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The University of Southampton

New high tech innovation centre aims to transform towns into happier, healthy and more prosperous places

Published: 25 August 2020

A new Future Towns Innovation Hub is being built at the University of Southampton Science Park where leading academics will collaborate with businesses and the region’s towns to develop low-carbon and more sustainable engineering and technology innovations to create happier, healthier, and more prosperous places to live and work.

Enterprise M3 LEP is funding almost £3m from the government’s Local Growth Fund and Research England are adding a further £1.5m to support the £14m project, which will focus on addressing challenges of energy efficient housing, water conservation, sustainable transport, carbon neutral waste management and recycling, and improving health outcomes.

Professor Mark Spearing, Vice President of Research and Enterprise at the University of Southampton said:

“This is a very important investment from the University that will maximise the impact of our research related to the environmental and sustainability challenges faced by local towns and their businesses. We look forward to working with businesses throughout our community, helping them find solutions to these challenges and ensure towns in our region and across the UK can meet the demands of the modern world.” 

Professor Paul Kemp, the Innovation Director of the Future Towns Innovation Hub said: 

“This is an exciting opportunity to apply our research to help towns in the region recover and renew from the economic impact of  the pandemic. Although the Innovation Hub is still under construction, we have already begun to forge working relationships with local authorities and other innovators to start work grasping the opportunities and addressing the challenges our towns and high streets face.” 

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke MP Said:

“We are determined to deliver a green economic recovery and to ensure our towns have the investment they need to innovate and transform their services so they are innovative, efficient and sustainable.

"That is why we are investing £3 million in the new Future Towns Innovation Hub, delivering innovative new facilities for the University of Southampton Science Park.

"This Hub will help towns, businesses and communities across the country to experience the benefit of the latest cutting-edge research.”

The challenges the Future Towns Innovation Hub will address include: 

  • developing low carbon heating; renewable energy, energy efficient buildings
  • tackling inefficient recycling and waste management to support the move towards a carbon neutral economy
  • advancing innovations in transport including improvements to infrastructure design, automated and connected vehicles, electric bikes, scooters and vehicles to improve mobility, reduce air pollution and address the challenge of increasing obesity and inactivity in the population
  • providing a pipeline of skills for the aerospace and defence industries
  • creating digital health solutions by using data to improve GP information systems

The Hub itself which is being built on the University of Southampton Science Park has been designed to an extremely high specification and will house a range of dedicated facilities, including:

  • Specialist laboratories to support a range of sectors, including eco-hydraulics, electronics, transport research, aerospace, energy and autonomous systems
  • General workshops and high-quality innovation and creativity spaces for industrial collaborators and partners
  • Office units to attract business to collaborate with researchers as part of long-term enterprises

Enterprise M3’s Head of Policy and Strategy, Sue Littlemore, said:  

“Our Local Industrial Strategy and Recovery and Renewal Action Plan highlight the importance of ensuring our towns provide a sustainable, vibrant, high quality of life for our businesses, employees and their families.

"The impact of Covid19 lends that vision an extra impetus. The Future Towns Innovation Hub will offer world-leading engineering research excellence from the University of Southampton to business partners and town leaders to offer opportunities and practical solutions to real problems, including some of our greatest environmental challenges.”

The project is expected to take up to 24 months to complete.Partners in the project include:

  • University of Southampton
  • Greentech South/Future South
  • SETsquared
  • University Post-graduate Training Centres
  • Catapults
  • Highways England
  • Atkins (Winchester)
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Southern Water
  • Network Rail
  • The Environmental Change Institute



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