New £7.8m Hethel site is all set for spring opening

Director of the Hethel Engineering Centre, Simon Coward.Photo: Denise BradleyCopy: Paul HillFor: EDP

Director of the Hethel Engineering Centre, Simon Coward.Photo: Denise BradleyCopy: Paul HillFor: EDP Biz©Archant Photographic 200801603 772434 - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2008

Bosses at Hethel Engineering are confident that a new £7.8m expansion will be up and running by the start of March with growing hi-tech firms showing a strong interest in moving into the facility.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the new 40,000sq ft facility is set to create up to 240 new jobs and doubles the size of the current site adding 16 new offices and workshop spaces.

The investment also marks a new direction for the centre, which has forged ties with the Norwich Research Park (NRP) via Hethel Innovation – a new company created to boost links, research and development in sectors from food to automotive engineering.

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Simon Coward, centre director, said much of the interest so far had been from existing tenants, which included EDP Future50 firm Syrinix, as well as Zenos Cars, and Proeon Systems.

'We should be opening the building in early March,' he said. 'The current building is 92pc occupied and should be 96pc in the next month or so.

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'We have got a lot of businesses looking to move in. We have got tenants coming from outside of Hethel, but nearly all of the new space is what we have called grow out space, and we have got quite a lot of tenants moving into a bigger unit.

He said the next stage was to market the site externally, while an innovation conference was also planned in spring.

Meanwhile, a key plank of the year ahead was to develop those research park links through the Activ 8 scheme, a programme of business support and masterclasses targeting hi-tech and science-based farms at the NRP. 'We haven't started marketing it yet, but we are going hell for leather with that in the next four weeks. That will open up more of the current building and we have already got five or six people waiting to come in,' added Mr Coward.

And he said the development chimes with a renewed focus both from the EU, UK government, and the New Anglia Local Enterprise partnership on hi-tech and high-skill sectors.

'Rather than talking about farming, we are now talking about agri-tech, and rather than talking about the environment, we are talking about clean-tech, and rather than engineering we are talking about advanced composites,' he added.

Members of Norfolk County Council were given a tour of the proposed 40,000ft extension when a regular monthly cabinet meeting was held at Hethel on Monday.

George Nobbs, leader of the county council, which helped kick-start the engineering centre in 2006, said: 'Hethel is one of the most outstanding successes of Norfolk County Council. It's a fantastic achievement and a huge success story which is expanding all the time.'

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