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Building completion heralds new era of cyber innovation in the Midlands

Construction is now complete on the £9 million state-of-the art Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security with the building officially handed over by contractor, Speller Metcalfe.

When the new centre officially opens in spring 2021 on Skylon Park, Hereford Enterprise Zone, Herefordshire will be home to the UK’s leading centre of excellence in cyber security, supporting innovation and industry in this growing sector.

The centre is a joint venture between the University of Wolverhampton and Herefordshire Council and part-funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund, via the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Despite work being temporarily halted on the site due to pandemic lockdown restrictions in March, Speller Metcalfe carried out a phased return with a reduced workforce, in line with revised protocols and protective measures enabling progress.

The new building, designed by Birmingham based Associated Architects, has generated 80% spend locally within 30 miles of the project which includes subcontractors Folbig Fabrications, Hereford Asbestos Services, Herefordshire Council Building Control and Quickskip, based close to the site at Rotherwas.

Councillor David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council, said: “The centre is a key investment to support the creation of high-income, knowledge-based jobs in the county.

“We are already home to a highly regarded cyber economy, and the knowledge, expertise and opportunities that the centre brings will help to establish Herefordshire as one of the capitals of the cyber security sector.”

Mandy Thorn is Chair of the Marches LEP, which invested £2.82m of Local Growth Funding into the project. She said: “Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, it is fantastic to see this amazing building completed and nearly ready to open its doors to businesses in the new year.  

“The new centre will not only be home to growing businesses engaged in cyber security solutions but will also deliver support and cyber insight to thousands of businesses both in Herefordshire and across the wider Marches region.”

Zone Chairman, Andrew Manning Cox, said: “This is a trail-blazing project which will boost investment on Skylon Park while supporting businesses to protect themselves from hacking and data disruption.

“The expertise and specialist focus of the centre will be part of a wider, growing campus of cyber sector companies based within the Cyber Quarter on Skylon Park.”

Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “We’ve seen from the success of our recent Cyber Fringe Festival that there’s an ever growing appetite to ensure that cyber research and skills is a priority for businesses across the globe.

“The University will provide significant resources for research and development through our Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI) which is developing and leading an International Cyber Knowledge Hub to tackle threats in cyberspace.

“Focus will be on providing expertise in relation to security for critical national infrastructure – particularly in terms of healthcare, transport and our physical environment including power grids, water networks and the nuclear industry.

“The shared facilities will also allow private sector businesses to benefit from the university’s networks and expertise as well as make use of the centre’s specialist training rooms and laboratory spaces.”

Adrian Speller, Technical Director of constructor Speller Metcalfe, said: “As well providing a catalyst hub for the ongoing development of the cyber economy, the building is also hugely sustainable. This includes high levels of airtightness, a ‘fabric first’ approach and low embodied carbon, all of which will contribute to lower running costs and reduced carbon footprint over the building’s lifespan.  

“Having personally grown up in Herefordshire, it’s been fantastic to work with the project partners to construct a building that has generated significant social return on investment through its delivery.”

Warren Jukes, Director at Associated Architects, said: “The new building is highly sustainable and includes an atrium roof of glue-laminated timber beams.

“The timber hybrid structure of the building has stored 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e, in its construction; a steel/concrete equivalent would have emitted 563 tonnes of CO2e, it’s an outcome of which we are extremely proud.”

Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security will offer a package of tailored security testing, training, Research & Development and sector expertise to businesses and investors.

Supported by the university’s Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI), the centre will also be home to 16 cyber SMEs and well as offering product testing and certification, CPD and short courses and cyber conferences like the recent Cyber Fringe Festival attracting experts from across the globe. 

The 2,000 square metre building will provide significant resources for research and development across three cyber laboratories, advanced training facilities as part of the University’s Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute and additional business space for up to 16 cyber companies.

The centre, which secured £2.82m of funding via the Marches LEP’s Growth Deal with Government in 2017, is part of the new Cyber Quarter at Skylon Park, already home to numerous defence and security sector businesses.

The new centre incorporates a full height glass atrium to provide a dual break-out space and function hall, alongside the main three storey building that houses business suites, innovation rooms, IT workshops and a ‘Cyber Range’ – a cutting edge facility that will defend against the global rise of hacking.

Anyone interested in courses offered or businesses looking for incubation space can find out more about the Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security on the website. 

Picture caption from left to right: Andrew Manning Cox, Enterprise Zone Chairman, Adrian Speller, Technical Director Speller Metcalfe, Professor Prashant Pillai, Interim Head of the School of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Amar Aggoun, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton, Councillor David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council and Mandy Thorn, Chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.

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