Wilton Centre set to play key role in Teesside’s future

The Wilton Centre’s status as the region’s foremost science park has been cemented by a series of major announcements and the continuing achievements of its occupiers.

Redcar MP Jacob Young said it has an important role to play in the new Teesside Freeport’s ambition to create 18,000 jobs.

Mr Young – one of the leading architects of the freeport plan – said: “We want to see businesses relocating to the Tees Valley, bringing their experience and bringing their expertise to our region, and Wilton Centre is a fantastic place to do that.”

Development land on the Wilton Centre site is included within the boundary of the Teesside Freeport.

The main building and Technical Development Area are located just outside and provide ideal office and laboratory space for businesses moving to the freeport to drive, in Mr Young’s words, the “green industrial revolution”.

The MP – who was a process operator with SABIC, based at Wilton International – made his comments during a visit to see the results of a £2m investment at the Wilton Centre.

There is a new entrance and reception, two new restaurants and numerous collaborative working spaces – including pods and booths – which have been created to reflect businesses’ desire for greater flexibility.

Accommodation manager Claire Morton said the work was finished just as occupiers decided to return to their offices after working at home through lockdown.

She said: “It was great to see them back and great for them to be able to benefit straight away from the investment, which has made such a difference.

“We’ve got some really exciting news which we’ll share in the coming weeks and it’s great to see that so many of the businesses already here need extra space because they are doing so well and growing.”

One of the growing businesses is Micropore Technologies, which had just a single employee when it moved to the Wilton Centre in 2016. During the pandemic it doubled its staff to 16. The company has just signed a long-term lease and taken on more office and laboratory space.

Its work in providing cutting-edge technology which allows vaccines to be produced in sufficient quantity and quality has also been recognised by its industry peers.

In October it received the 2021 iChemE Global Sward for its Versatile Lipid Nanoparticle Manufacturing and was highly commended in a second category. Micropore was also nominated for another prestigious industry award, and in November it was one of the finalists in the Spectator magazine’s Economic Innovator of the Year.

It is now in talks to provide the technology used by pharmaceutical companies to produce Covid-19 vaccines to tackle some of the world’s other deadliest diseases.

“We provide the flexibility to be able to treat diseases that up to now have not been treatable,” said the company’s CEO Dai Hayward MBE.

“We are not only talking about infectious diseases like AIDS, flu and malaria, we are also talking about genetic diseases like Parkinson’s and Hodgkin’s. We’ve got two dozen companies in discussion about this technology, so it really is a case of from Wilton to the world.”

Mr Hayward’s comments echoed the words of Toby Reid, the executive director of We Are Pioneer Group (WAPG), which is the new owner of the Wilton Centre alongside nine other science parks in the UK and Ireland.

At an event to mark the completion of the refurbishment, Mr Reid said: “The focus for the science industry has been London-centric for far too long. Innovation happens around the UK.”

He said the Teesside Freeport, the investment taking place in the area and the existence of legacy talent represented “a superb, promising mixture and I hope that a lot of that bright future will happen here at the Wilton Centre.”