World-class knowledge borough

By Lorna Fox O’Mahony, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Designate), University of Essex

Colchester is enjoying a period of rapid growth in high-value, knowledge-based employment and entrepreneurship. A place of exceptional talent, Colchester is home to thriving schools, colleges, and the University of Essex.

Our future workforce includes over 25k students at the country’s leading state and independent schools and colleges, and at the University of Essex – we are a dual intensive University, ranked top 20 in the UK for research and education, and producing 4 ½ thousand talented graduates every year. The University of Essex is an integral part of Colchester’s very special educational landscape, which is innovative and creative, successfully developing talent, from early years to the third age. Our education leaders are committed to working in partnership: the University and Colchester Institute work closely with the local community and schools, and Colchester’s knowledge economy benefits from this close working relationship.

At secondary level, we have highly successful and well-regarded selective, comprehensive, special and independent schools and a thriving Sixth Form College, all working together in the pursuit of excellence for all in secondary education in Colchester. Colchester Teacher Training Consortium, which trains the teachers of tomorrow in the Colchester schools of today, was declared this month to be ‘outstanding’ in all categories by OFSTED. Our collective commitment is clear in the quality of our partnerships that yield outstanding outcomes for our world-class knowledge borough.

The University is a hub for Colchester’s knowledge economy. We are proud to be top 5 in the UK for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity by drawing on state-of-the-art knowledge, technology and skills. In Colchester we are leading the way with productive partnerships between businesses and world-leading experts in fields such as data science, artificial intelligence, robotics and digital communications.

So far, we have invested £57m in the Knowledge Gateway, the University’s science and research park. We provide workspace, support, and access to innovation, supporting businesses across their life-course, from start-up to scale up, enabling easy access to the knowledge base of the university. Later this year we will open a £14m innovation centre, which will house a Start-up hub and the Essex Games Hub. It will also offer workspace and hands-on support to over 50 businesses; and include a digital creative studio facility where businesses and freelancers can work with researchers, graduates and students on digital creative innovation projects. And we have earmarked space for further major development projects on the park. With the possibility of a garden settlement adjacent to the KG, we have the opportunity to create a hundred acre science park – as large as the largest science park at Cambridge.

Colchester hosts the largest concentration of creative businesses in Essex and the Haven Gateway. The Creative Business Centre, opened in 2017, sits at the heart of a knowledge economy growth programme, which provides a complete ecosystem of workspace, facilities, business support and networking opportunities.

And Colchester’s pioneering, award winning, ultra-fast broadband programme builds on a strong track-record of partnership working across businesses, education providers, local authorities and strategic economic growth partnerships.

These assets have marked out Colchester as a world-class knowledge borough, with a unique proposition to offer to businesses and entrepreneurs.