Grant Bourhill is the CEO of Surrey Research Park and is committed to forging a community of businesses, investors, academics and R&D support enterprises to converge and drive innovation forward for a better future
You are quite new to the Research Park, can you give the readers some details of your background?
I have worked in innovation in various sectors including space, low carbon energy, consumer electronics and defence. Previously, I was CEO of Leicester Science Park where I led the delivery of a new £100m+ facility for the Space Sector.
Before this, I worked with the Energy Technologies Institute where I led the development of clean-energy products and services for the residential market. I also spent eight years with Sharp, bringing several world-first consumer electronic products to market, primarily in the mobile but also automotive sectors.
Can you explain to our readers why the Research Park was established and what its core function is?
Surrey Research Park is one of the UK’s pioneering Research Parks and it was formed in 1982 with planning permission obtained in 1984. The planning permission covers 70 acres and to date, just over 600,000 square feet has been developed across 31 buildings.
The main functions of the Park are to:
• provide a competitive advantage for companies locating on the Park, creating an environment favouring business formation, development and growth
• support local and regional economic development
• Drive connectivity for our customers with nearby innovation actors such as the University and the Royal Surrey County Hospital
• elevate the profile of the region as an innovation hotspot
With your first tenant arriving in 1985, how many tenants do you have now and what is the breadth of their activities?
We have over 200 companies and 4,500 employees on the Park, responsible for over 10% of the local economy.
Despite the challenges faced by everyone over the last two years, the Research Park is full and we are experiencing our strongest ever demand.
Our businesses are diverse, from newly formed companies to global corporates such as Airbus and BAE Systems.
While technologically broad, we have significant clusters of excellence in space, animal and human health, digital (from cyber through to digital games) and the environment.
With the sole funder being the University, can you explain how the University benefits from the Park and what benefits your tenants derive from being associated with the University?
The University of Surrey has always been committed to working with industry to drive forward innovation and societal impact. Last year, Surrey was recognised as being in the top 10% of universities nationally for working with business.
In addition, the University received an award by the Royal Academy of Engineering for its 5G/6G Innovation Centre in recognition of its exemplary partnership between academia and industry.
Having Surrey Research Park on its doorstep provides the University with the opportunity for greater collaboration with industry leading companies in sectors such as space, animal and human health, sustainability and digital – specialisms that dovetail brilliantly with the expertise at the University.
The Research Park also provides an excellent opportunity for student experience and graduate opportunities.
It is a golden age for innovation, and we believe driving forward enhanced collaboration between University researchers and Park businesses will help us all realise the competitive advantage we have as a cohesive, like-minded innovation community.
A recent example of this was demonstrated at our latest sold-out event at Surrey Research Park whereby we invited Artificial Intelligence experts from a wide range of private and public institutions to discuss the application of AI in Surrey and how we can build Surrey as a national hotspot for AI.
At the event, the University of Surrey discussed how its new Surrey Institute for People-Centred AI, a hub of more than 250 cross-disciplinary researchers bringing together Surrey’s core AI-related expertise will be working with Industry. The AI institute will be involved not only in the development of technology but, crucially, how it is used, applied, and who will be using it. This will require wide-ranging collaborations across Surrey – partnerships with businesses from various sectors will be critical.
You boast an array of ‘value added services’, and l wonder if you might explain what these are and the further benefits of becoming a tenant?
We have an eight-page directory of value-adding services that our customers can enjoy, so this is challenging to remain brief! But as examples….
• We provide our tenants with funding and investment opportunities from our established and growing networks, providing access to Angel investors, training, and support which has already helped our SMEs raise over £100 million. We also provide access to a wide range of collaborative funding opportunities
• Our businesses can access business support services ranging from start-up support, MBA-based business consultancy or access partnership opportunities with the University’s multidisciplinary Institutes or Centres such as the 5G / 6G Innovation Centre, the People–Centred AI Institute and Surrey Space Centre
• Our customers also have a distinct advantage of direct access to the University student and graduate talent pool as well as access to a wide range of University of Surrey facilities
• We are also focussed on staff wellbeing. Staff of businesses on the Park also benefit from discounted rates at Surrey Sports Park, nearby nurseries as well as excellent hospitality services. We also operate a free electric shuttle bus for any tenant employee between the Park and Guildford Railway Station. The bus is kindly supported by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited.
A crucial added value aspect of locating at Surrey Research Park is being part of a community of like-minded innovators. Innovation, experience, knowledge and transfer of skills are enhanced when surrounded by like-minded people.
With the Park being such a popular location, is there any remaining space to be developed?
We have planning permission for approximately a further 100,000 square feet and are now talking with a variety of existing and new customers. Our businesses are growing, and to ensure they remain within the region, we are determined to provide the physical expansion space that they need.
Are there any further development plans and what does the next decade hold for the Park?
The Park is enormously successful. We have more businesses wishing to locate here than space available.
As we look to the future, we are focussed on growth, sustainability and fostering even stronger regional partnerships.
Surrey Research Park has created an environment that is making a significant contribution to the region. We are now looking to build on our contribution to the region and economy by forging partnerships across the region to add value to an even wider customer base.
We are committed to creating a community across the wider region in Surrey and the South-East. We believe that collectively we can cement Surrey’s reputation as a key component of the national innovation ecosystem, supporting the UK in its objective to becoming a global science super-power.
Additionally, we know that there is ever increasing market demand from businesses, the investment community and Government to support sustainability targets and practices. In a similar way to the University being at the forefront in committing to net zero by 2030, the Surrey Research Park will support that ambition and provide a compelling, sustainable environment for companies to grow.
Tel: 01483 579693