Plymouth University has become the first higher education institution in the country to receive a national innovation accreditation in recognition of its support for small and medium-sized businesses in Devon and Cornwall.
The University has been given the Investor in Innovations Award for its management of the three Innovation Centres in Cornwall, which are now home to over 110 innovative high growth businesses, and which since their launch in 2011, have helped create more than 200 jobs.
Awarded by NEF: The Innovation Institute, the accreditation also covers the University’s Formation Zone incubation centres on campus and in Cornwall, which nurture embryonic businesses, including graduate start-ups from Plymouth and local colleges.
Professor Simon Payne, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “Universities have the potential to be innovation engines for the economy, using their knowledge and expertise to catalyse socioeconomic development – and Plymouth is very proud of its track record in this field. To be recognised for having made such a difference to so many businesses in our region is a tribute to the hard work and diligence of so many people.”
During the accreditation process, members of NEFvisited both the Plymouth campus and the Tremough Innovation Centre in Penryn and spoke with managers and staff about the work being done at Pool, Tremough and the Health and Wellbeing facility in Truro. Businesses from the centres were also present to offer their perspective.
NEF singled out a number of areas, including the entrepreneurial experience of the centre managers, the focus and support for client businesses, particularly young entrepreneurs, and the methods of engagement such as with business competitions and entrepreneurs-in-residence. They also praised the levels of community engagement, with 16,000 visitors interacting with the centres in four years across a variety of events.
Professor Sa'ad Medhat, Chief Executive of NEF: The Innovation Institute, said: “It’s exciting to see Plymouth playing such a vibrant role in the economic ecosystem of Devon and Cornwall. The clusters of expertise that are developing within the Innovation Centres are aligned with the region’s economic priorities and are already invigorating the local supply chains. Plymouth is an inspiring example of what can be achieved by matching technical specialist knowledge with in-depth business development in a supportive, collaborative environment.
Bernard Curren, Director of Cornwall Innovation, added: “Since we launched our first Formation Zone in 2008, we’ve been on a journey, a learning curve that has resulted in the creation of an incubation, innovation and acceleration model that supports business development, through expert advice, opportunities to network and access to investment. It’s a model that we believe could be used in other areas of the country to stimulate innovation and economic growth.”