Plans have been unveiled for a state-of-the-art building for businesses to grow in partnership with University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The Innovation Matrix will take shape at the UWTSD campus at SA1, Swansea, and will open in September 2023, subject to scheduling agreement.
The £9.3million project represents the next phase of the university’s waterfront campus and is also part of a wider City Deal project for the Swansea Bay City area. Much of the funding will come from the Welsh and UK governments.
If all goes according to plan, the innovation matrix will mainly host small but growing companies and companies that are developing the region’s digital technology economy. The key to the concept is that tenants will add value to the university, and vice versa.
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Prof Ian Walsh, provost of the Swansea and Cardiff campuses of UWTSD, said: “We are not here to fill the building with haphazard tenants – we want active customers. We need to fill it with tenants who will work hand in hand. in hand with us.”
He said the Innovation Matrix would be a digital space, but with a manufacturing hub, test labs and 3D printing facilities in the UWSTD IQ building next door. The idea is that tenants would include start-ups, small businesses that have outgrown their current space, UK companies that want to have a presence in Wales and even international companies.
In the longer term, the plan calls for a larger Innovation Precinct building, which could house companies that outgrow the innovation matrix and need to relocate. The Innovation Matrix and Innovation Precinct are part of a £175m city deal project called Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District. The project also includes a new office for tech companies on the former site of Oceana nightclub on The Kingsway. A contractor has been appointed and the building is expected to be completed next year. The goal of the 15-year city agreement is to create the conditions and infrastructure for businesses that generate well-paying jobs and boost productivity in the region.
“Wales has historically had a brain drain, but I think it’s turning,” Prof Walsh said. He said he hoped the building would be 90% complete within two to three years of completion.
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Barry Liles, OBE, Professional Vice-Chancellor for Skills and Lifelong Learning, said success will be a busy building providing opportunities for UWTSD graduates, supply chain growth community, spin-off companies and jobs.
He said the digital economy – encompassing automation, machine learning and cybersecurity, among others – will be of “enormous importance”. The same goes, he said, for the “net zero” economy – changing the way things are done to reduce carbon emissions and slow the rate of climate change.
UWTSD has some 22,000 higher education students at its sites in Swansea and Wales, as well as a continuing education programme. The two-tier Innovation Matrix plans, which include flood impact statements and transport, are being assessed by Swansea Council planning officers. The roof would feature solar panels and the eco-friendly building would require no gas.
The design of the building has been refined and will allow the interior space to be reconfigured according to the needs of the tenants. A design and access statement submitted as part of the planning application indicated that a “containerized” structure was initially proposed. He added: ‘After this initial design review, it became clear that the scope of the proposed activity in the building would require a larger area.