A ground-breaking hub for developing hi-tech companies has been unveiled at a major North Wales business conference.
Business, planning and architectural experts at Denbighshire County Council have developed the concept of a building that can be an eco-system of ideas for advanced technology industries.
Delegates to the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Conference at the OpTIC Centre, at St Asaph Business Park, were given a virtual reality tour of the proposed new ‘move-on’ hub and the chance to see an artist’s impressions of it.
The hub is designed to be the next step for companies who have successfully started in the Optic Technium’s incubation spaces and which are now looking to move into larger premises which still retain the energetic campus feel of a research university.
The idea is still at the concept stage but business and planning experts at Denbighshire County Council believe it could help the county grow into a UK leader in the knowledge sector.
James Evans, Denbighshire’s Lead Officer for Inward Investment and High Growth, said they have been working on the concept as a natural progression for hi-tech companies incubated at the Optic Technium Centre and ready to develop.
He said: “It is designed for hi-tech businesses which are developing and are ready to make the next move and step up their activity, job creation and production but want to retain that knowledge-community atmosphere.
“We have worked with our own architects using 3-D modelling to create the concept of large hybrid units with flexible space that can be divided up and set around a central core.
“In that core there’s the opportunity for hot-desking and networking because we need that campus mentality where they can easily break out and meet up with people from other companies in a central area where ideas can be cross-fertilised.
“It’s about creating an eco-system of ideas and the St Asaph Business Park is the perfect place to do it because it is right on the A55 and it is already a centre of excellence in the opto-electronics industry.
“We are now at the stage of feasibility and this concept will act as a focal point when moving onto the next stage of discussions with key partners.
“We feel that by providing the right conditions for companies to grow we have the opportunity to develop and attract businesses which can provide well paid and high value jobs.”
The planned hub would be a satellite to the Optic Technium and would have a footprint of 1933 square metres, almost eight tennis courts, with a central space of 470 square metres and four satellite areas varying in size from just under 300 to just over 400 square metres.
Rebecca Maxwell, Denbighshire’s Economy Director, said: “Our aim is to work with businesses, other local authorities and the education and training sector to support the regional economy and create more and better jobs and industries and better productivity and rates of growth across the region.
“Across North Wales we have high value economic clusters such as energy digital and creative and advanced manufacturing and the opto-electronics cluster at St Asaph is part of that.
“One of the key areas we’ve identified is business support and incubation which is why we’ve developed the concept of a hub for businesses to move on to as they grow.
“The St Asaph Business Park is centrally located in North Wales with good communications along the A55, links with Wrexham Glyndwr University and with the opto-electronics sector and that is very attractive to businesses looking to locate to the area.
“A key aim of the Council’s work is to develop the local economy through its Economic and Community Ambition Programme, which aims to support healthy private businesses and create higher paid jobs.”
St Asaph has a track record in high quality manufacturing in the optics field going back to its 50-year association with glass giants Pilkington of St Helen’s who paved the way for the cluster of opto-electronics companies in the area.
That continues today through firms such as Qioptiq with their range of specialist glass for the medical, aerospace and industrial sectors and Phoenix Optical Technologies whose Armourdillo toughened glass goes into the cockpits of the F16 Fighting Falcon.
Elizabeth Peters, of Phoenix, and Peter White, of Qioptiq, recent winners of an £82 million Ministry of Defeence contract, were speakers at the conference which was compered by BBC Wales Economics Correspondent Sarah Dickins.
Other speakers included Dickie Davis OBE, Deputy Director for the Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Sector for the Welsh Government, and Neil Ashbridge, former Bank of England Agent for Wales.