The power of partnership is the driving force behind the Scottish Cities Alliance – and has also been the ethos of the Inverness Campus as it brings together the worlds of business and learning in a long term approach aimed at boosting the economy.
Now open, the Inverness Campus hub is designed to help students, researchers and businesses in the facility to share knowledge, talent and expertise – a cross fertilisation aimed at keeping a flow of high quality jobs in the Inverness area along with young people to fill those positions once their studies are over.
Inverness Campus is set to be a key driver of the economy in the city, with the potential to support 1,300 jobs on site over the next five years. The campus features in the Scottish Cities Alliance investment prospectus, which details £10 billion of potential investments across the seven Scottish cities.
The campus is the brainchild of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and its main plot is occupied by the Inverness College building at the University of the Highlands and Islands. This is set to open to students in the autumn, while the first phase of the campus features 17 fully serviced plots, a third of which are already sold or under discussion.
The campus is a hugely important driver for the economy, with six of the plots designated as part of a life sciences enterprise area, meaning that incentives will be available for businesses in that sector. Indeed, such is the importance of joining industry and education, the site is also linked by a bridge to Inverness’s key life sciences district which is home to Raigmore Hospital, LifeScan Scotland and the Centre for Health Science.
Artificial lochans create a stunning focal point for the campus, while drystone dykes give the grounds a distinctly Highland feel. With an open air arts space and meeting place on the island, An t-Eilean, the area’s inclusive and collaborative feel is boosted by attention to detail in the landscaping, with features as mundane as benches given a distinctly artistic feel.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something unique for the region,” says Alex Paterson, chief executive of HIE. “It is a long term project which will have an increasing impact over many years. For instance, the educational opportunities and new jobs at the campus will encourage young people to stay in, or relocate to, the area, while the links between education, industry and academia will boost local businesses and make the campus an attractive inward investment location.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who officially opened the campus, says: “It goes without saying that the Inverness Campus project, an exemplar of collaborative working, will bring wide ranging and substantial benefits to the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland as a whole. The benefits that will flow from the project are substantial in terms of economic, social, cultural and academic impact, in line with Scotland’s economic strategy.
“Given the combination of business, research and education all on the one site, international interest and investment will undoubtedly follow. The Scottish Government will work with our enterprise and international development agencies to promote this leading facility in the stunning location of the Highlands of Scotland.”
Also featured in the investment prospectus is Inverness Airport Business Park, just nine miles from the city centre and a key commercial development of 250 hectares, with 36 acres of serviced land available for occupancy. The site is adjacent to Inverness Airport and close to the A96 which connects Inverness and Aberdeen. With a new railway station planned for 2018, connectivity is a major attraction.
Inverness Airport Business Park has planning permission in principle for a 100 bed hotel development adjacent to the airport terminal and also further expansion of the airside site, where Bristow Search and Rescue opened a new 30,000 square foot base in April.
“Inverness Airport Business Park has become the prime location for expansion in the region,” says Rory Black, the park’s business development manager. “The site infrastructure, transport links, accessibility, bespoke new build developments and proximity to the Tornagrain new town makes the business park an obvious choice for companies moving or relocating to the area.”
The economic ambitions for Inverness do not end there, however, as it also has a multi-million-pound City Deal in the pipeline which will see Highland Council bid for up to £300m of funding. City Deals have become big news in recent times and involve a combination of Government grants and borrowing powers to boost the economic future. Inverness is looking to use its City Deal to fund seven transforming projects, including investment in the city centre, boosting infrastructure, building new sports facilities, and further building at the Inverness Campus and the Airport Business Park.
“We are continuing to work after the UK election with civil servants from both administrations on our ambitious plans for a City/ Region Deal,” says Stuart Black, director of development and infrastructure at Highland Council. “Not only does this focus on key enabling infrastructure projects in Inverness, it will also consider generic issues such as skills, innovation and building on the current superfast broadband roll out across the Highlands.
“The Scottish Cities Alliance has been invaluable to our work, as we have been able to benefit from ideas and expertise from other cities. Indeed, the Scottish Futures Trust, with contacts made through the Alliance, was already helping us develop a growth accelerator model project for Inverness city centre which set the scene for us to progress our City/Region Deal.
“Although it is early days in this process, we have already secured £3m of initial Treasury backing for projects in Inverness city centre. These are exciting times for Inverness and the Highlands and we are very much open to new ideas and open for business as one of Scotland’s growing city regions.”
To view the Scottish Cities Alliance Investment Prospectus, visit www.scottishcities.org/ prospectus