An incubator facility designed to hothouse ideas that offer solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges has opened in Sunderland.
The Innovation Zone has been created by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) to bring together people who are developing new products, processes and applications that address real world problems such as the design of low carbon transport.
Investment from the North East LEP has funded the refurbishment of an existing two-storey unit at the BIC’s Sunderland Enterprise Park site, creating an interactive environment designed to spark ideas, encourage collaboration and provide intensive business support.
Entrepreneurs, early stage and high-growth businesses from different sectors and disciplines will sit alongside one another and will be encouraged to embrace innovative thinking and practices to fast-forward their plans.
Paul McEldon, Chief Executive of the North East BIC, said: “Innovation is key to human progress, prosperity and happiness and it has been at the very heart of our ethos here at the BIC throughout our 25-year history. We have helped many innovative businesses on their own innovative journeys and have adapted our services to suit the needs of entrepreneurs.
“The Innovation Zone adds an exciting new dimension to what we already offer and the beauty of it is that it will be driven by market need. We will evolve the space to accommodate the needs of the region’s ideas people – providing open innovation facilities and a front door to support, learning, finance and commercial opportunities.
“In the past 10 years there has been an enormous rise in the number of dedicated incubator facilities. As one of 160 accredited Business and Innovation Centres around the world, we are really pleased to be able to follow international best practice.”
A number of existing accelerator projects and defined incubator projects have already made the Innovation Zone their home. The first two tenants confirmed are the Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator, delivered by Innovation SuperNetwork in partnership with the North East Joint Transport Committee and ENGIE, as part of the Go Ultra Low North East campaign, and Innovate: Grow, delivered jointly by Generator and Auxin Services.
“Simon Green, CEO of the Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “The Innovation Zone is all about stimulating creativity and collaboration to inspire new ideas and partnerships, which will impact on the region’s ability to deliver the big ideas to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges. It is the ideal place for the Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator businesses, providing a combination of open plan office working, break out areas and meeting rooms; giving our businesses the space they need to develop ideas into commercial propositions.”
By providing a physical space for idea development, the Innovation Zone aims to help link entrepreneurs with existing local, national and international programmes of support that can help them to develop their ideas and ultimately strengthen the regional economy.
Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP said: “The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has a great track record in supporting and nurturing innovation so we’re excited about the Innovation Zone and the possibilities it offers. Mixing different sectors and disciplines together with entrepreneurs and business start-ups creates a hotbed of creativity, innovate thinking and enthusiasm – and the conversations and introductions that will happen will help spark new ideas and accelerate development and ultimately help to deliver more and better jobs.”