Innovation hub at BT to create 200 jobs

PROPOSALS have been unveiled for a �5.35 million “innovation hub” at BT's Martlesham Heath complex which could create 200 new jobs.

Richard Cornwell

PROPOSALS have been unveiled for a �5.35 million “innovation hub” at BT's Martlesham Heath complex which could create 200 new jobs.

Suffolk County Council is proposing to invest �500,000 in the scheme, which would strengthen the Adastral Park site as a regional centre of excellence for information and communications technology.

BT is prepared to open up its site to outside businesses and is giving an acre for the project.

A new three or four-storey building would provide about 28,000 square feet of space for let to kick-start up to 40 new small businesses. The aim is to open in December 2010.

Details of the development - the first stage in what could be a future massive expansion of the BT site with 2,000 homes, employment sites, hotel, school and leisure facilities - are revealed in a report to the county council's cabinet tomorrow .

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Councillors are recommended to agree a �500,000 contribution - public money is not considered to be a grant to BT since the company will derive no benefit from the innovation hub - while East of England Development Agency has pledged �3.35m, the Haven Gateway Partnership �1m, and other public bodies �500,000.

Programme manager Mike Dowdall said: “Suffolk's economic development strategy aims to encourage the growth of high value added business sectors which will drive up skill levels in the local workforce.

“The ICT sector is a key potential growth sector for Suffolk, given the presence of BT's research base at Adastral Park and the number of ICT businesses already in existence in and around Ipswich linked to the BT presence.

“Experience shows that the creation of an Innovation Hub can be a successful way of stimulating cluster development by providing space and support for start up and growing businesses.

“The objectives of the development are to house knowledge businesses and to act as the second phase in the rejuvenation of Adastral Park as a major centre for ICT research and development.”

The first phase was the refurbishment of the former airfield officers' mess into small business units late last year.

“The proposed Hub is considered essential to boost the competitiveness of the county and region by building on its strength as a science and technology base,” added Mr Dowdall.

The next stage would be to draw up agreements between the organisations involved in the venture and finalise funding.