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Innovation Centre celebrates five years and launches new technology offering

3M BIC turns five and officially launches the Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project

One of the UK’s first business innovation centres, based in Yorkshire, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week, and has officially launched the Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project (HIIP) as it looks ahead to the future.

Set up as a one-stop-shop for business support and providing companies across the Leeds City Region with access to advanced technologies, the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) based on Firth Street in Huddersfield, is celebrating five successful years this week. To mark the milestone, it has officially launched the HIIP which has enabled the Centre to enhance its technology offering for businesses in the region, including x-ray, microscopy, metrology, metal additive manufacture, virtual reality and data analytics facilities.

A wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Huddersfield, the 3M BIC was built as a business for business, providing access to high-quality technology and commercial support. The Centre was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Kirklees Council to aid regional economic development up until 2013.

It was officially opened on 21 May 2013 by the Duke of York. Fast forward five years and the 3M BIC has accommodated 55 tenants, supported over 300 associate businesses and network members, and provided 20 placements for students from the University of Huddersfield, over half of which were employed by tenants, with many securing permanent roles. The Centre has also invested over £4m in technology.

The HIIP has been funded through a £2.9m grant from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal – a £1bn package of government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

The funding has enabled significant investment in state-of-the-art technology at the 3M BIC to aid business growth. Facilities now include: a self-serve digital “space” equipped with a range of 3D printers, virtual reality, 4K videography; a fully supported metal additive manufacturing (AM) centre of excellence; an imaging suite equipped with optical, laser and electron microscopy equipment; metrology grade X-Ray CT; a visualisation suite for product design, animation, and business data analytics and High Performance Computing, plus a fully equipped software training suite that can accommodate 18 delegates. 

Prof Liz-Towns-Andrews, CEO of the 3M BIC, said: “The concept for the 3M BIC was to create a state-of-the-art centre for the co-location of spin-in companies alongside the University of Huddersfield. It was all about breaking down those barriers between industry and academia. We’ve created a one-stop-shop where businesses can innovate, collaborate, and help facilitate local and regional regeneration, as well as transfer knowledge with universities, such as Huddersfield.

“Its innovative approach directly impacts the growth of tenants and network members, as well as the regional economy. Any profits get ploughed back into the Centre to improve its offering to other businesses, and thanks to funding, such as the HIIP, we have been able to grow our offering significantly, to ensure we remain at the forefront.

“Looking to the future, we are hoping to engage with more micro businesses in the region, as well as streamline our business support triage system in response to customer need.”

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “Leeds City Region has a rich heritage of innovation and invention and this can only be strengthened with the opening of world-class facilities at the Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project. Services like HIIP – alongside the LEP’s own Access Innovation programme that provides funding and support for businesses that want to develop new products and process – are helping to boost local business productivity and our City Region economy for the long-term.”

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “The new facilities provided through the Huddersfield Innovation and Incubation Project will enable businesses from Kirklees and beyond to boost their innovation footprint and overall productivity. Local Growth Deal funding is supporting Kirklees companies to compete on the national and international stage for digital, design and smart manufacturing as well as creating jobs and growing the economy for the long-term.”

Sir Andrew Witty recognised the 3M BIC as an exemplar of SME support and innovation in his report ‘Encouraging a British Invention Revolution: Sir Andrew Witty’s Review of Universities and Growth’ in 2013. It also featured in the Government’s independent review of industrial digitalisation, Made Smarter Review 2017, led by Professor Juergen Maier, CEO Siemens UK, as a Digital Innovation Asset in the North West region.