General HIE news

New life sciences building opens

A new £4.5m life sciences building was officially opened at Inverness Campus by the Deputy First Minister Mr John Swinney, today (Monday 20 May).

Called ‘Solasta House’, it offers flexible space for new and expanding technology and life sciences companies and is already home to eight companies and could be 75 percent full by the summer.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is developing the campus as a nationally and internationally significant location for business, research and education.

HIE commissioned Robertson Northern Limited to construct the 2460m2 facility in response to a healthy pipeline of business enquiries. Solasta House provides much needed laboratory and office space to meet the growing demand. 

The development attracted funding of £1.5 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with the remainder coming from HIE.

Mr Swinney saw first-hand some of the ground-breaking collaboration, research and development activity being carried out by companies in the building. A business showcase highlighting activity in the region’s life sciences companies was held at Solasta House on the same day.

Mr Swinney met companies from the NEXUS co-working space, some of which have relocated to the larger Solasta House from nearby Aurora House. The NEXUS project offers shared workspace and opportunities to work alongside likeminded companies and is part of the Northern Innovation Hub, led by HIE, and funded by the Inverness and Highland Region City Deal and ERDF.

Commenting on his visit, Mr Swinney said: “It gives me great pleasure to open Solasta House, which represents the latest stage of the development of the Inverness Campus and reaffirms our commitment to invest and grow the £5.2 billion Scottish life sciences sector.

“The new laboratory and business space will support the development of innovative products and services in health science and technology, such as those demonstrated at today’s business showcase, and bolster the region’s reputation as a place for state-of-the-art facilities and company growth support.” 

The campus first opened to the public in 2015 to support the growth of the region’s life sciences sector and is already home to several private and public-sector organisations. They include Scottish Vet Referrals, Aqua Pharma, Inverness College UHI, Scotland’s Rural College and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

More than 900 employees are based at the campus and this figure is expected to rise to around 1300 within the next few years.

Future plans for the campus include the development of a new hotel and a collaborative health facility containing an elective care centre, University of the Highlands and Islands’ life sciences innovation centre and a new life sciences business incubator owned by HIE.

Professor Lorne Crerar, chair of HIE, spoke about the investment HIE and its partners are making in life sciences and technology, and the integral part Inverness Campus is playing in the development of these sectors.

He said: “We have been developing Inverness Campus with a strong ethos of collaboration between commercial, research and education activities and an emphasis on life sciences. Of equal importance to us is that activities here should benefit communities and economies across the region.

“I am delighted that the Deputy First Minister has been able to see some examples of that today, as well as meeting some of the young people attracted to the region by the opportunities presented by the growth in life sciences and technology. The growth of activity here reflects the attraction of Inverness Campus to investors and businesses, as well as the continued growth in the life sciences sector in our region.”

Frank Reid, managing director, Robertson Northern said: “After completing two phases of student accommodation on the campus, we were proud to be chosen as the principal contractor to deliver this innovative purpose built space. We are currently completing further fit out works to meet the specific requirements of businesses eager to move into the building. 

“This is one of Scotland’s most pioneering developments and aside from the opportunities this will bring to the life sciences sector, it has also had a positive impact on the wider local community.”

The business showcase event featured talks from key national and UK funders and support organisations including Innovate UK, Intel, the Satellite Applications Catapult and McKinsey.

Demonstrations from NEXUS businesses allowed guests to understand the breadth of innovation and development that is happening in the space.  

The companies using the NEXUS space are CorporateHealth International, 4c Engineering, Aseptium, Organlike, Orbital Diagnostics, Capella IP, Interactive Health and AgileCadence.

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