Business and political leaders have welcomed the launch of Staffordshire University’s new Innovation Enterprise Zone (IEZ) which aims to kickstart business growth and productivity.

Staffordshire University is one of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), announced last September and launched with a £20m investment by Research England.

The investment has funded new incubation space and a hatchery for start-up companies in the Mellor Building on the University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus.

It has also funded innovation labs, which are equipped with the latest advanced materials and advanced manufacturing technology, for use by companies wanting to design, prototype and test new products.

Speaking ahead of the launch today, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: ”We see this as part of our civic responsibility. We have an important part to play in creating high-value jobs that our graduates can apply for, to drive innovation and growth in specialist areas and provide SMEs with a vital stepping-stone to succeed.

“The IEZ is our ecosystem in that it is bringing together the businesses, the technology, research and academic expertise in an environment that allows ideas to flourish and innovation to grow. It’s important we act now to help the region’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “The resource Staffordshire University is offering is going to be fantastic in helping our SMEs to grow and if we can do that across the board we’ll have a completely different economic base very quickly and that will make a massive difference to the economy and to the opportunities for people across Staffordshire.”

Alun Rogers, chair of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, added: “As we move from response to recovery, it is about getting the economy going again, starting to tackle the issues around unemployment and at that point you need as much stimulation as possible and bringing universities and businesses together is a critical way of doing that.”