The keys to a £100m research, innovation and teaching hub for space-related high-tech companies and researchers in Leicester have been handed over following the completion of the first phase of building work.
Developed by the University of Leicester in collaboration with local, national and international partners, the project will deliver a 52,000 sq ft facility including offices, shared laboratories, teaching facilities and co-working spaces, focusing primarily on research, development and applications of space.
Representatives from construction company Bowmer + Kirkland handed over the keys on Tuesday (April 20). The first phase of the project is scheduled to open in the summer.
Speaking at the keys handover, professor Nishan Canagarajah, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Leicester, said: “We are very excited to reach this major milestone in our exciting Space Park Leicester project, which brings us one step closer to seeing the first space scientists, researchers and business minds moving in to this brand-new facility.
“Space Park Leicester will reaffirm our city’s place as a hub for the UK space sector and serves as another example of the University’s commitment to world-changing, ground-breaking research, as we contribute to science not only on our planet, but beyond.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all of the colleagues and organisations who have helped in driving this project to this point, and I look forward to welcoming our first co-location partners later this year.”
Grant Bourhill, chief executive of Space Park Leicester, said: “The global space sector is expanding significantly, with some forecasts predicting a $1 trillion industry by 2040. Leicester has six decades of experience of space science, as well as the largest grouping of space-related researchers of any institution in the UK.
“With Space Park, we are aiming to leverage that capability and capacity to attract and grow space and space-enabled businesses. This will bring jobs to the East Midlands as well as create expanded opportunities for students and the wider community.”
Steve Chambers, Bowmer + Kirkland regional director, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be handing over stage one of this magnificent facility. Given that the past 12 months have been challenging, it is a remarkable achievement for the entire project team to achieve a successful handover and I’m sure that the teamwork and hard work from everyone involved with this scheme will see a successful conclusion to the next phase of the Space Park.”
Professor Sarah Davies, pro-vice chancellor and head of college for science and engineering, added: “It is our mission at the University of Leicester to provide a first-class education and enable opportunities for our students whilst also undertaking world-leading research that changes lives for the better. Space Park will be our focal point for that mission.”
Space Park Leicesteris being led by the University of Leicester in partnership with Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
Phase one development at Space Park Leicester is supported by an £8.2m allocation from the Local Growth Fund, part of government funding awarded to the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) for projects that benefit the local area and economy.
Leicester’s City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, said: “I’m very pleased to see the first phase of this major project completed. Together with the completion of our nearby workspaces at Dock 2 and the high-quality public realm improvements we have made in the area – including a new bridge over to Belgrave – this represents a big step forward for Leicester.”
Kevin Harris, chair of the LLEP board of directors, said: “Space Park Leicester is key to the economic future of our region. Leicester and Leicestershire will become an international hub of space technology and innovation, creating jobs and prosperity for years to come.
“It’s hugely exciting, therefore, to see the first phase of development of Space Park Leicester completed. It won’t be long before some of the most creative, cutting edge businesses can call the new facility home, and I’m immensely proud that the LLEP has been able to make such a major contribution to its development.”
The second phase of the development, also for collaborative work between industry and academia, will provide laboratories and workshops focused on artificial intelligence and robot-assisted satellite production. It is currently being built, with completion scheduled for Autumn.
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