Hethel bosses announce technology park vision

From left to right: David Taitt, chairman of the Hethel Engineering Centre; John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk District Council; George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council; Richard Bacon MP for South Norfolk; Aslam Farikullah, chief operating officer of Lotus. From left to right: David Taitt, chairman of the Hethel Engineering Centre; John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk District Council; George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council; Richard Bacon MP for South Norfolk; Aslam Farikullah, chief operating officer of Lotus.

Thursday, April 3, 2014
7:14 PM

The leaders of Hethel Engineering Centre have announced their “aspirations” to create a new technology park in Norfolk.

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Hethel Engineering centre in numbersHethel Engineering centre in numbers

Bosses at the enterprise hub want to build a site that will bring “further support” to the region’s growing expertise in engineering and advanced manufacturing.

Although the finer details of the project remain unclear, the plans are likely to include a further expansion of its centre near Wymondham.

The announcement came yesterday during a conference at the hub, where business leaders witnessed the launch of its £7.8m low carbon manufacturing facility.

The new 40,000sq ft building – funded by the European Regional Development Fund – is set to create up to 240 new jobs while doubling the size of the current site by adding 16 new offices and workshop spaces.

The value of the engineering centre was underscored during the event, with 83 new start up businesses and 508 highly-skilled jobs created since its inception eight years ago – with only four business failures.

Simon Coward, managing director of innovation and enterprise, said: “We have been looking back over the eight years since we started and the fact that we have created more than 500 highly skilled jobs is exciting.

“We feel we have achieved the original ambition with the centre, but in doing so we are now concentrating on the next phase for Hethel.

“Proeon Systems will be the first tenants to move into the new manufacturing facility,” he added. “But we expect to be 50pc full within the next six to nine months.

“Our aspiration now to create a new technology park to further support innovation within the region.

“If this leads to more people being employed and more high skilled jobs being created with that focus on engineering and high value manufacturing then that seems the natural evolution of what we are doing.”

The morning conference, ‘Cultivating success – growing Norfolk’s future’, featured speeches from current – and former – tenants at Hethel that nurtured their business ideas at Hethel.

It included Ansar Ali, founder of Zenos Cars, who has established a new headquarters in Wymondham to manufacture a new light-weight sports car after seeing his order books fill up since January.

The event concluded with the opening of the manufacturing facility by David Taitt, chairman of the Hethel Engineering Centre; John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk District Council; George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council; Richard Bacon MP for South Norfolk; Aslam Farikullah, chief operating officer of Lotus.

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, which owns the centre, said: “Hethel is all about Norfolk’s commitment to innovation. In comparison to the procrastination and delay which kills investment and jobs.

“Central government is killing off investment in Norfolk. But what people are doing at Hethel is an example of innovation in its finest form.

“The number of businesses that have passed through this centre has been fantastic. We have had other councils come to us and said ‘can you set something up like this for us?’.

“This is an example of why central government should not make it difficult for local authorities. This is an example of why they should help us.”

• Are you a cutting-edge business mounting fast growth? Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426, or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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