Chancellor opens University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon George Osborne MP, officially opened the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park today (Friday, January 16, 2015).

Welcomed by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, the Chancellor saw the latest analytical laboratories being used by both students and industrial partners, and heard the ambitious plans that the University has for an integrated approach to academic and commercial developments over the next five years, designed to support economic developments in the North West.

As part of the visit the Chancellor also met with Matt Tuck, the Managing Director of Mdecon, a newly formed SME working in the Park, which increased turnover by 25% following Government investment. The company has world class problem solving capability across sectors and is currently working on ground breaking technology for metals surface decontamination which will result in significant reductions in environmental impact and waste generation, suitable for oil and gas, nuclear and other global sectors.

He also met Professor Graham Smith, Head of the Department of Natural Sciences in the Faculty of Science and Engineering and saw a demonstration of the Scanning Electron Microscope which provides high-magnification optical images of materials.

Thornton Science Park, the University of Chester’s fifth campus, provides a major research and innovation hub for the North West which blends academic excellence with commercial enterprise and has a key role to play in changing the landscape of British science and the creation of a Northern Powerhouse.

In the Autumn Statement, the Natural Environment Research Council and British Geological Survey, working with the University of Chester, received a share of £31 million of investment to research energy technology. This funding will help fund a new centre at Thornton, conducting world leading research on a wide range of energy technologies.

This forms part of a series of major developments for Thornton Science Park over the past 12 months. Co-located at Thornton, the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering welcomed its first cohort of students in October 2014. It is committed to promoting high-calibre research that is responsive to industry needs and it has active research collaborations with partners which feed into undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. From September 2014, the School of Computer Science and Mathematics joined the site at Thornton.

The University’s High Growth Centre is also based at Thornton Science Park and offers a unique blend of industry, innovation and academia.

Co-funded by the University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the High Growth Centre offers SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) and new start-up businesses valuable advice and support. Designed specifically for companies operating in the Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Engineering and Environmental sectors, it delivers a much needed boost to the region.

In November, the University was named as a participant in the establishment of a National College for Onshore Oil and Gas by the UKOOG, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry. Jointly funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the onshore oil and gas industry, the National College will draw together a number of leading education and training institutions and industrial partners to deliver training programmes which will meet the onshore industry’s future skills needs.

The National College activities will complement the announcement in July 2014 of an Energy Systems Demonstrator, for which £6.8 million has been provisionally allocated. This is part of a national Government funding announcement, forming part of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Growth Deal proposal.

In addition to the Government’s commitment to invest £6.8m in the Thornton Energy Demonstrator, other partners and stakeholders have committed to investing a further £11m into this project.

Drawing on the capital equipment, facilities and experience of Thornton Science Park and the academic expertise of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering based there, the Thornton Energy Demonstrator will enable energy companies to test at scale new power saving and distribution technologies, for the development of low cost, environmentally responsible sources of energy. It will also explore behavioural aspects of energy consumption over the next 30 years.

The University of Chester’s portion of the funding forms part of the Government and the Cheshire and Warrington LEP’s commitment to support the expansion of science and innovation. It adds value to the projects already being developed on site and supports the next stage of the vision, which should see the University form part of the upcoming energy systems catapult development (A ‘catapult’ is a technology and innovation centre where the very best of the UK’s businesses, scientists and engineers can work side by side on research and development, transforming ideas into new products and services to generate economic growth).

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “This is a far sighted investment by Government to ensure Britain’s future energy security over the coming decades in a manner that is both sustainable and sensitive to the need to protect our environment.”

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “Thornton Science Park’s cutting edge research exemplifies what makes the UK’s scientific and industrial base great.

“Research hubs like Thornton create jobs, contribute to the economy and support Britain’s businesses, which is why they are key to the Government’s long term economic plan across the country, and to creating a Northern Powerhouse.  That’s why I’m delighted that Thornton will be receiving a share of Government funding to create a new centre of energy technology excellence as part of our drive to create a Northern Powerhouse.”

Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: “I am delighted to have participated in the development of the site and I am grateful to the Chancellor for joining us for today’s opening. At Thornton the University has started on an exciting journey and almost every week progress is made. The fact that there is widespread political support across both major parties will, I am sure, give future partners confidence that the long term vision can be realised.”

Graham Evans, MP for Weaver Vale, said: “Thornton Science Park will become a major research and innovation hub for the North West, Cheshire and Weaver Vale benefiting University of Chester students, entrepreneurs and start ups and the wider community.

“It is also a vital part of the M56 Science Corridor and the Northern Powerhouse all made possible by this governments Long Term Economic Plan.”

Thornton Science Park Opening with Chancellor George Osbourne an

Graham Evans MP, Professor Graham Smith, Andrew Miller MP and Rt Hon George Osborne.

Thornton Science Park Opening with Chancellor George Osbourne an

Professor Graham Smith, Andrew Miller MP and Rt Hon George Osborne

Thornton 3

Graham Evans MP, Andrew Miller MP, Professor Nick Avis, Professor Graham Smith and Rt Hon George Osborne.

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