Published: 16:07, 13 September 2021
| Updated: 19:40, 13 September 2021
Work is under way on a £15 million investment to create a world-class business park aiming to attract leading technology and science firms.
The Innovation Park Medway (IPM) project is said to be a key part of boosting the economy in the Medway Towns providing scores of highly-skilled jobs and opportunities for training when it opens at Rochester Airport.
Split across two phases either side of the runway, the 24.7 acre site is set to be home to 34 plots offering state-of-the-art facilities for research and development.
The development is one of the main projects led by Medway Council as part of its regeneration plans for the area which also include redevelopment plans for Chatham town centre, more than 10,000 homes on the Hoo Peninsula and a £418m development along the riverside in Rochester.
Building is starting on the infrastructure elements including access roads and utilities on the southern side of the site.
These are due to be completed in spring 2022 with the first buildings completed in mid-to-late 2023 and the first units and companies moving in by early 2024.
On the northern phase, works are expected to finish in early 2023 with the first firms arriving in mid-to-late 2024.
The council says the 100,000sq m site will provide "high quality, innovative commercial space" for local businesses looking to expand as well as attracting new companies.
It is hoped to attract "high value technology, engineering, manufacturing and knowledge intensive businesses" through the well-connected transport links close to the M2.
Discussions have been taking place with food technology companies, the digital innovation sector and universities but no tenants have been confirmed by the council but it said several inquiries have been made through its marketing agents for the site.
Addressing the impact of the pandemic on whether the park would be required due to changing business models, the council said it had taken professional advice which concluded there is a continued need for what IPM will offer companies.
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), said: “I am pleased that work has begun at Innovation Park Medway.
"Not only will our pioneering business park provide fantastic opportunities to help businesses grow but it will also provide the infrastructure they need to succeed. Medway is the biggest regeneration zone within the Thames Gateway and is one of the most promising growth areas in the south-east.
"I would encourage businesses to submit proposals for the site. IPM demonstrates our commitment to helping Medway’s businesses thrive and I look forward to watching the works progress.”
Businesses located at IPM will be part of the North Kent Enterprise Zone which offers companies setting up tax breaks and government support which the council says will make it an ideal home for new and expanding organisations.
Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created adding strength the Medway's economy with roles focussed within technology, engineering, and knowledge-intensive sectors.
The work to develop IPM coincides with upgrades and improvements to Rochester Airport and the council says it hopes to ensure its "operational longevity".
A £4.4m investment in the airport has seen two hangers refurbished, two new hangers built and a new control tower and airport centre building reducing the site to one runway to allow land to be made available for IPM works.
Simon Ryan, investment director at business growth advice experts Locate in Kent, said: “Interest from companies looking to move or expand into Kent and Medway remains strong, largely because of the fantastic connectivity, competitive costs, wide skill base and exceptional quality of life.
"Innovation Park Medway will add to this offering with a unique business park that will support business growth, inward investment and local jobs."
The park promises to feature indoor and outdoor creative business space combined with public spaces around the buildings with a focus on boosting the green space within the site to make a sustainable urban environment through long-life cycle planting, rain gardens and sustainable drainage systems.
It is hoped the park will be similar to the existing Harlow Science Park, Cambridge Science Park or Southampton Science Park
Formal sales and marketing work will begin later this year for the first phase and applications can be made through the council's agents Harrisons at firstname.lastname@example.org