A ground-breaking ceremony has been held to mark the start of work on the University of Northampton’s new £8.5 million innovation centre, known as the ‘innovation cube’.
The centre will house up to 55 small businesses, each with access to support from the university in “developing their business in a socially responsible manner.”
It is one of three major university projects within the town’s enterprise zone, alongside the proposed £330 million campus, and the halls of residence at St John’s.
Terry Neville, chief operating officer at the university, said: “The centre will be a flagship for the social enterprise sector and will specialise in business support, which is rapidly expanding across the UK and globally.
“Encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship is crucial to the university and significantly enhances the experience and employability prospects we offer to our students.”
University of Northampton vice-chancellor Nick Petford added: “This will be the second university building in the enterprise zone, joining the halls of residence, which open early next year.
“We see ourselves as a catalyst for development in Northampton and beyond.
“This building will act as a social enterprise hub, alongside the new railway station, which will be an iconic gateway to Northampton town centre.”
The university is delivering the project along with the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation, with Northamptonshire-based Kier Construction appointed as the main contractor.
Graham Howe, managing director of Kier, said: “There is a huge amount of investment going into Northampton and we are very pleased to be associated with it.
“We have nearly completed the new bus terminus and are well on the way towards completing the new student accommodation at St John’s.
“This is quite a challenging site, but nothing which will be too difficult for us.”
The centre is expected to open in early 2015.