Exeter City Council: Exeter Success Story - Richard Ball




Exeter is an ancient cathedral city with an extremely modern outlook and a successful broad-based economy. As Richard Ball explains, it has a city council that is fully focused on the needs of existing businesses as well as the requirements of companies considering moving themselves to an exceptional business location.

Exeter has become home to a wide range of important businesses, including Reuters, The Met Office, EDF Energy and Friends Provident's pensions operation. It has established itself as a light manufacturing, service industry and a centre for research, with a strong science base, due in no small measure to its strong business links with the University of Exeter.

The university's £80 million science strategy in science, medicine and engineering has been designed to turn its world-class academic research into marketable products and services. It is guided by an inter-disciplinary approach that is addressing some big issues in, for example, climate change, systems biology and functional materials. This work is deliberately breaking down the barriers between academic schools.

The university is also leading a visionary £14 million research partnership with Bristol and Bath universities and ten other local higher education institutions to boost research in areas of economic importance to the region. Backed by the South West of England Regional Development Agency and The Higher Education Funding Council for England, Great Western Research has created new research opportunities including PhD studentships in cognitive neuroscience, economic psychology, materials research, nanotechnology and sustainability.

Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

This unique partnership between the universities of Exeter and Plymouth and the local NHS saw its first doctors graduate in July 2007. But the college was designed to be much more than a medical training school. It has invested heavily in research facilities.

Among early successes has been the identification of a 'weight gene'. The college has also pioneered the genetic understanding of diabetes in newborn children, enabling tablets to be used instead of insulin injections. It has also run the largest controlled trial in the UK of cannabinoid use in multiple sclerosis.

In January 2009 the Peninsula College opened the National Institute for Health Research experimental medical clinical trials facility. Peninsula Bioventures is the technology transfer arm set up to identify the commercial opportunities of all research and to develop collaboration with industrial partners.

Such translational research will increase commercially important licensing and spin-out opportunities. A number of international pharmaceutical companies have already taken out licences on research done at the Peninsula College.

Third generation science park

Exeter is building a 24-hectare science park that will become a centre of excellence by attracting companies seeking innovative and incubation support as well as those already at the forefront of technological scientific research.

The science park will bring the number of business and industrial parks created in and around the city to eight. The latest is the 37-hectare Exeter Skypark being built to the north of Exeter International Airport alongside the M5 motorway.

Richard Ball, Exeter City Council.