A commitment to support the construction of a new innovation centre at one of Staffordshire’s leading employment sites has been agreed by the county council’s cabinet today.

A £2.02million investment in Innovation Centre 6 (IC6) at Keele University Science and Innovation Park was approved this morning. It follows the completion last August of Innovation Centre 5 (IC5) at the site using a £7million county council investment. The facility was created to house expanding high technology and professional services companies. Two companies have already taken space on five-year commercial leases.

With near full employment in the county continuing, both developments are supporting a drive for better paid, higher skilled jobs in Staffordshire. Today’s unemployment claimant statistics show Staffordshire remaining at 0.9 per cent of the local population. This compares with 2.2 per cent for the West Midlands region and 1.7 per cent for England.

Innovation Centre 6 will add to the already thriving science and innovation park where the five established innovation centres, along with other facilities, house around 40 businesses employing over 600 people. The new centre will sit alongside an innovation leadership hub and a new home for Keele Management School in a new combined capital development. Funding for the project would also come from Keele University, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Government’s Growth Deal. The total cost of the new capital development will be £17.5million.

It will also house the Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership will support local business leaders to develop the skills needed to innovate and grow their businesses. The new centre forms part of the wider New Keele Deal, announced last week. The Deal will support businesses to access Keele University’s world-class research and facilities, providing training in innovation leadership and facilitate supply chain development across a range of sectors.

IC6 will bring more skilled jobs in the high technology sector, providing high quality lettable space for new innovative businesses, start-ups and tech entrepreneurs, alongside state-of-the-art shared facilities to foster university and business collaboration. IC6 will accommodate around 100 high value jobs.

In May 2016, the county council’s cabinet announced its intention to pursue the project with Keele University, which will lead on the design and development of the centre.

Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Engagement and Partnerships at Keele University, said: “Our partnership with Staffordshire County Council will enable us to further develop the opportunities available for local businesses and inward investment into Staffordshire. Our Science and Innovation Park offers access to world-renowned research, state-of-the-art facilities and highly-skilled academics and graduates, all of which can aid businesses in developing new products and services. Through the county council’s investment, we can support the growth of more businesses and help to bring more high value jobs into the local area.”

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “Keele University Science and Innovation Park is the county’s leading site for innovation and research and we want to support its continued growth. The established innovation centres there are thriving and we are keen to see this expanded. We have an effective business partnership with Keele University which has grown stronger through the IC5 project and now the New Keele Deal. In May last year we set out our intention to go ahead with IC6 and now we have agreed our funding commitment. We have near full employment in Staffordshire and our drive now is to create high quality, skilled jobs, which IC6 will help to deliver.”

The official opening of IC5 takes place this Friday January 20.