I have visited Hethel Innovation on the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor to discuss the centre’s ambitious plans to help supercharge local growth. Originally known as Hethel Engineering Centre, the project was started by Norfolk County Council and now manages two of Norfolk’s most exciting business incubation sites. I am delighted that we have such a project here in South Norfolk. Business incubators play a vital role, offering help which start-ups and early-stage emerging companies often find difficult to access. Hethel Innovation provides excellent collaboration opportunities, access to business finance and support, as well as a physical space for businesses to work alongside and learn from each other.
The centre provided important early support to Magnus, a growing business which designs and manufactures power converters for the marine sector, and also helped another now very successful business, Equipmake, which was based at Hethel for 8 years and has grown rapidly over the last two years as bus companies around the world move quickly to electric vehicles. Both companies have now moved to new premises in South Norfolk, where they continue expanding, creating high value jobs and contributing towards the local economy.
Hethel Innovation also provides vital opportunities for engineering and manufacturing students through placements and training opportunities, helping to retain local knowledge and experience after school and university. The centre has already supported over 700 businesses and created over 400 jobs, a real testament to the power of local enterprise here in South Norfolk.
However, the centre now faces the problems of success. The current facility is not big enough to meet all the demand for incubation and grow-on space, which is vital for helping start-ups and early-stage businesses grow. Hethel Innovation has received over 50 enquiries from new sources, in addition to the internal enquiries from existing tenants looking to grow their businesses on-site. Fortunately the neighbouring Group Lotus, one of the largest employers in South Norfolk, has sold some land to Hethel Innovation, a powerful display of local business collaboration. The new facility or ‘Phase 4’ will provide more high value jobs and eventually generate annual returns of £22 million a year.