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10.01.06
Demand grows for business incubation

Business incubation units at Cornwall's Knowledge Spa have proved so popular that seven new offices have been added to keep up with demand.

The business incubation area of the Knowledge Spa was built with investment from Objective One and the South West Regional Development Agency. There were initially four offices and a large area for meetings and 'hot desking' – where businesses have use of shared computers and telephone lines.

But the four offices were quickly filled with health-related businesses so more have been created by clever partitioning of the central area. This work was also carried out using Objective One European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment. A hot desk area still remains and a board room has been created with facilities for presentations. Already only two of the seven new offices are free.

New tenants include Spectrum, which specialises in hospital planning; Qura Brain Injury Services, which specialises in rehabilitation, and Elderworld, which is aiming to set up an Internet-led information service for all involved in care of the elderly. Air Events, which organises conferences and other events will be sharing an office with Spectrum. A fourth office is being used for a certain amount of hours each week by solicitors firm Stevens and Scown to offer legal advice to the fledgling businesses.

Ron Spencer, general manager of Cornwall Medi Park Ltd, the company which manages the business incubation units in the Knowledge Spa, said: "We hope that this particular office will also be used by other business support organisations as this helps to reinforce the message that this building is the hub of a health centre network for businesses, higher education, research and clinical practise."

The £14 million Knowledge Spa opened in September 2004. The Spa hosts the Cornwall Campus of the Peninsula Medical School; the Cornwall Campus of the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Health and Social Work; the Cornwall Centre for Lifelong Learning for Health and Social Care Personnel and a health-based Research and Development Centre. The businesses in the incubation units benefit by being near to the research and a top class health related library as well as being on the same site as the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

The businesses in the four original offices are the Cornwall NHS Food Programme, which is promoting local food sourcing in the region's hospitals; RITI, which is developing web-based training for radiologists; TRAC Services, health regulatory specialists; and MJ Medical, hospital designers.

The environment of the incubation units is clearly beneficial with TRAC Services quadrupling its staff. The business was started by husband and wife Jonathan and Sarah Trethowan. The couple moved to the Knowledge Spa when the work became too large to cope with at home and have now taken on three graduates under the Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP) scheme. They also plan to take on three more staff this year.

Sarah said: "Our business has progressed rapidly since moving into the building and we have been delighted to provide knowledge based work for three graduates. When we returned to Cornwall there were no suitable employment opportunities for us so we established TRAC, and it's great that the company is now providing opportunities for others. We are also very excited to be expanding further soon to support a new readability testing service the company will be offering."

UCP is a Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative that has also received Objective One investment. Run by Cornwall College, it places graduates with businesses in the region, subsidises wages and provides a mentor for up to 12 months. More than 70 per cent of graduates are retained once the UCP scheme finishes.

Allyson Glover, UCP spokesperson, said: "The Knowledge Spa provides a fantastic environment for businesses to develop and grow and have easy access to the services and information they need. These knowledge based businesses provide excellent opportunities for graduates to flourish early on in their careers which in turn accelerates the rate of business growth."

Elderworld has also recently taken on a UCP graduate to assist with the e-health development project. Peter Ashby, Elderworld managing director, said: "All enterprise depends on its people working as a team. The Elderworld team uses ITC and care experts' knowledge to refine and support dynamic healthcare information. This is a project of major proportions for the early 21st Century and is being expanded from Cornwall to meet the needs of the UK care sector and meet the needs of international markets.

"Cornwall's second largest sector is older people and its expertise in care is second to none. The Knowledge Spa brings some important facilities together, the signs are good, reflecting wisdom and planning by the elders responsible for economic regeneration. However, the infrastructure is but bricks and mortar without qualified and motivated people.

"The CUC's Unlocking Cornish Potential team is where, for Elderworld and many other enterprises, the big picture can be seen to come into focus! I have been able to rely on UCP to provide a thoroughly professional service in all aspects of recruitment, from refining job descriptions through finding and interviewing candidates to motivating and training key staff.

"The single most critical factor towards fulfilling the Elderworld plan from Cornwall, which calls for over 30 graduates by 2010, is the expertise and dedication of the UCP team as it meets Elderworld's varied and demanding needs for staff from the pool of graduates available. Many thanks to the UCP team from all at Elderworld."

For further information please contact Clare Morgan on 01872 223439 or email: cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Knowledge Spa through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Programme has invested in Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP) through the European Social Fund (ESF).

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Editor's notes:

Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP): UCP programmes place graduates with small and medium sized businesses in Cornwall. Investment in UCP through Objective One means that participating businesses receive 30% of the cost of taking on their graduate for the duration of the project. Graduates and their employers also receive support from an independent mentor, 70% of previous UCP graduates have been offered a permanent position with their host company at the end of the project. UCP was the first project launched by the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative to offer direct business support.

The £14 million Knowledge Spa opened in September 2004. The Spa hosts the Cornwall Campus of the Peninsula Medical School; the Cornwall Campus of the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Health and Social Work; the Cornwall Centre for Lifelong Learning for health and social care personnel and a health-based Research and Development Centre. Alongside the educational benefits, the Knowledge Spa is expected attract upwards of 400 jobs and bring about £30 million into Cornwall within five to 10 years of its opening. About 250 of the jobs will be created through research and business start-up activity, which is expected to contribute £22 million to the local economy. Plans are also underway for a nearby Medi Park to house research and businesses.

The Combined Universities in Cornwall is a partnership that combines the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, University College Falmouth, The Open University, The College of St Mark & St John, and the Peninsula Medical School, with Cornwall's Further Education colleges - Cornwall College, Truro College and Penwith College. The CUC initiative has been invested in by the Objective One Programme, the South West Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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