Tracey Smith

Tracey Smith, CEO of York Science Park

Science in the city

Over 750 people from across the globe descended on York last week for an annual industry conference, which put the city’s booming science and technology sectors firmly on the global stage.

York Science Park played host to the annual International Association of Science Parks (IASP) European division and UK Science Parks Association (UKSPA) conference last week which saw over 700 people descend on the city.

The event, which was followed by a gala dinner and awards ceremony at York Racecourse, brought together speakers from across the world with European IASP members, UKSPA members and other UK-based delegates from the science and tech sectors.

York Science Park CEO Tracey Smith said: “As well as providing invaluable opportunities for leaders from science and technology parks around the world to share knowledge, experience and learn from each other, the conference provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase our city and all it offers.

“The conference brought over 750 people together from across the globe, some of which extended their visits and some of which are likely to return to the region to visit.

“The conference also attracted delegates from the wider region who joined us to learn about best practice from UKSPA experts and international expertise.”

Delegates heard from guest speakers including Helen Sheilds from Biorenewables Development Centre, who spoke about the opportunities and challenges of being an innovative science company in Yorkshire.

Tim Hammond from Durham University also shared insights about university spin outs and Catherine Johns from Business Durham talked to international delegates about ‘science parks, stakeholders and society’.

Much of the event facilitated the sharing of best practice, both in running facilities; developing new spaces; innovation services; acceleration programmes; developing resident companies and incubation.

And as well as this, it also helped put the city’s science and tech sectors on the global stage with experts and investors from across the globe hearing more about the city’s booming science sector. As Smith pointed out: “Our residents have reported good levels of growth in recent years.

“In our 2016 resident survey, 70% of residents reported an increase in their turnover and 42% of residents increased staff numbers during 2016. The sectors that have seen significant growth are robotics and autonomous systems, life sciences, agri-sciences and advanced materials.

“When it comes to the type of businesses that are reporting growth, the majority are consultancy and tech companies as well as those involved in research and development. This growth is underpinned by the highly skilled, energetic and motivated entrepreneurs who have access to exceptional workforces through the city’s universities.

“Science City York states that bioscience and agri-food sectors are major growth areas, with 212 bioscience businesses in the Science City York sector and 525 agri-food businesses in the Leeds City Region, York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP. ERDF investment along with the government’s £50m commitment a new Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and a Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) in Sand Hutton, will further strengthen Yorkshire’s position as a leading regional agri-food base.”

So, what makes York such an attractive proposition for growing science businesses? Smith added: “It isn’t one thing in isolation which makes York such an attractive proposition – the city has so much to offer. The combination of the city being a great place to live, work and do business is a good place to start.

“What’s more, businesses in York have access to the world-leading, innovative research and development taking place at the University of York, and other higher educational establishments, which helps to elevate the city’s offering to businesses.

“The city also benefits from ongoing development of clusters in a range of sectors, creative and digital, bioeconomy, medical innovation. Plus, it has great transport links to other cities across the UK.

“For companies looking to recruit a potential workforce, the percentage of locals with a degree level qualification is significantly higher than the national average. There is a great talent pool from the local universities.”

Smith also believes that the event will leave a lasting legacy on not only York Science park but on the city as a whole.

She concludes: “We are always looking to better understand our residents’ requirements and how changes in the economic landscape might affect their businesses.

“We will do whatever we can to help support them, and expand and grow our model to support as many businesses as possible.

“Over the coming year, we are looking closely at business needs and helping to create angel and investor activity around the companies we have on the park.

“We are aiming to develop programmes to support business growth and development on the Science Park, working collaboratively with our key stakeholders, including the University of York.”