A centre designed to help new and small rural businesses thrive has opened its doors – to its new manager.
The Rural Innovation Centre, based at Stoneleigh Park, has been created to support small firms in rural areas of Warwickshire as part of a major initiative to boost the rural economy.
The centre has 16 offices to suit businesses ranging in size from two to six people, and will offer a host of advice and support services free of charge for tenants when it opens in early autumn.
It is a part of the Rural Growth Network funded by DEFRA, and led by Warwickshire County Council on behalf of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Liz Burkinshaw has been appointed to run the centre, which is one of five similar projects across England. The project is designed to create 500 jobs and assist 120 start-up businesses in rural Warwickshire.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Leamington. is heading up the new centre after a decade working for the NHS.
“This is a fantastic project,” she said. “The building has been transformed into a cutting-edge centre for new and small businesses, complete with a range of support services, meeting rooms and ultra-fast broadband.
“We have created what we hope will be the perfect environment for new and growing businesses. They can be in any sector but the owners or managers have to be based in the rural areas.
“We have already had encouraging interest from people who have started businesses at home but have now grown to a stage where they need more suitable office accommodation.
“We have geared everything – from finance to support – to be as simple, transparent and easy as possible to help the tenants to be able to focus on building their businesses.
“As well as that, companies will be able to take advantage of the other facilities on Stoneleigh Park which include children’s day nursery, gym, café and organic farm shop, archive storage building and hotel.”
LaSalle Investment Management took responsibility for Stoneleigh Park in December 2010 under a 150-year lease from RASE and is revitalising the site as an internationally-renowned centre for agriculture, rural business, science and innovation. It is a partner of Warwickshire County Council in the innovation centre.
Stoneleigh Park is among six science and technology parks in the UK which have been brought together as a long-term investment by LaSalle as the Business Environment for Science and Technology (BEST) Network.
Colin Hooper, Estates Director at Stoneleigh Park, said: “The Rural Innovation Centre is key to our plans to transform Stoneleigh Park and we believe we have created the perfect environment for new and small business.
“We want to provide the tools they need to thrive and hopefully they will become stand-alone tenants here at Stoneleigh.
“Innovation is at the heart of the £160 million Agricultural Technologies Strategy recently announced by Government, which aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural science and technology, so the timing of the Rural Innovation Centre could not be better.“