of the town’s major assets.
Stephen Frankel, chairman of WREN, said: “The Smart Cornwall programme will provide sustainable jobs and economic opportunities. Wadebridge is only just beginning to explore the benefits, but is much further ahead than other places in Cornwall, and so well placed to attract facilities like this, if local people want them.”
Money for the new centre will come from EU funding, and the next steps will be to make the ideas more widely known in Wadebridge and to conduct a full feasibility study.
Wadebridge’s deputy mayor Pamela Sterling said: “We have seen some exciting things today, and we must make sure that people in the town are aware of this opportunity. It will be important to arrange an event so that people are fully involved in the next steps.”