The experience of the Hethel Engineering Centre project in helping young businesses to innovate will be exported across the eastern region with the launch of a new company today.

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Norfolk County Council – which owns the centre – has set up Hethel Innovation Ltd to deliver a £7.8m project with funding from the European Development Fund (ERDF) and a loan from Norfolk County Council to help new and existing businesses to innovate.

Simon Coward, director of innovation and enterprise at the Hethel, said that UK research had shown that companies that innovate grew twice as fast.

“For us innovation is key to ensuring you remain competitive in tight markets,” he added.

He said that the aim of the company was to create an environment across the region with an embedded innovation culture.

“We want people working together in these communities and coming up with new ideas, products and processes by being together, not just in Hethel but across the region, so that we can link up innovation hubs and we can create clusters,” he added.

He said the centre had already shown this with Hethel, adding: “We have developed the ideas into frameworks, products, vehicles that we can use and other people can use to innovate.”

He said that at Hethel there were incubators where people could not just innovate but experiment.

“You have got to make mistakes,” he said. “It is about creating places where people can learn to make mistakes. We are about facilitating innovation.”

The new company will be aimed at businesses in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector.

Hethel Innovation Ltd will hold events, workshops, challenges and visits and it is hoping to work with 300 businesses, create 24 start-up businesses and 240 jobs over the course of the programme.

It is hoped that the projects will bring companies, individuals and academia together to share expertise and collaborate on mutually-beneficial challenges with the aim of creating new products and services, spin out businesses and jobs.

Hethel Innovation Limited will have a small team at the Hethel centre, but will work with partners across the region including Norfolk Network, Pricewaterhouse Cooper, UEA, IfM, Cranfield University, Elitech and the University of Hertfordshire.

annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

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