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Rekindling the spirit of enterprise

One NorthEast believes Teesside’s new Institute of Digital Innovation is ‘an important contributor to the goals set out in the Regional Economic Strategy’ while Tees Valley Unlimited says it ‘cements the University’s place at the heart of the future of the Tees Valley’. Here we hear from key partners and talk to Dr Jim TerKeurst, the Institute’s Director.

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Digital City director Jim TerKeurst

Digital City director Jim TerKeurst

It has been several years in the making, but at last the Institute of Digital Innovation – known by its IDI acronym – has arrived.

Based in one of the University’s two new showpiece buildings, the IDI will occupy all four floors of the £12m Phoenix Building on Woodlands Road, Middlesbrough.

Its Director Jim TerKeurst says the IDI has been deliberately designed to create a stimulating environment. ‘We want the IDI to take people beyond their comfort zones and to stimulate new ideas’, he says. ‘I call this “disruptive innovation” and believe it helps the Tees Valley make a major contribution to not just the local, but also the regional and national economy.

The IDI has received generous financial support from One NorthEast and the European Regional Development Fund through Government Office North East, who together have contributed over £5m towards the building.

The top floor will be focused on supporting the digital industries, and companies seeking to develop or strengthen links with research and enterprise in the University can lease highquality office units of up to 1,000 sq ft each.

The second floor will include studio space for up to 32 DigitalCity Fellows at a time, with specialist software provided in flexible labs. Postgraduate studios will also be based on this floor. The first floor will have specialist facilities for research groups, such as Professor Marc Cavazza’s team from the School of Computing, d|lab from the School of Arts & Media and the Centre for Construction Innovation and Research led by Professor Nashwan Dawood.

The ground floor will house the DigitalCity offices and a specialist sound stage, conference room and innovation room for future foresight and strategic thinking by companies. ‘The IDI and the whole DigitalCity project are going to demonstrate the potential for innovation in the Tees Valley and the wider region’, says Dr TerKeurst.

‘I believe they are going to help rekindle the spirit of enterprise that made Middlesbrough such a powerhouse for innovation in the industrial revolution of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now we want to harness this potential for innovation again, gear it towards the needs and demands of the 21st century and make a major contribution to the region’s economic strategy’, he said.

And the IDI has been warmly welcomed by many of the key figures involved with regional regeneration. Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of regional development agency One NorthEast, said, ‘As a key partner and funder, One NorthEast is delighted to support the impressive and exciting Institute of Digital Innovation. It is an important contributor to the goals set out in the Regional Economic Strategy.

‘The University of Teesside has gained a reputation as a major player in the digital sector, and this exciting project will ensure its academic excellence can be converted into business creation and growth, both of which are vital to the continued success of the Tees Valley and North East England as a whole.’

Mark Elliott, DigitalCity Business Director, who is leading the BoHo economic regeneration project, Middlesbrough Council’s contribution to DigitalCity, said, 'I'm delighted to see the IDI forming such an integral part of the wider DigitalCity project, and I'm looking forward to further schemes and initiatives being developed in the coming months'.

Jonathan Spruce, Senior Assistant Director of the Tees Valley Joint Strategy Unit, speaking on behalf of Tees Valley Unlimited – the body bringing together key players for the City Region business case – also welcomed the IDI. ‘When we presented our business case to government last year we stressed that developing the University of Teesside was fundamental to our long-term aspirations for the Tees Valley. So the completion of the IDI as our first key project since making the City Region case cements the University’s place at the heart of the future of the Tees Valley.’

Businesses wishing to discuss becoming a tenant of the IDI should contact Neil Hannah, New Business Manager, Department of Academic Enterprise, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, TS1 3BA. Email or telephone 01642 384646.

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01 October 2007

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