We were excited to welcome The Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Twickenham, to Hope Street Xchange this month as part of his tour of the University of Sunderland.
Vince Cable met with a team from the University, including Vice-Chancellor Shirley Atkinson, and talked with small business holder Mike Dodds – whose company Ezetool is based in Hope Street Xchange. During a tour of Fab Lab Sunderland, now based in our centre, technician Carl Gregg talked about the community work and links happening in the innovation space, where anyone can make almost anything.
Mr Cable commented: “While I was here I wanted to see the University, which has an excellent reputation but is not well known and what I’ve seen here reinforces the view that this is a highly successful institution, which engages with the local community, has high participation from kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and offers support for the local business community.
“One of the underlying problems in the UK is that we have very low productivity in comparisons to countries such as Germany and some of that is lack of investment, but in particular lack of investment in skills and innovation. I think that what happens here and particularly this new emphasis on higher level apprenticeship, degree level, is an extraordinarily good model. The University is marrying the very high standards of the academic world with the practical needs of business and industry.”
Vince Cable was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2010 to 2015, so it was fantastic to be able to show him the latest centre for Enterprise and Innovation in the North East.
Launched earlier this year, Hope Street Xchange was developed by the University with £4.9m investment support from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Local Growth Fund and £2.23 million from the European Regional Development Fund.
Based on the City Campus it links the University to the region’s small business community by supporting fledgling start-ups and offering space for existing businesses to develop and grow. From here businesses can access students and graduates with the skills they need – through a range of options including placements, internships and knowledge transfer partnerships – as well as connecting them with the University’s world-leading research base, sector expertise and specialised hi-tech equipment.
The centre was initiated by Sunderland Business Group, which aims to support entrepreneurship and increase the number of business start-ups with support from the North East LEP.
The University’s Internships and Enterprise project, based in Hope Street Xchange, is receiving up to £2,207,656 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visithttps://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding
For more information go to: http://www.nelep.co.uk/