The Marches LEP has signed a £2.34m deal to fund the transformation of a former school into facilities for Hereford’s proposed new university.

The funding will be used to refurbish and equip buildings at the former Robert Owen Academy in Blackfriars Street for students learning practical engineering skills.

NMiTE is aiming to address the shortage of skilled graduate engineers in the Marches and British businesses across the advanced manufacturing, agri-engineering, data, defence, resources security, and sustainable/smart living technology sectors.

The LEP, which is led by the private sector working with local authority partners including Herefordshire Council, says the funding will see buildings improved, adapted and equipped to provide 3,205 square metres of teaching and learning space.

Mandy Thorn MBE, Chair of the Marches LEP, said:

“This £2.34m is the first tranche of a wider funding package secured via the Government’s Local Growth Fund by the Marches LEP.  Once transformed, the building is expected to see 250 learners come through the doors while creating 37 jobs and supporting 75 companies by 2023. This investment in skills in our region is vital and we’re very pleased the project is under way.”  

Minister for Local Growth, the Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said:

“We are committed to boosting economic growth across the Midlands Engine and levelling up regions throughout the UK as we prepare to leave the EU on 31 October.

“This is a fantastic project with a truly innovative approach to training the next generation of engineers. Thanks to £2.34 million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, NMiTE is bringing further education and private sector business together to meet a challenge – we need more engineers and we need them to have the right skills to meet employer demands.”

This funding deal will also see more than £3m invested by the private sector, boosting the local economy by more than £6m.

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, President and Chief Executive of NMiTE, said:

“We are delighted to have reached this important point in our progress.

“Our academic staff have been extremely busy designing and creating NMiTE’s MEng programme with the help of our design cohort and launching new CPD programmes which will embed the concept of lifelong learning, adding local value to industry, community and economy.

“Now we have access to our first building, our vision and ambition to create the first engineering university for and of the future will start to physically emerge for all to see.”

The reaching and learning facility will include studios and workshops for students to learn practical engineering skills.

About the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership: The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is driving accelerated economic growth through investment in innovation, higher level skills, housing and business sites across the region. It aims to deliver 70,000 homes and 40,000 jobs by 2031

The Marches region, which includes Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, is a dynamic business region where entrepreneurs flourish alongside global players. Covering 2,300 sq miles and with a growing population of 666,700, it is home to 29,800 businesses and a £12.3 billion economy

Bordered by the West Midlands to the east and Wales to the west, the Marches' key centres of population and employment are the city of Hereford and thriving towns of Shrewsbury and Telford.  A network of 25 smaller market towns and a large rural area make up the rest of the settlement mix – with the Marches recognised as being one of the most enterprising regions in the UK

High profile businesses which have chosen to base operations here include BAE Defence Systems; GKN; Westons Cider; Grainger & Worrall; Stadco; Caterpillar; Mϋller Dairy UK, Doncasters Aerospace, Denso, Capgemini, Ricoh, Cargill, Heineken, Grocontinental, McConnels, Kerry Ingredients, Special Metals, Kingspan and Makita

The Marches is also home to centres of excellence and institutions which promote and foster the transfer of knowledge including Harper Adams University and its National Centre for Precision Farming, University Centre Shrewsbury, the University of Wolverhampton campus and e-innovation centre at Priorslee, and Food Enterprise Centre in Shrewsbury

The designated Enterprise Zone of the Marches LEP is in Hereford, at Skylon Park. It is the only Enterprise Zone in England with a unique defence and security sector focus, drawing on the city's heritage as the home of the SAS

The LEP area is home to some iconic places of interest. The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, the Shropshire Hills and the Wye Valley Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Offa’s Dyke, the rivers Severn and Wye, and places of national renown including Ludlow and Ross-on-Wye make it a highly popular place to both visit and relocate to

The Marches has a diverse business base and is recognised for its sector strength in advanced manufacturing and engineering; agri-food and drink; automotive and defence & security

About the Local Growth Fund: Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

About NMiTE: Inaugurated on 19 October 2018, NMiTE is being created to help solve the problem of Britain’s estimated annual shortfall of at least 22,000 engineering graduates* with a radical new approach and a curriculum that combines the best innovations from leading universities around the world.

NMiTE will initially open its doors to a Pioneer Cohort of 50 undergraduates, rising to 200 by the end of 2020 subject to Validation. The students will be based at a purpose-built city centre campus in Hereford from where NMiTE will deliver the world’s most distinctive and innovative engineering curriculum. With a focus on learning by doing, it intends to be educating more than 5,000 engineering students by 2032.

The project to create the engineering university of the future is being strongly backed by engineering businesses, the Herefordshire community, Herefordshire Council, Olin College of Engineering (USA), professional engineering bodies and the UK Government, which awarded up to £23 million in initial funding.£8 million of this funding for the project was awarded by the Marches LEP via its Growth Deal with Government. Growth Deals are awarded to LEPs through a competitive bidding process to fund the delivery of projects to boost the local economy.

*Engineering UK 2018: The state of engineering

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