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Wolverhampton Science Park - Facing the future

Understanding and responding to tenant requirements is key to how Wolverhampton Science Park is beating the economic downturn

The impact of the worldwide economic recession seems to have had minimal effect on the 100 or so innovative companies resident at Wolverhampton Science Park.

Dr Martin Bucknell, executive director of Wolverhampton Science Park explains, ?It is true that we have lost one or two tenants over the last year, but these have been largely due to normal commercial activities such as takeovers or mergers.

?The economic impact felt by tenants has, in just a few cases, resulted in a downsizing of their accommodation needs, but this is something that our flexible accommodation package facilitates. No one is encumbered with onerous lease commitments which could be disastrous in hard times.? Martin continues: ?Throughout last year Wolverhampton Science Park continued to receive enquiries from prospective tenants and have also continued to handle a considerable number of tenant expansions.

?From our own point of view, we remain confident about our future plans, which include our new Phase 4 project. Although circumstances have slightly slowed the timing for the project, our principal stakeholders, the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton City Council, are continuing their support.?

The Creative Industries Centre at Wolverhampton Science Park

The new Phase 4 building will add another 30,000 square feet of accommodation to Wolverhampton Science Park along with incubation support services focused upon new-start companies working in technology, science and knowledge-based sectors as well as creative. One of the principal aims of the building design will be to provide extra grow-on accommodation for businesses emerging from ?SP/ARK? ? the Science Park?s own, highly successful, business incubator facility ? and elsewhere.

The project has now completed all design stages and planning approval processes. So, Wolverhampton Science Park and its tenant companies seem to be facing the future with more than a fair degree of confidence.

Wolverhampton Science Park is not the only success

Statistics also seem to show that other UK science parks are also succeeding despite the adverse economic environment. As to why this is, the operations director of Wolverhampton Science Park Andrew Gilson explains: ?To most prospective occupiers of business accommodation, the general advantages of fully serviced accommodation ? as compared to stand-alone, leasehold units ? are fairly well known.?

Although at first sight, the costs associated with such an inclusive service package may seem to be higher than traditional leasehold, any cost difference is, in practice, negated by the landlord taking on most of the building-related responsibilities ?ranging from security and cleaning to building infrastructure and maintenance. The client company is thus freed to focus all its efforts on running its business rather than spending time looking after a whole range of diversionary issues linked to its accommodation.

Gone too are onerous financial commitments to long-term leases for accommodation which no longer matches a tenant company?s current business needs. Andrew comments further: ?For the rapidly developing company working in an economic environment where the only certainty is uncertainty, the need for a business to be able to respond to change is paramount ? a situation which predicates against long-term leasehold.?

Responsive flexibility

Added to this, a specialist science park landlord ? such as Wolverhampton Science Park ? which works alongside its tenants to understand their changing accommodation requirements, can make a real difference to the company?s performance. An illustration of this flexibility is provided by one of the most successful tenants at Wolverhampton Science Park? Equipos Limited, which arrived at Wolverhampton Science Park as a start-up operation over 10 years ago.

Now firmly established as a leading international supplier of specialist financial software solutions, Equipos has earned an enviable reputation for its ability to design, develop and deliver best-in-class global software solutions, in a short timescale. David Broadfield, technical director at Equipos, is clear about such support.

?We knew early on that the recession might be challenging but knew that a prompt, positive and decisive approach was the way forward. Our plan involved focusing upon delivery of new and enhanced products to retain our existing customer base and continue to attract new clients,? he says. ?To support this activity, we urgently needed extra short-term office space, equipped with the necessary network connections, to complete our product development and test cycle. We spoke to Wolverhampton Science Park management and they made ideal accommodation available for us within 24 hours of our request.

?We successfully delivered the resulting software products to the market and were rewarded with our best financial year since we started operations, despite the recession. We now have office and support bases in international financial centres such as London and New York, but have no plans to move our principal R&D and operations base away from Wolverhampton Science Park.?

Developing technology

Another distinguishing feature of nearly all science parks including Wolverhampton Science Park is that they will have close links with a university or research centre, whose resources can be readily accessed to help fulfil business requirements covering a range of issues from R&D consultancy or collaboration, through to graduate recruitment and analytical services. As an example, the host university of Wolverhampton Science Park ? the University of Wolverhampton ? offers specialist expertise in RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.

Kevin Taylor, managing director of another tenant company ? Liquid Management Solutions Limited (LMS) ? was alerted to this capability by one of the regular e-mail bulletins Wolverhampton Science Park addressed to all resident tenants. LMS are recognised as leading experts in fuel efficiency and development of related carbon-reduction strategies for heavy goods vehicle operators. Kevin is enthusiastic about potential collaboration with the university: ?We already use RFID techniques and have a good understanding of them,? he says. ?However, even at the first meeting with the University?s consultants, I gained advice on how I would be able to reduce the costs of RFID deployment, which would make it more affordable for our customers. Not only that, but the potential range of RFID applications is still developing and I am looking forward to working with the university to tailor these to our requirements in the future.?

Creative growth

Like most science parks, Wolverhampton Science Park operates a selection policy to engender a community of like-minded occupiers whose skills can be complementary and thus provide opportunities for inter-company collaboration. Wolverhampton Science Park provides a supportive business environment with on-site provision of more general business services, for example, financial, legal and translation services along with business mentoring for new-start ventures. Eighty3Creative Limited ? one of the more recent arrivals at Wolverhampton Science Park? is a creative design agency dealing with a broad range of clients from small start-up companies through to large governmental organisations.

Director Craig Slater says: ?Choosing to locate at Wolverhampton Science Park has turned out to be an excellent decision. We have around us a community of other creatives with specialist skill-sets upon which we can draw when required to complete a complex design project. On the business side there is also plenty of support if we need it. ?Since arriving here, we have rapidly expanded our client base and our portfolio of services. Could we have done it elsewhere? Possibly, but not as easily, or in such a friendly environment!?

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Technology Centre, Wolverhampton Science Park,
Wolverhampton, WV10 9RU
Tel: 01902 824000 Fax: 01902 824075

Added the 27 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1

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