Innovation Birmingham has been awarded £355,000 of Enterprise Zone loan finance by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). The funding will enable the iCentrumTM building – which has recently been awarded planning approval – to incorporate a 418sqm (4,500 sq ft) mezzanine level above the ground floor.
iCentrumTM, which will be located next to Faraday Wharf and Aston University, off Holt Street, will be a 3,874sqm (41,700 sq ft) tech incubation facility. It represents the first phase of expansion of the Innovation Birmingham Campus, which is currently fully let and wholly owned by Birmingham City Council. In addition to the £355,000 LEP funding, a commercial loan for £7.5 million to cover the main construction and fit-out costs has been agreed with the Council.
The new businesses in iCentrumTM will create 400 high-value skilled tech jobs, generating £25 million of GVA to the local economy per annum. The building will be the first to start on site within the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP’s Enterprise Zone, which features 26 sites within central Birmingham.
Chris Webster, GBSLEP Board Director with responsibility for the Enterprise Zone said: “There could not be a more fitting first development for the central Birmingham Enterprise Zone. iCentrumTM will drive forward our Smart City agenda, creating hundreds of new jobs within SME tech firms. The dynamic nature of the building will also be a magnet for business visitors to the city who want to engage and collaborate with entrepreneurs.
“iCentrumTM is a highly relevant project for the LEP to support, with the allocated funds being used to increase the capacity of the building, which will add to the activity and the number of job opportunities. I speak on behalf of the whole LEP board in saying that we are very much looking forward to this innovative facility being open for business.”
The 60 week build programme will mean iCentrumTM will be open for occupation in early 2016. As a result of an OJEU tender process, it will be delivered by Stourport-on-Severn headquartered Thomas Vale Construction Ltd, which is part of one of the world’s leading construction groups, Bouygues Construction.
Several years ago, a redundant industrial building that occupied the iCentrumTM plot was cleared, in order to pave the way for a swift start to the build programme. In addition, Innovation Birmingham has already made significant investment in its communications infrastructure to enable occupiers to benefit from broadband speeds of 30Gbit/s, equaling the fastest internet connection available anywhere in the UK.
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “I am delighted that Birmingham’s Planning Committee had such praise for iCentrumTM when awarding the consent. We have a waiting list for space at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, and this new state-of-the-art incubation facility – which will be located next to Faraday Wharf – will drive a new generation of tech entrepreneurs for the city. Everything is in place to ensure this will be the first Birmingham Enterprise Zone scheme to start on site and be open for occupation.”
The top floor of iCentrumTM will feature a range of self-contained, highly flexible office suites for growing entrepreneurial tech companies. The first floor will be home to Innovation Birmingham’s ground-breaking ‘Serendip’ incubator, which will deliver a rich blend of disruptive innovation across four key sectors, closely aligned to the Smart City agenda. This highly creative environment will promote cross-sector serendipity to drive new innovative enterprise, relevant to a city of the future. The key sectors Serendip will support are; ICT/Internet of Things; Built Environment; Digital Media; and Intelligent Mobility.
The ground floor and mezzanine level of iCentrumTM will be the place to meet, be innovative, do business, and launch a new tech start-up in Birmingham – an innovation marketplace. The building is designed to have an international reach from the day it opens. It will be a magnet for physical and virtual communication; the lighthouse for Birmingham’s Smart City Agenda.
In addition to flexible office space, a wider membership offering will be provided at iCentrumTM. This will be open to regional tech and engineering-based SMEs and corporates, professional service providers, entrepreneurs and micro-businesses, in order to promote a cross-sector innovation exchange, generating new products and services across Greater Birmingham’s enterprise community. The design ethos of the building is focused on ‘Generation Z’; the cohort of people born after the Millennium – the ‘social media’ Generation – in order to create the place for Birmingham’s future entrepreneurs.
The Innovation Birmingham Campus represents the gateway to Eastside, with the iCentrumTM site and the rest of the two-acre Campus development zone accessed off Holt Street and Love Lane. A total of three to five new buildings are proposed in total, delivering 120,000sq ft (11,148sqm) of purpose-designed space for Birmingham’s tech community. The latter proposed future buildings are anticipated to attract larger tech companies and house additional innovation functions.
Being allocated within the Enterprise Zone will enable future occupiers of Innovation Birmingham’s development zone to benefit from Business Rates relief.
118 companies are currently based in the Campus’ thriving 46,000sq ft (4,274sqm) Faraday Wharf building, which opened in 2001. Innovation Birmingham’s tenant portfolio includes software and digital gaming specialists, mobile app developers and search engine services.