A £7.8m scheme to bring businesses from around the world to Norfolk and allow existing start-up firms to grown was today given the green light.

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Plans for a 40,000sqft low carbon manufacturing facility at Hethel Engineering Centre were approved by Norfolk County Council’s planning committee.

The new facility will not only provide new office and workshop incubation space for up to 16 advanced engineering and manufacturing businesses, but will also incorporate low carbon features such as PV cells, a biomass boiler and air source heat pumps.

As well as the office and workshop space, the plans will also include business support services.

The £7.8m Hethel Innovation project has secured funding from the European Development Fund (ERDF) and a loan from Norfolk County Council.

Director of the Hethel Engineering Centre Simon Coward said that they would now be able to start the tendering process for the low carbon manufacturing facility.

“At the moment we are full and we have got tenants that are growing and wanting space. We’ve got potential tenants that want to move in,” he said

“I think the way we see it, the new tenants for the new building are not just going to be business expanding within Hethel. They are not going to come from Norfolk or the East of England. They are going to come from all over the world.”

The planning permission was granted a day after investors from the Chinese Yotta Group - who are looking to open a research and development centre in the UK - visited Hethel Engineering Centre as a potential site..

“The Chinese were very impressed. They could see the growth and they may want to take up incubator space to get started. It will create an offering that is not just attractive to business in Norfolk, but businsess from all over the world.”

Ann Steward, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet member for Economic Development, said: “Hethel Innovation will enable us to expand Hethel Engineering Centre both in terms of incubation space and business support, and facilitate the development of an innovation hub focused on delivering low carbon innovation.

“The Hethel Innovation program will help business to explore, engage, experiment, collaborate and cluster in order to be globally competitive and will further ensure that Norfolk continues to build and preserve its reputation as a world class centre for engineering.”

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