Innovating Business at The University of Suffolk

The newly-refurbished West Wing at the University of Suffolk has created The Atrium, which opened its doors to students this month.

The Atrium now provides new, modern, accessible facilities including:

• The Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre;
• The Radiography VERT suite;
• PC Labs;
• Psychology Labs;
• Computer Games Design and Network and Software Engineering Labs;
• New seminar rooms.

Through working in conjunction with the University of Suffolk and the appointed Design Team – Castons Cost Consultant, Johns Slater & Haward Services Consultant and Assent Building Control – Bond Bryan Architects have been able to develop a functionally-robust but aspirational design solution which meets the needs of its users and stakeholders.

The new Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre, housed within the University’s Atrium Building, will provide a focal point for developing high growth potential ICT – small to medium enterprises (SMEs) – in partnership with the University and a space to foster student enterprise initiatives. The project also provides new specialist and general teaching spaces as well as an upgrade of the fabric and services to reduce energy consumption and improve the internal environment.

Adrian Stubbs, Project Architect of Bond Bryan Architects, explained: “This retrofit project was all about transforming an under-utilised building into a new innovation and teaching hub for the University of Suffolk. They required a cost-effective solution for a building that would act as a catalyst for the University, enabling it to become an integrated campus with local businesses, industry and the wider community of Suffolk. Internally, we created a mix of spaces that allows different forms of collaboration within the building to take place.
Externally, there was a requirement for a visual connection between the existing Waterfront and Library buildings, which has been done through the careful choice of materials and “brise soleil”. These materials have made significant energy savings whilst boosting building performance.“

Stef Thorne, Head of Research and Enterprise Services at the University, said:
“Suffolk and the East of England is already an important technology cluster with great potential to become of increasing significance.
This innovation centre will contribute to the innovation landscape within the region and be quite unique as a single point of integration between academic expertise, facilities and businesses.
Innovation centres have been credited for helping to sort out the ‘knowledge spaghetti’ that exists. There are all kinds of stakeholders and organisations in the region in regards to innovation and it is our aim to help small businesses, we can signpost, to the appropriate place to make sure SMEs are accessing the right people.”

Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Head of Department for Science and Technology at the University, said:
“This facility is the seed to setting up an innovation district in this part of the town. What we want to do is to use IWIC to build our university and, at the same time, to act as the gateway to facilitate access to knowledge wherever it exists. We want to bring more talent and knowledge, ideas, expertise – whether permanent or ad hoc – as needed for the region.”

Ipswich has been recognised as an emerging technology cluster in the 2016 Tech Nation report, which looks at the UK’s digital economy.

Ben Gummer MP, who opened the centre, said, “This is another exciting new development in Ipswich. For the first time in Britain, we are bringing together not only postgraduates – but also undergraduates and apprentices – with entrepreneurs, business start-ups and an enterprise incubator. In plain English, we are helping bring together people starting businesses with those people who are training to be business leaders, owners and employees. It is a radical solution; it is made in Ipswich and I am certain it is going to help us build the prosperous economy that we need in our town for future generations. Full credit to Richard Lister, his team at the University of Suffolk, and his partners at the New Anglia LEP, the Borough and the County Councils, for bringing this brilliant new innovation centre together.”

This £5.5m refurbishment was thanks, in part, to a £1.85m award by the LEP as part of the New Anglia LEP’s Growth Deal with the Government.

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