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

6 comments

  • I feel like there needs a bit of fact checking in these comments. Firstly, the centre is not connected to Lotus in any way. It's is owned by Norfolk County Council. It does not make a 'thumping loss' in fact if you were to press for details from NCC you would find that it actually breaks even. The Hethel Engineering Centre is one of the most successful business incubators in the country and an asset to Norfolk. We can argue the aesthetic merits of a building till the cows come home but it's impossible to dispute the positive impact the centre has had on the local economy. For full disclosure I work on the Hethel site and anyone who wants to know more or wants to visit Hethel should ask.

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    Will Taitt

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

  • This is surely good news. I've had the opportunity of visiting the centre and it is a real hive of activity. I often read reams of comments on the business and education forums bemoaning the lack of jobs and the pointlessness of young people having aspiration because there are no jobs for them to go to. However, this is simply not the case, the high end manufacturing and engineering sectors have huge growth opportunities which cross over into other sectors such as marine and energy. It is also go to have this type of project happening somewhere in the county other than Norwich or Gt Yarmouth. This expands the opportunities for people across the county.

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    Row71

    Saturday, April 5, 2014

  • I could not agree more Norfolk John. Why does this supposedly 'green' building have to be lit up like a Christmas tree all night? It is made even worse, as this venture makes a thumping great annual loss and it is therefore all our taxes that pays for the running costs of John Fullers and Lotus's folly.

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    Voice of Reason

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

  • 508 jobs (if they still exist) but at what cost, both to the tax payer and the countryside – this building and especially the new units they have just built, has got to be just about the most inappropriate development in Norfolk. A true blot on the landscape.

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    Norfolk John

    Friday, April 4, 2014

  • As a young person who has recently got one of these 508 jobs I can verify that they do exist. It does seem a shame that there is opposition to one of the few initiatives that encourages highly skilled companies to come here and employ local graduates like me. Maybe those in opposition would prefer the younger population of Norfolk to be on the dole or stuck in low paid jobs? Hopefully it will show that Norfolk is forward thinking and innovative rather than an ageing backward thinking county that is afraid of change. Also for the record I think the modern look of the buildings is great especially with the new tress and ponds allowing wildlife to flourish around the centre (the ducklings are very cute!)

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    Pete

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

  • I feel like there needs a bit of fact checking in these comments. Firstly, the centre is not connected to Lotus in any way. It's is owned by Norfolk County Council. It does not make a 'thumping loss' in fact if you were to press for details from NCC you would find that it actually breaks even. The Hethel Engineering Centre is one of the most successful business incubators in the country and an asset to Norfolk. We can argue the aesthetic merits of a building till the cows come home but it's impossible to dispute the positive impact the centre has had on the local economy. For full disclosure I work on the Hethel site and anyone who wants to know more or wants to visit Hethel should ask.

    Report this comment

    Will Taitt

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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