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Cornwall Innovation at Plymouth University receives sector-first national accreditation

Plymouth University's Innovation Award

Universities have the potential to be innovation engines for the economy, using their knowledge and expertise to catalyse socioeconomic development

Plymouth University has become the first higher education institution in the country to receive a national innovation accreditation in recognition of its support for small and medium-sized businesses in Devon and Cornwall.

The University has been given the Investor in Innovations Award for its management of the three Innovation Centres in Cornwall, which are now home to over 110 innovative high growth businesses, and which since their launch in 2011, have helped create more than 200 jobs.

Awarded by NEF: The Innovation Institute, the accreditation also covers the University’s Formation Zone incubation centres on campus and in Cornwall, which nurture embryonic businesses, including graduate start-ups from Plymouth and local colleges.

Professor Simon Payne, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “Universities have the potential to be innovation engines for the economy, using their knowledge and expertise to catalyse socioeconomic development – and Plymouth is very proud of its track record in this field. To be recognised for having made such a difference to so many businesses in our region is a tribute to the hard work and diligence of so many people.”

During the accreditation process, members of NEF: The Innovation Institute visited both the Plymouth campus and the Tremough Innovation Centre in Penryn and spoke with managers and staff about the work being done at Pool, Tremough and the Health and Wellbeing facility in Truro. Businesses from the centres were also present to offer their perspective.
NEF singled out a number of areas, including the entrepreneurial experience of the centre managers, the focus and support for client businesses, particularly young entrepreneurs, and the methods of engagement such as with business competitions and entrepreneurs-in-residence. They also praised the levels of community engagement, with 16,000 visitors interacting with the centres in four years across a variety of events.

Professor Sa'ad Medhat, Chief Executive of NEF: The Innovation Institute, said: “It’s exciting to see Plymouth playing such a vibrant role in the economic ecosystem of Devon and Cornwall. The clusters of expertise that are developing within the Innovation Centres are aligned with the region’s economic priorities and are already invigorating the local supply chains. Plymouth is an inspiring example of what can be achieved by matching technical specialist knowledge with in-depth business development in a supportive, collaborative environment.

Bernard Curren, Director of Cornwall Innovation, added: “Since we launched our first Formation Zone in 2008, we’ve been on a journey, a learning curve that has resulted in the creation of an incubation, innovation and acceleration model that supports business development, through expert advice, opportunities to network and access to investment. It’s a model that we believe could be used in other areas of the country to stimulate innovation and economic growth.”


Notes to Editors

Cornwall Innovation is part of the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) and covers the management of the three Innovation Centres in Cornwall, managed on behalf of Cornwall Council.

Please find attached an image of the innovation managers with Prof Simon Payne Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation) and Professor Sa’ad Medhat, CEO of NEF: The Innovation Institute.
About Plymouth University

Founded in 1862 as a school of navigation and now the 15th largest university in the UK, Plymouth is one of the leading modern universities, ranked in the top four institutions in the country and 37th internationally under the age of 50 by the Times Higher Education. Twice awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, it has won numerous accolades in respect of its teaching and its research.

The University has one of the highest number of National Teaching Fellows of any UK university (20 National Teaching Fellowships in Higher Education since 2000), is ranked 19th in the UK and in the top 100 globally for research quality (2015 CWTS Leiden Rankings), with two-thirds of its research ranked as world-leading or internationally excellent (2014 Research Excellence Framework). It was also the first university in the world to receive the Social Enterprise Mark.

Its 27,000 students, which include those at its partner colleges across the South West, are enrolled on courses from farming to fine art, business to biology, and design to dentistry. The University has invested more than £150 million in its campus and is the first modern university to have launched a medical school. The University plays a key role within the South West region’s economy and through its £100 million network of support facilities and services, is growing and supporting hundreds of businesses across the region and beyond. To find out how Plymouth is making a difference, please visit

About NEF: The Innovation Institute

NEF: The Innovation Institute is the professional body for innovators in the UK. Guided by its Innovation Council(*) with over forty Chief Officers from companies representing all economic sectors, the Institute influences policy and supports its members, partners and stakeholders to achieve performance excellence through stimulating innovation.

Over the past 10 years, the Institute has worked with more than 600 organisations conducting accreditation and assurance, providing professional recognition and delivering strategies and training programmes. We have influenced policy and decision makers through think-tanks and evidential research, and our charitable activities have positively impacted more than 600,000 learners in science, engineering and technology.

NEF’s work is guided by the Innovation Council with members from:


Press Contacts

Plymouth University
Andrew Merrington, Senior Media and Communications Officer, 01752 588003.

NEF: The Innovation Institute
Michelle Medhat 07720 286633
Emma Crates 07843 273103