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Northern Powerhouse minister opens multi-million pound energy centre in Ellesmere Port

University believes centre will become a nationally significant asset

The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, officially opens the Energy Centre at the University of Chester's Thornton Science Park(Image: UGC TCH)

The Northern Powerhouse minister was on hand to launch a multi-million pound centre at Ellesmere Port’s university science park.

North West MP Jake Berry (Con), minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, officially opened what is described as one of the flagship initiatives of the Northern Powerhouse and the Cheshire Science Corridor at the university’s hi tech park at Pool Lane, Ince.

Designed to promote growth and rapidly move ahead the development and exploitation of technologies for the energy market, the new energy centre is already enabling industrialists and university academics to link up to innovate, develop and demonstrate new ‘intelligent’ energy skills.

Welcomed by the University of Chester’s vice-chancellor Prof Tim Wheeler the minister was given a tour of the state-of-the-art centre over three floors created following the modernisation of an existing building on the former Shell Technology Centre site.

Examples of technologies that may be tested and developed include new types of photovoltaic solar cells, innovative electrical energy storage solutions, developments in low power motor drives and non-electrical energy systems such as heat networks and thermal storage.

Located within an Enterprise Zone site and drawing on the wealth of technical expertise, facilities and supporting infrastructures said to be available at Thornton, the centre provides space for industry to work alongside the university’s faculty of science and engineering, already happening throughout the Thornton Science Park.

The university believes the centre is destined to become a nationally significant asset. With access to the latest equipment and expertise for energy technology development, energy companies are already testing new power saving and distribution technologies at the centre, aiding the development of low cost, environmentally responsible sources of energy.

Mr Berry said it was a ’great pleasure’ to be opening the centre and pointed out Shell Research had been responsible for fuelling the Lancaster bomber and Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One car and said the site would now be fuelling the Northern Powerhouse.

Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Ltd gives the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry MP a tour of the Energy Centre(Image: UGC TCH)

Prof Wheeler commented: “The university is extremely proud of The Energy Centre. This is a flagship innovation project for the Cheshire Science Corridor of which our Thornton Science Park is a designated site.

“The state-of-the-art building is offering companies unrivalled possibilities to allow ‘light bulb’ moments to happen as researchers ‘plug and play’ with a number of facilities across all aspects of energy systems, conventional and unconventional and smart grids.

“Thornton has already played host to several Government ministers, including two chancellors of the exchequer and the fact that the Northern Powerhouse minister has opened this facility is further proof of its regional and national importance.”

The development was part-funded by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership which contributed almost £7m through the Government’s Local Growth Fund alongside £8m invested from the university to create a facility for the ‘development, testing and demonstration of current and future energy technologies’.

At the enterprise partnership chief executive Philip Cox said: “Cheshire and Warrington is one of the best performing economies in the country with the second highest income per head of any area in England outside of London. The area’s continued growth will make a significant contribution to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.

“We’re delighted to welcome the Northern Powerhouse minister to see some of the significant science and technology assets we have here in the Cheshire Science Corridor, such as the Energy Centre at Thornton which has benefitted from major government investment through the Local Growth Fund.”

Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester, Prof Tim Wheeler; Prof Joe Howe, Executive Director and Professor of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at Thornton Science Park; the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry MP; Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Ltd Philip Cox, Chief Executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP and Andrew Miller, former Ellesmere Port MP who was instrumental in the establishment of Thornton Science Park(Image: UGC TCH)

The centre is already home to a number of commercial companies with the first on board being PowerHouse Energy Group plc whose director David Ryan said: “The Energy Centre and the staff supporting us have provided Powerhouse Energy with the ideal location to refine our technology, with facilities aligned to innovation and staff committed to supporting it.”

Nick Tarditti from Green Growth Power said ‘these are exciting times in renewable energy’ and added: “We are very excited about our research cooperation with the University of Chester.”

Chester University points out its academic and commercial focus on energy at Thornton is complemented further by Peel Environmental’s energy, innovation and industry hub at Protos next door to the university’s science park.

Companies wishing to find out more about the Energy Centre can contact businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.

The Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership says its £140m plus growth deal to be invested in Cheshire and Warrington will help to create up to 9,000 jobs, allow up to 400 homes to be built and generating up to £50m in public and private investment.

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