Leicester bids for science park

May 18, 2001

Leicester University is aiming to launch itself into the top research and technology rankings with a bid to build a science park next to its National Space Centre.

The move would give the university access to transfer-technology facilities along with industry links.

The £52 million Space Centre, due to be opened at the end of June, is built on a brownfield site five miles from the university campus. It was a Millennium Commission project jointly developed by the university and the local city council, with help from the East Midlands Development Agency and BT.

The centre is expected to be a significant tourist attraction that will help to promote science and research in the university's physics and astronomy department, which accommodates one of Europe's largest space-research groups.

City councillors have invited university officials to discuss opportunities for securing investment from firms interested in establishing a science park on the surrounding land.

Bob Burgess, Leicester's vice-chancellor, said a science park would help the university to build on its research successes and to play a stronger economic role in the region.

"In the past, we have allowed ourselves to be seen as the region's second city. This is an opportunity to put Leicester on the map," he said.

The space centre, which is expected to attract about 300,000 visitors a year, will include a state-of-the-art space theatre using surround video technology, and exhibitions and displays featuring space artefacts. It will also feature research that is under way at the university, including Leicester's involvement in the Beagle 2 Mars mission, to be launched in 2003.

Nigel Siesage, the university's principal assistant registrar and secretary and trustee of the space centre, said: "We have always tried to advance public understanding of science and space. The centre is one way that people can have direct access to research."

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