AN INTERVIEW WITH DR SALLY BASKER Chief Executive of  Exeter Science Park

AN INTERVIEW WITH DR SALLY BASKER Chief Executive of Exeter Science Park

Find out more about her vision  for Exeter Science Park


What is your role? How does that fit into the organisation?

Exeter Science Park helps innovative science, technology, engineering, maths and medical (STEMM) businesses to deliver extraordinary growth. As Chief Executive Officer, my role is to oversee the development of Exeter Science Park as a hub for innovative STEMM businesses.

I lead a team of six who work on bringing forward new office space, masterplanning and development

of land, facilities and building management, and facilitating support services, as well as finance and administration. We work closely with our shareholders – the University of Exeter, Devon County Council, Exeter City Council and East Devon District Council – to deliver new jobs, enhanced productivity and economic growth.

To maintain a focus on STEMM business, we have a ‘Gateway Policy’ in place – to take up space at Exeter Science Park, businesses must meet one or more of the following: research and development of products or services; active collaborations with universities, higher education, institutes, research or similar organisations; that they are a technology-based service.

What is the current status of the Science Park? What is the vision for 5 years and onwards?

Exeter Science Park currently comprises the Science Park Centre; the Hedy Lamarr, Isaac Newton and Alan Turing Grow-on Buildings; the Met Office supercomputer and collaboration building.

We are on track to have 700 client staff on site by 2021 and, by 2035, we expect that over 3,500 people will work for companies at Exeter Science Park. Over 2,500 of these will be new, high-quality jobs. The Science Park is more than just a collection of buildings, it is about the people within it; the innovation, the knowledge, the data and the talent.

Construction of the University of Exeter’s first facility at Exeter Science Park is due for completion in January 2020. VSimulators offers a state-of-the-art facility, using virtual reality

(VR) technology capable of immersing up to nine occupants simultaneously in headset projected VR scenarios. A 4×4 metre custom designed motion platform, linked to the VR scenarios, enables users to perceive realistic motion as they move around in a virtual world, while optical and inertial motion capture systems and an array of force plates will record their experiences.

We will also start construction of a new Ada Lovelace Building in February 2020 – 20,000 square feet of high-quality office and laboratory space

for SMEs. Its aim is to attract and retain local, national, and international high value-added knowledge-based business. It will be a prime location for both businesses already located at the Science Park that are looking to grow, and new firms wishing to take the next step in their journey. It is estimated that the building will support around 150 new jobs, providing a boost to the local economy. Located just off junction 29 of the M5, less than a mile from Exeter Airport and with Pinhoe train service within walking distance, Exeter Science Park is well connected. The building

is to be named after 19th Century English mathematician Ada Lovelace, as chosen by students at the Big Bang Fair South West.

The executive team at Exeter Science Park has grown too, from a team of two, to six full-time staff members including an apprentice. The team’s breadth of knowledge and experience helps us to deliver the best services and support to our clients.

What are your campaigns and priorities at the moment?

Our key priority in the short term is the development of the Ada Lovelace Building, which is due for completion at the end of 2020.

Most recently, we have been working on a land swap with Eagle One and Devon County Council, which will allow us to develop further business space.

As we move into 2020, we are going to be working on a new masterplan for the Science Park campus and with this a new business strategy.

What are Greater Exeter and the SW’s key strengths and challenges?

Greater Exeter and the South West are exceptional places to do business. We have a thriving business community, particularly in the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s

(HotSW LEP) smart specialisation sectors: aerospace, agricultural sciences, environmental sciences, health and social care, big data, marine, nuclear, and photonics. The LEP’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy aims to boost these sectors underpinned by the themes of inclusive growth and clean growth.

There are some outstanding businesses doing innovative work in these sectors.

Transport links to the capital and beyond are effective and efficient, thanks to Exeter Airport and regular trains from St David’s. We have some of the best state and independent schools in Britain, including specialist sixth form for maths, physics and computing, Exeter Mathematics School. Exeter College is Devon’s only Ofsted Outstanding further education college, and the University of Exeter is one of the UK’s leading Higher Education centres. It’s a great place to live and work.

Exeter offers excellent STEMM jobs in leading companies, providing opportunities for school leavers, graduates, local people, and those wishing to relocate.

What has been your proudest moment since joining ESP?

I am proud when I walk into any of our buildings and can see the vibrant community of STEMM companies that has grown here and the innovation ecosystem that we are developing.

How can you help SMEs in Exeter and the region?

We can help innovative STEMM companies deliver extraordinary growth through property, mentoring and networking. We offer businesses and entrepreneurs the space, support and skills for success.

Our clients benefit from innovation support from SETsquared Exeter, which provides dedicated support staff delivering business acceleration services to clients at all stages of development. The SETsquared Partnership is an enterprise collaboration of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, three times ranked as the Global No. 1 University Business Incubator.

We also have coworking space, offering a place to work, network and collaborate. As well as being part of the Science Park community, the space has everything businesses or entrepreneurs might need, including access to desks, Wi-Fi and charging points, as well as three small meeting rooms.

What do you wish other people knew about your work?

The region is home to a whole host of growing businesses and Exeter Science Park is part of that, offering opportunities for people to grow their businesses in a supportive environment.

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