The renovated Engine Shed opened today as a new innovation centre

Brunel's engine shed to house innovation centre

A new £1.7m innovation centre opened in Isambard Kingdom Brunel's original Bristol train station today.

The Engine Shed, built by Brunel in 1841, has been transformed to house a cluster of 18 hi-tech, creative and low-carbon firms, with a further 44 using the facilities – including superfast broadband.

The Grade I-listed building was at the "cutting edge" of technology 172 years ago, when it was Bristol's gateway to the world and directors claim the Engine Shed will once again bring prosperity to the city, creating 5,000 "high-value" jobs in the next 15 years.

Nick Sturge, director of SETsquared – the University of Bristol's business incubator – which will manage the project, described it as "exciting".

"These are exciting times for the business community in Bristol," Sturge said. "Thanks to Brunel, his engine shed once epitomised the cutting-edge of technology in the 19th Century and now it will be a hub for new technology in the 21st Century."

SETsquared will take a third of the space to provide serviced offices for its early-stage technology business.

The Engine Shed's prime location, by Bristol Temple Meads station, is said to make it "one of the world's most connected enterprise hubs" and directors hope it will act as a "shop front" for potential investors in the region.

Greg Clark, the Minister for Cities, Bristol's Mayor George Ferguson and Professor Sir Eric Thomas, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, officially launched the building.

Ferguson said his support for the project meant it moved from initial approval from the City Council in March to the completion of building work in November.

"The opening of Engine Shed in record time demonstrates the innovation, ambition and collaborative working that exists here in the city," he said. "Once home to Brunel's innovative railway, Engine Shed is now in the heart of Bristol's Enterprise Zone and is home to creative and hi-tech companies developing the technology of the future.

"It is also key node on the GigaBit Bristol broadband network connecting buildings in the city, and developing the potential for new collaborative and creative working."

The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, the Invest in Bristol and Bath growth hub, the WebStart Bristol internet incubator and DigiCity, operated by the University of Bath Innovation Centre, will also be based at the Engine Shed.

Brunel's boardroom suite of meeting rooms will be for hire, there will be a membership only business lounge and collaboration spaces.

There will also be a public lobby, providing an information point and innovation showcase to highlight the enterprise activities taking place across the West of England.

The Engine Shed is part of Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, which will span 173 acres of land and create 17,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.

Temple Meads station will also be completely redeveloped as part of a plan to "grow and modernise" the railway in Bristol by 2020.

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