£300m Science Central aims to boost business and jobs

July 15, 2005

Phil Baty reports on plans to make Newcastle a focus of academic excellence

Plans for a £300 million investment designed to make Newcastle University a world-class centre for science and innovation were unveiled this week.

Newcastle will acquire a £30 million city-centre site this month in partnership with the city council and One North East, the regional development agency, as the first stage of the Government's "science city" initiative.

The university, which has paid £10 million towards the 14-acre site of the former Scottish and Newcastle brewery, where Newcastle Brown Ale was brewed until last year, hopes the area next to St James' Park football stadium will develop into a major teaching, research and business centre.

Newcastle is one of six Treasury-designated "science cities" - the university and its partners are hoping for Treasury support to create 250 new technology businesses over the next decade and 5,000 science-based jobs by 2010.

Christopher Edwards, Newcastle's vice-chancellor, said: "Our vision is that in the 21st century new industries based on developments in nanotechnology, bioscience and molecular engineering will become as powerful as coal and shipbuilding were in the 19th century."

Although the site is secured, the investment required to realise the vision - understood to amount to £300 million, or ten times the land's purchase price - is not confirmed. The partners have indicated that much of the investment is already "achievable", but John Goddard, Newcastle's deputy vice-chancellor, said that it would require "a major commitment" from the Government.

The project, known as Science Central, includes plans for large-scale new teaching and research facilities for the university, which is planning a "considerable" expansion of student numbers. Space will also be available for businesses and other partner organisations, such as the NHS.

The partners hope to model the project on Newcastle's Centre for Life, a "biotechnology village" where a university team, working alongside the local NHS fertility centre, confirmed in May that it had produced Britain's first cloned human embryo.

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