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Frequently Asked Questions

The Surrey Research Park - History

The Surrey Research Park is owned, funded and developed by the University of Surrey.  The University developed from Battersea Polytechnic which was established in 1880 to serve the technology-based businesses of the day which were being set up in London.

A Royal Charter created the University of Surrey in 1966. Guildford Borough Council wanted a university and in collaboration with the County Council attracted this "new" university to Guildford. The motive for this was in part to replace jobs being lost from the town's declining manufacturing base, then particularly associated with the automotive industry. This is an example of an early shift from manufacturing to a knowledge-based local economy.

Since 1966 the University has developed to meet the demands of national higher education policy. Student numbers have increased, particularly since the restriction on recruitment was removed in 1997. The University of Surrey has also strengthened its regional economic development role, which has also become explicit government policy for higher education since 1997. The Surrey Research Park has been at the forefront of this strategy.

The tradition of working closely with industry, developed by Battersea Polytechnic, continues through current courses in Engineering, Science and applied aspects of the humanities. These feature a "sandwich" (co-op education) programme in which an "industrial professional training year" forms part of the four-year degree programme. The University of Surrey has extensive research contracts and links with industry and the Surrey Research Park was originally promoted to extend this important policy of cooperation with industry.

A condition of the Government's original £3m investment in 1966 to the new University was that a site of at least 300 acres should be acquired. Private donations, including those from local people and businesses, provided the funds to secure the vital landholding on the slopes of Stag Hill and also at Manor Farm less than a mile away. After a Public Enquiry, planning permission was given to the University to develop its site over the period from 1966 and into the 21st Century.

Money from what was then the government funding body, The University Grants Committee (UGC) and a £1 million grant from Surrey County Council were used to develop the buildings that formed the University's initial phase on Stag Hill. Completed by 1968, this provided the core facilities, academic buildings, student residences, and recreational areas. It also included construction of the Cathedral roundabout and associated A3 road intersection - a planning requirement to link the two parts of the campus at Stag Hill and Manor Farm.

Following the Public Enquiry in 1965, the decision letter from the Minister responsible for land use planning in the UK in 1965 noted that it would be 30 years before the whole Manor Farm landholding would be required. In fact, some of this land was brought forward for the Surrey Research Park in the County Structure Plan of 1981 as it was recognised that the University of Surrey needed to extend its links with industry and the concept of Science and Research Parks were emerging as developments through which this would be achieved.

How did the development begin?

The idea of The Surrey Research Park was first promoted in 1979, as a way to extend the University's long-standing policy of working closely with industry. An environment similar to that initially developed in the USA and brought to Britain when Cambridge Science Park was established in the late 1960s was envisaged. Discussions with the local and county planning authorities began in 1980. The following year's county Structure Plan included a policy for the development of 70 acres (28.5 hectares). The planning permission restricted the use to:

"carrying out research, development and design activities, in any science, including the social sciences that is complimentary to the activities of the University of Surrey".

The strategic objectives, a Master Plan and Development Manual were agreed with the planning authorities. Three stakeholders were envisaged from the outset: the University, the planning authority and tenant companies.

What were the objectives and perceived benefits?

There were important benefits for each stakeholder.

Strategic Objectives for The University of Surrey

  • To create a source of independent income. In 1979, the senior management team of the University recognised that public funding for UK universities was likely to be cut. Without a new source of funds, declining government support for higher education and research would eventually constrain Surrey's development as a research based residential university.
  • To raise the University's profile as a major British Technological University. It was recognised that, in international terms the University of Surrey was a relatively small but smart university, and needed to raise its profile to strengthen its position.
  • To assist in the process of technology transfer. The University of Surrey saw the need to support the shift in UK production patterns towards exploiting knowledge, skills and creativity. The definition of technology transfer adopted was "the means by which intellectual capital and know-how pass between organisations with a view to creating and developing commercially viable products or services". The plan recognised that technology could be transferred to companies on the Park from sources such as the University, regional Government laboratories and from other commercial organisations. In defining this objective the University was also aware that technology transfer was just part of the process of moving technology up the added value chain of commercialisation, from laboratory to market. This process was defined as "that series of linked activities by which know-how or the results of research was converted into products and services that meet defined market needs" and it was considered that the Research Park would go beyond simple technology transfer and support the whole process of commercialisation.

Strategic Objectives for the local and planning authorities

  • To assist in the region's economic development by the creation and growth of knowledge based, high value added companies. The emerging Science Park concept provided this vehicle.

Strategic Objectives for tenant companies

  • To assist European based companies to develop a competitive advantage through their location on The Surrey Research Park and access to the intellectual infrastructure created by the University of Surrey. These strategic objectives led to a range of development objectives, based on a Master Plan and Development Manual agreed with the planning authority, Guildford Borough Council. These documents derived from the core concept of dividing the development into three zones, small, medium and large, for companies of different sizes, with different origins and likely to be working in widely varying technologies.

What research underpinned your development decisions?

Initial market research was by a telephone survey of over 100 companies within a 40-mile radius. Several important findings emerged:-

  • Initially it was thought the buildings might need to be heavily serviced with equipment for wet laboratory operations. However, the study revealed little interest in such features, as computer-based science work was beginning to replace empirical science. It was clear that over 80% of research was undertaken in traditional office space.
  • Low-cost computing was beginning to free scientists and engineers from the need for access to large amounts of capital. This meant that research development and design in science engineering and technology was no longer the exclusive preserve of large companies - so there was a demand and need for a range of small units to accommodate emerging technology based new companies.
  • There was an emerging need for a business incubator to support start-up and spin-off companies establishing in the region as new technology-based firms.
  • Small new technology based companies needed flexible leasing arrangements to enable them to focus on business issues and maintain growth without having to sign long-term property contracts.
  • Growing incrementally on one site without having to relocate was highly valued but this facility was previously rarely available.
  • A strong desire by companies to locate near a good pool of skilled labour.
  • Companies considered access to University resources important. The studies also revealed that a range of companies would be attracted to the site. Several classifications were adopted in reviewing the viability and likely target markets. The initial classification separated them into:
  • Hard start-up companies involved in developing products for the market. These required larger buildings than those not involved in developing new technology based products. These companies needed access to more specialised facilities, were likely to employ at the outset a wider range of specialists in dedicated roles, such as human resources, accounts and production, and needed substantially larger funding than soft start up companies.
  • Soft start-up companies - most companies in this category were involved in consultancy. They needed small units and required fewer specialised facilities, were less likely to employ people in dedicated roles and needed less funding, as they developed using the cash flow from their consultancy activities.
  • Medium-sized growing companies that had gone beyond the start up stage. They were likely to require stand-alone facilities with the image and reputation to attract the right calibre of employee and to influence customers.
  • Large headquarters with research, development and design activities, which wanted a new facility associated with a university.
  • Government research laboratories that were considering a new facility as part of re-structuring. This classification was further refined to take account of the activities in which target companies were likely to be involved, as follows:
  • Added value resellers that altered existing products or used their functionality to add value before reselling them at higher value. Many consultants who developed bespoke solutions for customers using existing software packages fell into this category.
  • Companies using technology from other providers.
  • Companies that developed their own technology. A third categorisation divided companies into:
  • Spin-outs formed to commercialise research findings from university, government or industrial research laboratories.
  • Start-ups by experienced businesspeople seeking to create extra supplies of an existing product or service or, alternatively, who have developed an additional facet to their product or service that extends its value to particular customers.
  • Inward investors. Taking all these categories into account, the University aimed to attract companies that were either bringing together technology developed by others or were developing their own technology as either start-up or spin-out companies, small specialist parts of large companies. It was intended also to support inward investment both from overseas and other parts of the UK, in the form of specialised research laboratories of larger companies as well in the categories of start-up and spin-out companies.

What did the Master Plan and Development Manual cover?

Based on these different categories of potential tenants and the conceptual and strategic objectives for the site, a range of development objectives, together with planning and urban design parameters were defined in the Master Plan and Development Manual. These remain valuable guidelines.

Permitted uses were also laid down, although it was left to the university ís management team to judge the suitability of individual companies and liaise with the planning authority as required. It was agreed that the planning authority would need to approve the first occupier of any building over 20,000 sq. ft. (1,860 sq. m.).

Features of the Master Plan and Development Manual included

An introduction covering:

  • Planning conditions on the site
  • Definition of a physical framework and development guidelines to ensure an integrated, high quality setting for research activities
  • A convenient and flexible briefing document for all parties involved in the Park.

A Master Plan that covered:

  • Urban planning issues
  • Building densities and plot ratios
  • Areas allocated for development and building lines
  • Guidelines on infrastructure
  • Car parking ratios based on gross internal areas of the building
  • Phasing Guidelines on design, building heights and materials
  • Landscaping
  • Security
  • Lighting

How do the Park's buildings meet the requirements of intended occupiers?

Our research suggested the Park should be divided into 3 zones.

1. Zone for small start up and spin out companies and small specialists divisions of large companies

When the Park was being planned, the personal computer revolution had just begun. Access to low-cost computing meant scientists and engineers would no longer need large amounts of capital to develop their own businesses. This was an important factor in the small company zone. Units from 11 to 300 sq. m. were designed and aimed at small research, development and design engineering and science-based companies, including those in what later became known as information and communication technologies.

This zone was established on the eastern edge of the site, at the heart of which was The Surrey Technology Centre, which was planned as the Park's business incubator centre. Units in this building range in size from 11 to 80 sq. m. and are available on a monthly licence.

In Frederick Sanger Road, units ranging from 120 to 140 sq. m. were arranged so companies could take up to four, each on a separate lease, enabling them to grow on from the Surrey Technology Centre. The same principle was adopted, but with larger sizes, in Huxley Road (200 sq. m. units) and Stirling House (300 sq. m. units).

2. Zone for medium sized buildings

Space for companies with a turnover of £8m-£20m (1980 prices) was established on the western edge of the area within the ring road. Units were for single-site companies or larger research facilities of multi-site companies. It was predicted that most would be established businesses and probably inward investors.

3. Zone for research headquarters operations

This was established around the Park's western area outside the ring road to accommodate large headquarters and research facilities of high technology based companies.

The Management of The Surrey Research Park?

In 1981 the University of Surrey recruited a small management team from its academic departments. It was established as an enterprise unit within the University's administrative structure with delegated powers to raise and invest funds for the Park and carry out its development.

This team has remained intact for over 20 years and has taken on additional responsibility for long-term land use planning for the University, as well as the construction of new buildings across its whole estate. In essence, the team has created the University's largest single asset that it manages through the Foundation Fund Bank Account.

The team initially consisted of the Director of the Park and a secretary. By 1983, when building began, a Development Director was recruited from the University's Department of Civil Engineering. In 1987, a professional accountant joined. The current (2015) complement is thirteen staff, including the Surrey Technology Centre.

This team is supported by a Research Park Management Group, which meets regularly to informally approve investments and longer term strategic developments. The Management Group comprises the Vice Chancellor, University Secretary and Registrar, the University Director of Finance, a Senior Pro Vice Chancellor, the Director of Building and Estates and Park's Director and University's Development Director. In turn a Board, known as The Research Park Executive, supports this Group. This Board has delegated powers from the University's Finance and General Purposes Committee to authorise investments

How is the Park funded?

The University of Surrey is the sole investor. To initiate the development in the early 1980s a long leasehold interest in a small area of the University's landholding was sold for £1.23m to the then Associated Examining Board (AEB) now known as AQA. The funds for this were used to pay for the installation of the initial infrastructure. Once the infrastructure was stated for Phase 1 of the development, the University's promotional activities identified a potential "under tenant" in the form of BOC. To identify BOC, the University reviewed its strengths in terms of its Departments and on the basis of its activities in Chemical and Process Engineering targeted companies in this sector that might benefit from establishing working links with the University. A site was sold to BOC UK Limited for its headquarters and technical centre, now known as the Priestley Centre. The premium paid was used to fund a first phase of speculative buildings; known as Chancellor Court, all five of these speculatively built buildings were let "off plans" to the first tenants. The rental income stream allowed the University to support further borrowings and finance the phased development of the remainder of the Park through bank borrowings.

Further investment created an incubator centre, The Surrey Technology Centre, and space for its "graduate" companies to occupy in Frederick Sanger Road, Huxley Road and Stirling House. The Technology Centre was also developed in three phases, each enabling the cost of its central business support services to be spread over more tenant companies.

By March 2015, 90% of the Park had been developed with just two remaining sites, known as George Stephenson Place and Faraday Court, undeveloped.

The University's investment has been about £52m. However, in 2015, the Park's capital value was valued at more than £92 million and contributed in excess of £96 million of free income to the University to support scholarship.

1979 Park first promoted
1981 Park noted in the Structure Plan for Surrey
1983 Outline Planning Permission granted for the site
1984 Secured anchor tenant
1984 Infrastructure for initial phases of development installed
1984 Development programme begins
1985 First tenants on site
1986 The Surrey Technology Centre (STC) opened as business incubator
1987 Grow on space provided for companies emerging from the STC
1989 65 Companies on site
2001 82% complete, 58,000m2 on site, 110 companies, 2,750 staff on site
2006 21 of the 120 companies on site graduates from the STC
2006 Additional building of 3,300 sq m. constructed for major University spin out company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited
2010 Additional building of 4,800 sq m. constructed for Surrey Satellite Technology Limited
2015 R&D based Veterinary Clinic opened

How do you measure the success of the project?

Has the Park has met its original objectives?

The careful planning of the site to meet market needs, its continued management as a valuable asset and the attractions of working closely with the University of Surrey have all been instrumental in the Park developing as one of the most significant Science Parks in Europe.

After 28 years of successful operation, the Park's performance was reviewed against the initial five clear objectives, which were set out in the context of the three stakeholder groups the University, the planning authority (Guildford Borough Council) and our tenants. This showed the Surrey Research Park has matured into one of the UK's most successful science or research parks.

What has the Park achieved for the University?

By the end of 2014, the Park had contributed over £92 million to University finances through direct donation to support specific research projects and existing activities.

In addition, significant income comes through tenants purchasing University services, such as audio-visual services, conference facilities and the use of Library facilities. Moreover, the close and continuing relationships between University staff and Park businesses have resulted in consultancy and collaborative research projects that generate on-going revenue streams for the University.

With its market valuation at over £92m, the Park adds further to the security of the University and provides access to further funds by supporting its borrowing for major capital projects on the University's campus. As the estate approaches full development and with occupancy rates continuing in excess of 95% - the Park will become an increasingly significant element of the University's asset portfolio and continue to raise its profile.

The Park has become very well known as a major centre of excellence in supporting the formation and growth of technology based new firms, attracting international interest and raising the University's profile around the world. Measures of this interest include the several international visitors a week that want to understand the funding and future of the Park.

The Park has also enabled and supported a number of "spin-out" companies from its academic and research activities

How has the Park benefited its tenants?

The Surrey Technology Centre helps young technology-based businesses find their feet in a commercial environment and recruit the best of talent while providing access to the excellent resources, both human and material and within the University, as well as a range of high quality facilities such as a new £38 million Sports Park within walking distance.

The flexible range of office space in The Surrey Technology Centre helps businesses control overheads at a highly sensitive time in their development. As businesses grows, there is the opportunity to take more space on the Research Park. Other benefits include the Seminar programmes and business support through Surrey Incubation and its Business Angel Club .             

What business sectors are present on the Park and how successful has it been at technology transfer?

The Surrey Research Park is home to significant sector clusters such as the digital economy, mobile phone technology, software which includes a strong cluster of synthetic environment companies which are involved in the computer games sector, internet protocol security, biomedicine and biotechnology. It has been instrumental in the commercial success of many companies and has created the scope for significant transfers of technology between the University and industry.

Co-operation over many years between BOC Gases and the University's Chemical and Process Engineering activities resulted in innovative freezing techniques for the food processing industry. The Canon Europe Research Centre developed new products that sprung from technical assistance provided by several University groups, ranging from Material Science and Engineering to Music. Kobe Steel Europe had a major research centre on the site for many years and was involved in developing a safer train seat while genetic engineers, AGROL, who were once in the Incubator Centre, began the process of developing superbugs to turn agricultural waste into ethanol.  This tradition continued with work on bio fuels by TMO Renewalbles Ltd.  There are very strong links between the University's spin-out SSTL and the Universities R&D base in satellite engineering. 

The Park supports a burgeoning computer software sector represented by a host of products and services.

Bullfrog, a computer games publisher grew substantially while on the Park, creating a number of highly interactive games. After moving away, one of the founders returned to the Park to establish a new computer games company, Lionhead Studios that in 2001 published one of the most acclaimed games "Black & White," to have been created.  He also has acted as a business angel supporting several other local computer games developers. In addition Canon Research Europe Ltd, part of the Japanese multinational, developed a new graphics package, known commercially as Render Ware that was commercialised through Canon's spin-out subsidiary, Criterion Software.  In 2015 there are now over 60 games studios in Guildford as well as games testing companies, technology companies that support and develop core gaming software, specialists in graphics and audio technologies that bring games to life.  These separate developments have led to a cluster of computer games companies growing up in and around Guildford. They are active in what is now recognised as an important branch of computing, known as synthetic environments.

There have been over 500 tenants that have been on the Park since opening.  These have created over 7000 technology jobs, attracted significant foreign direct investment and built a skills base in a wide range of technologies including internet protocol security, remote sensing, big date manipulation, environmental technology among others. BAE Intelligence Services (formerly Detica) has an international reputation as one of the UK’s leading systems engineering consultancies. IDBS is a highly successful company, first established in the Surrey Technology Centre and now a major source in delivering world leading technology to support drug discovery technology through IT systems.

Examples of inward investment include the acquisition of both overseas and British companies that have grown on the Park. US inward investment company Monmouth Pharmaceuticals came to the UK in 1987 and was acquired by the UK pharma company Shire. The opposite occurred when the Canadian company Cognos bought Relational Matters that was grown in the Parks incubator, the Surrey Technology Centre and companies from Finland, Iceland, Sweden, France and the US have all also prospered in the "stimulating" business environment created by the Park.  Microsoft acquired Lionhead Studios in 2004, Motorola acquired TTP Com, there have also been over 20 other start-up companies acquired by mulit-nationals in the last 20 years.

Some of these companies have now moved away from the Park and continue to thrive in the region.

What has the Park contributed to the local economy?

Available data allied to accepted formulae for the "multiplier effect" can be analysed to identify some of the economic advantages brought to the local (Guildford) and regional (Surrey) economy by the University's development of The Park.

First, there is the direct employment by the Park's tenants. Secondly, there is the indirect employment through purchasing goods and services as a consequence of their activity. Finally, there is induced employment resulting from consumption by those directly and indirectly employed.

But the Park's economic contribution is not confined to job creation. In assessing its true value, inward investment, a raising of the region's profile as a centre of excellence and reducing imports through local provision of goods and services are all useful indicators.

A significant number of new jobs have been created, both directly on The Park and by multiplier effects throughout the region.

Direct employment

In 2006 Park tenants employed around 2,750 people on site, including an estimated 54% recruited from within Surrey. 1,150 were new jobs created by companies moving onto the Park. Of these, 280 were filled by people living in Guildford and 390 by other Surrey residents. Once complete, the present site will provide direct employment for over 3,000.

An analysis of Park companies' turnover per employee in 2000 indicates that £300 - £350m of economic activity was generated. These jobs pay an estimated average annual wage of £37,000, significantly above the average for male, non-manual employment in Surrey (£28,400). They put into local pockets some £102m income. Together with an average annual turnover per employee above £85,000, this is a strong indication of high value-added jobs, which, in turn, translates into significant local spending, to boost the regional economy even further. A further analysis showed an increase of average turnover per employee to £130,000 by 2005.  

By 2015, there were close to 4,000 employees on the site and the companies contribute in excess of £500 million to the regional economy each year.

Investing in the community

Perhaps the most tangible example of direct economic benefit can be found in the capital expenditure required to create the Park. The historical cost of buildings is some £64m (including bespoke buildings, that are not included in the valuation).

In addition, companies leaving the Park often choose to remain in the area. Of the eighty that have moved away since 1992 to expand or for financial considerations, 50% have stayed in Surrey, ensuring the County keeps the jobs and economic benefits.

Inward investment

Nearly half the tenants are inward investors. Over time this investment has come from the United States, Canada, India, Japan, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. However, some 12% are UK companies moving into Surrey. Experience has shown that, in addition to the economic activity deriving from inward investment, some new technology is imported and diffused into the local economy, as local companies adopt it. An example of this effect was demonstrated by the spin-out company Criterion Software and more laterly by Microsoft acquiring Lionhead Studios, BAE Systems acquiring Detica for an estimated £568 million and Stingray for $75 million

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