Artist's impression of the Environment and Sustainability Institute

£30 million investment in new research institute

A £30 million Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) is set to be built at the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus.

Announced by the South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) and the University, the investment will help put Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly at the forefront of environmental and climate change technologies.

The investment – which includes almost £23 million from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) Convergence programme - will enable building of the ESI at the Combined Universities In Cornwall Tremough Campus, Penryn – bringing at least 800 jobs in its wake.

ESI will concentrate on two core areas: making good commercial use of the environmental and sustainability knowledge in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and creating a world-class research and teaching institution at Tremough to increase that knowledge.

The investment’s aim is to grow the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, creating jobs and wealth by building on existing assets; creating a sustainable cluster of high-value businesses, people, knowledge, investment and research. 

Investment for the new project comes from the ERDF Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the South West RDA and the University.

Work is due to start in February to create one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings in the UK to house the Institute. It will be ready for occupation in summer 2012.

The ESI will generate world-class research into the causes of environmental change and how to manage its effects.  More than 100 top quality academic staff will be recruited to work across three selected themes: clean technologies, natural environment, and socio-economic research.

There is already potential for commercial applications from the base of knowledge being developed in these areas of research in Cornwall and Exeter and one of the unique features of the institute will be the fact that researchers across different disciplines will work together.

To ensure that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly fully exploit the business opportunities from the knowledge generated by ESI, a carefully-designed business support service will be integral to the ESI.  It is envisaged that this, combined with investments in Innovation Centres at Pool and Tremough, will see the creation of a thriving cluster of businesses leading the way in the application of these increasingly important technologies and providing high-value jobs.

Professor Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “This is great news for Cornwall, especially at a time of national cutbacks in public spending. The ESI will build on the University’s research strengths in climate change and environmental science and add critical mass to the Tremough Campus, which we share with University College Falmouth. The Campus has provided a massive economic boost to Cornwall which will continue to develop now we have funding confirmed for the ESI. It is a pioneering development in linking academia so closely with business and our staff have been actively helping Cornish businesses to succeed.”

Suzanne Bond, the South West RDA’s Executive Director of People and Skills, said: “This is a major investment in Cornwall’s economy which delivers a step-change in the county’s environmental science and engineering capacity. It builds on Cornwall’s expertise and heritage and, combined with a strong business focus, will deliver at least 800 high-value jobs in energy and clean technologies and related industries.  It will also leave a lasting legacy by driving long-term growth in the peninsula.”

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “It is a time of seismic public sector cuts and radical structural reorganisation, we continue our journey to achieve long term transformation of the Cornish economy. Low Carbon economy is easy to shout but difficult to achieve. At the heart of this lies the principle of environment as an economic driver. At the heart of the ESI is the principle that knowledge is the driver of successful, sustainable businesses.”

The University of Exeter now has about 1,600 students based at Tremough and this is expected to rise to 2,150 by 2015. Nearly a third come from the South West. The developing role of the University of Exeter in Cornwall has, crucially, introduced a major science research base in addition to arts, humanities and social sciences.

Total ongoing investment in new facilities across all of the University of Exeter’s campuses now exceeds £300 million.

Date: 20 July 2010

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