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Plans submitted for new £9m Highland rural and veterinary innovation centre

By Gregor White

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An artist’s image of the new centre planned by the SRUC.
An artist’s image of the new centre planned by the SRUC.

The proposed development, by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), will be built on the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Inverness Campus.

It is set to help grow the city's international reputation in bioscience and also contribute to Scotland’s first veterinary school in 150 years which is to be developed in Aberdeen.

Using technology and expertise in big data, the centre will create and support the development of new and existing small to medium-sized businesses to grow jobs and the economy.

It will also support knowledge exchange and continued professional development.

The centre will contain seven spaces and breakout areas for new bioscience-focused start-up businesses.

It will also feature a necropsy suite for wildlife and laboratory spaces to support the development of new products and services, as well as industry-focused research.

The existing team at SRUC will apply their knowledge and internationally-recognised expertise in animal health, infectious disease control and zoonotic disease research. They will work closely with colleagues in teaching, SAC Consulting and SRUC Veterinary Services.

Previously called the Rural Veterinary Hub, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre will enhance SRUC’s knowledge exchange with new lecture and workshops spaces which can also be used for community events and talks with space to showcase new innovations.

It will collaborate with regional organisations to examine links with human heath such as NHS Highland and University of the Highlands and Islands.

The design of the building is being led by Inverness-based Threesixty Architecture and the build is being project-managed by Currie & Brown.

The total estimated budget of the project is around £9 million.

The European Regional Development Fund Scotland Programme 2014-2020 awarded £4.1million to part-fund the development of the new centre. SRUC’s funding for the project is being supported by an additional £4.2 million financial transactional loan from the Scottish Funding Council, which includes £1m for carbon sustainability enhancements.

Wayne Powell, principal and chief executive of SRUC, said: "By being based on the Inverness Campus, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre will be part of one of the most exciting biotech hubs in Europe.

"It’s never been clearer that human health and animal health are part of the same system.

"By bringing researchers and commercial innovators together within the same space, we have a wonderful opportunity to develop new products and technology that will help prevent and deal with a future pandemic.

"We have also taken the opportunity to create new spaces for knowledge exchange and continued professional development for local business.

"By providing postgraduate education, we will create opportunities for students to engage with business. This will help foster the next generation of biotech entrepreneurs within the Highlands and Islands."

Ruaraidh McNeil, HIE's director of business infrastructure, said: "We have worked closely with SRUC over several years and it’s great to see their plans to broaden their work on Inverness Campus reach this stage.

"The new centre will be important in supporting the growth of rural enterprises.

"With its mix of research, learning, knowledge exchange and business engagement, it will also further strengthen the collaborative ethos of the Campus, which has been a key theme since the outset of the development."

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