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First turf cut at new Digital Innovation Centre in Taunton

A ground-breaking ceremony has heralded the start of construction of a ground-breaking project for Somerset.

The £11m Digital Innovation Centre, to be developed by Somerset County Council on Somerset West and Taunton Council’s Firepool regeneration site in Taunton, will build on local strengths in the digital sector and form a key part of plans for recovery and transformation of Somerset’s economy, including the creation of high-quality jobs.

The new 2,613 square-metre building will provide modern office, workshop, collaboration, and meeting space over four floors, as well as specialist innovation support services targeted at digital economy businesses.

The centre will meet the demand for an innovation centre for the local digital economy and for high-quality managed offices/workspace for local, home-grown start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), while attracting new businesses and inward investment. Through the centre, SMEs will benefit from dedicated innovation support to help grow their business and bring new products and services to market.

Somerset County Council part-funded the project and has secured significant contributions from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund (via the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership) and the European Regional Development Fund. Further contributions have come from Somerset’s Business Rates Retention Fund and Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT).

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “I am delighted to join our partners in marking such an important milestone as we move forward with the new Digital Innovation Centre in Taunton.

“This scheme will help Somerset meet the demand for top-quality business accommodation for digital businesses in Somerset. It will see a number of highly-skilled jobs created and contribute to improving economic productivity and prosperity in Somerset.”

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the SW LEP, said: “It’s great to see work starting on the Digital Innovation Centre on the Firepool site, which will provide fantastic high-grade workspace for local tech-based businesses and dedicated innovation support to help them grow. We’re delighted to have been able to support this project from the HotSW LEP’s Getting Building Fund, which was created to support shovel-ready projects that will deliver new jobs and contribute to our area’s post-COVID recovery.”

Somerset County Council is working closely with Somerset West and Taunton Council on the project, and it is hoped the new Digital Innovation Centre will be a hub for Somerset’s growing digital economy.

Cllr Marcus Kravis, Executive Member for Economic Development at SWT, said: “Somerset West and Taunton has been working with Somerset County Council to secure delivery of the Digital Innovation Centre on our flagship Firepool site, allowing it to be delivered concurrently with the infrastructure, residential, commercial and leisure elements which will form part of our detailed plans. Next year will see some major activity on site as we start to deliver several simultaneous projects at Firepool.

“We have also been working closely with Digital Somerset and other stakeholders to maximise the potential of this high-quality office and collaboration space to create jobs locally, and attract growth and investment in line with our development ambitions as the first Garden Town in the South West. It is one part of an evolving and exciting innovation district for SWT.”

Rob Woolcock, Director at Willmott Dixon, said: “We are delighted to be working with Somerset County Council on the Digital Innovation Centre.  This is a landmark project for the Firepool site, and we understand how important this is to Taunton’s development as a regional hub for innovation and business development.  The Centre will provide space for encouraging innovation and collaboration for businesses who will benefit from everything it has to offer.”

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