Brownlee brothers news

‘Supported Starts’ Day


For those of you who have recently visited our website, you probably noticed the ‘under construction’ message, we are pleased to announce that our new website will officially be up and running on the 12th June 2017. We have been working to improve its functionality, we’ve made it more friendly, and also made it easier to navigate. The SPARK website which can be found here;, provides information about our programmes, office space, our community, events and news stories from our tenants.

In conjunction with the launch of our newly improved website, here at SPARK, we are naming 12th June 2017, ‘Supported Starts’ Day.  As the Brownlee brothers prepare for the fourth leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series this month, one can’t forget the iconic image of Alistair Brownlee helping his brother cross the finish line at the Rio Olympics, and for many, that image epitomised the ultimate definition of support.

This month on our news page,, we will be sharing stories from our resident entrepreneurs about their own journeys from the idea stage, collaborations, and the different kinds of support services we offer entrepreneurs to help turn their ideas into a real start up.

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New home for Sandwell business hub



Published on Thursday 30th March 2017 by University of Wolverhampton


The University of Wolverhampton, in partnership with Sandwell Council and Sandwell College, has extended its support for local businesses across the region by opening a new base for its Business Solutions Centre (BSC) in Sandwell.

Based on the national award winning BSC Centres already established in Wolverhampton, Telford, Hereford and Wyre Forest, the Sandwell Business Solutions Centre was originally set up in 2015 in the CAP Centre in Smethwick.

The partnership has enabled the relocation to a new larger premises in the ground floor of Sandwell College’s Central Campus in Spon Lane, West Bromwich, which opened today. (Wednesday March 29 2017)‌

The centre has dedicated business facing staff from the University and the council’s Think Sandwell’s Business Growth Team, working in collaboration with Sandwell College and the Black Country Chamber.

The staff will be able to offer support to local organisations and companies to grow their businesses as well as offering advice on how to access funding, business start-up help and how to access to their expertise.

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said:  “The Sandwell Business Solutions Centre has been operating successfully for a number of years but this move to a bigger more central location should provide even greater benefit to the community.

“It will continue to operate based on the highly successful model offered across our Business Solutions Centre network, which has won a string of national awards for its work with over 1,500 businesses.

“We will be offering a range of support to businesses in and around Sandwell which will include start-up advice with workshops and mentoring, access to technology from drone hire to cyber security support, leadership and development programmes, seminars, events and networking opportunities.”

Jan Britton, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council, said: “This new facility offers businesses in the region a single point of contact providing an all-round service. Not only can it help companies identify and address their individual business needs, but it’s also helping address the skills gap in the region and making a positive economic impact on Sandwell and the surrounding areas.”

Sandwell College Principal Graham Pennington said: “It’s really important to us to have collaboration with businesses and key stakeholders and the university. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to base this centre here at Sandwell College. The more we can do to bring the world of work to our students, the better.”

For more details check out the website:


Picture Caption details (from left to right): Paul Mountford (Sandwell Council Economic Regeneration Manager), Nicy Morgan (Sandwell Council Business Development Co-ordinator), Gary Dimmock (University of Wolverhampton Business Solutions), Graham Pennington (Principal Sandwell College) and Kelvin Eatherington (Sandwell Business Solutions Centre)


Access the full article here

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University puts £100 million regeneration project on the map at MIPIM



Published Wednesday 15th March 2017 by University of Wolverhampton

The University of Wolverhampton is showcasing its £100 million Springfield regeneration project at MIPIM – the annual international property convention held in Cannes.

A delegation of Midlands Engine private and public sector partners – one of the largest of its kind to represent the UK this year – have joined forces to put the Midlands on the map at the four day event which started on 14th March.

The site of the former Springfield brewery in Wolverhampton has been transformed into Europe’s largest specialist construction and built environment campus, bringing together businesses and the education sector to maximise impact on the economy.

Since its purchase in 2014, the former derelict site is the home of the West Midlands Construction University Technical College with plans in place to build a School of Architecture and Built Environment and an Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills, providing a skills pathway for construction education and training from the age of 14 through to senior professionals.

Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said:  “The £100 million development, part of ‘Our Vision – Your Opportunity’ strategy to invest £250 million in the region over five years, is acting as the catalyst for economic and social regeneration – tailored to creating jobs and delivering the technical and professional experts required by industry.

“MIPIM is one of the most important real estate shows in the annual property calendar and offers the University an ideal platform to talk directly to investors, developers and financial institutions about the potential benefits of investing in our ambitious regeneration project in Wolverhampton.”

Professor Layer took part in a panel discussion as part of Midlands Enterprise Universities, outlining the services universities offer to inward investors.

Access the full article here

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New security centre marches ahead in fight against cyber crime


Published Thursday 9th March 2017 by University of Wolverhampton

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has successfully secured funding of £2.82m on behalf of the University of Wolverhampton from the Government’s latest Growth Deal towards the cost of developing a new Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford.

The Centre, which will be located on Skylon Park in the Hereford Enterprise Zone, will offer high quality research facilities and support for businesses designed specifically to tackle threats in cyberspace.

Cybercrime currently costs the UK between £18 billion and £27 billion a year. 65% of all large UK companies reported a breach in the last year and threats to cyber security are persistent and constantly evolving.

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The University has already formed strong, collaborative relationships with key companies to engage with cyber research, training programmes and enterprise development and has a number of research teams associated with the development of cyber security.

“Our strategy is to bring together our collective expertise in a centre of excellence with partners both in the UK and internationally.

“The new Centre will organise, facilitate and support the development of cyber security on a global scale whilst at the same time present us with opportunities to develop high quality academic, vocational educational and training programmes to address the digital skills shortage being experienced nationally.”

Graham Wynn OBE, Chairman of Marches LEP, said: “Defence and security businesses employ approximately 2,600 people across the Marches ranging from manufacturers of military vehicles, weapons, explosives, systems and technologies through to private security, security systems and investigation.

“Skylon Park is the only Enterprise Zone in the country to focus on the defence and security sector and our aim, through working in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton, will be to build on the base of 70 plus small businesses operating locally in this market.

“The new Centre will stimulate an enhanced base of businesses engaged in cyber security solutions which will improve insight for businesses on the challenges faced in the future and drive up levels of innovation activity across the Marches.”

The new Centre will provide innovation workspace for small and start-up businesses to operate from, offering consultancy support from the University and shared facilities including laboratory space and training rooms. It will offer a range of specialist facilities for the cyber sector including server space and high speed broadband as well as research and development laboratory space.

The University of Wolverhampton opened its Hereford Business Solutions Centre last year on Skylon Park, supported by investment from Herefordshire Council and the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13.


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Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736 or 01902 518647.

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University makes multi-million pound commitment to research



The University of Wolverhampton is investing £6m to drive forward its long-term research agenda.

New leadership roles and centres are being established to enhance economic, social and health research. The investment is part of the University’s £250m Our Vision, Your Opportunity programme, supporting regeneration and redevelopment.

As part of its ongoing commitment to research excellence, the University will grow the number of PhDs offered and increase career opportunities for research students.

Key areas of investment will include Cyber Security, Education, brownfield research and community research and development, with new staff joining the University in key positions. A new Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research will be appointed to take the strategic lead and develop research strengths and new Head of Research Services, Clare Mccauley, took up her post earlier this year.

Among many planned initiatives, joint research studies will be funded as part of the University’s strong partnership with New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.


University Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Layer said: “The University has fantastic areas of research strength and we have ambitious plans to increase capacity and capability.

“It is a very exciting time for research. We will be enhancing our existing strengths and developing new areas of expertise.

“We want to continue to raise our profile, generate new partnerships and deliver ongoing excellence and innovation in our vibrant research community.”


He added that over the last few months, the University had attracted more than £12m European funding and University of Wolverhampton academics are consistently winning grants for their high profile work. Recent awards include Arts and Humanities Research Council funding of more than £650,000 for research into the coal mining industry.

In the most recent (2014) assessment, the University of Wolverhampton was ranked at its highest ever level, with all areas having world class aspects. It is renowned for its research into brain tumours and among its high profile researchers are world leading historians and information scientists.

The University also made national and international headlines last year due to its ground-breaking peptide research which could impact on male contraception and fertility.


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Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

Date issued: Thursday, 23 February 2017 by University of Wolverhampton

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Ceremony breaks new ground in investment in manufacturing skills



Published 6th March 2017 by University of Wolverhampton


The University of Wolverhampton has appointed Aspect Construction to build its Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills (ECMS) Hub at the former Springfield Brewery in Wolverhampton.

The landmark occasion, which took place on the first day of National Apprenticeship Week, was marked by a ground breaking ceremony at the site where the building works are due to take place.

The ECMS Hub and Spokes will provide world-class training facilities and will support the delivery of apprenticeships through to degree level Apprenticeships at the University.  They will also focus on upskilling to support and help business growth, providing transferrable skills for other sectors in the Black Country, across the UK and internationally.

The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) approved £8.04 million funding for the ECMS project with training being delivered in Tipton, Dudley, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “We are committed to the regeneration of Wolverhampton and this ceremony marks the next stage of our ambitious plans to re-develop this historic site – helping to boost the economy and create jobs.

“The Black Country LEP has been instrumental in ensuring the project will deliver an employer-led training provision that doesn’t currently exist in the region, designed to improve productivity and growth in the high value manufacturing (HVM) sector.”

Councillor Claire Darke, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for Education, said: “This is another major milestone towards creating a European-leading Built Environment education campus in the City of Wolverhampton.

“This historic site, which has been vacant for over a quarter of a century, is being brought back to life by the university, and is part of the multi-billion-pound investment by the public and private sectors in our city.

“There is no doubt the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills (ECMS), alongside the UTC and the relocated School of Architecture and Built Environment will help raise the bar when it comes to skills and employment in the city.”

Wesley Allmark, Construction Director at Aspect Construction, said: “The ECMS Hub is an exciting project to be working on with University of Wolverhampton.  Aspect Construction’s sensitive approaches to heritage and conservation works, with the support of our specialist heritage supply chain, ensure that we restore buildings to their former excellence, transforming the built environment.

“We’re really looking forward to working with the University and the local community on this exciting restoration project, helping to restore this building to its former glory.”

Terry Reynolds, Managing Director of Tweedale Architects based in Wolverhampton, said: “The plans involve an L-shaped brick building which was constructed in the early 1880s and originally used as the brewery’s stables until, with the coming of motor transport, it was used as the brewery’s vehicle garage and repair shop.

“The current building has suffered from deterioration and dilapidation since the closure of the brewery more than 20 years ago. Our design aims to deliver high quality spaces for the provision of training, teaching and demonstration, and also includes welfare facilities and administrative offices associated with the operation of the centre.”

Led by the University of Wolverhampton, the ECMS will provide employer-led training designed to improve productivity and growth in the high value manufacturing (HVM) sector, bringing together business partners and education providers including Dudley College, the Confederation of British Metalforming, Cast Metals Federation and the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers and Thomas Dudley Ltd.  The partners are investing an additional £4.15 million, bringing the total project value to £12.19 million.

Work has now started on the building project and is due to be completed by August 2017.


Anyone interested in enquiring about manufacturing training, skills, apprenticeships or Continuous Professional Development (CPD) should contact 01902 321663/0800 953222 or email


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Further Information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

Date Issued: 6th March 2017

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New Challenge Academy launched to boost skills



Students will be taking on real life business challenges as part of a new project at the University of Wolverhampton.

The Challenge Academy partners students with a regional business or organisation to work on a bite-sized project with support from academic experts.

Launched during the University’s Career Development Week, the Challenge Academy aims to give students additional skills to boost their CVs while enabling a business to benefit from staff and student expertise.

The project was piloted by the Faculty of Social Sciences with 100 students taking part in 10 challenges. Now the scheme is to be expanded across the University.

Dr Robert Harris, Principal Lecturer Postgraduate Employability, said: “The feedback from the pilot scheme was very positive, with students reporting the experience had given them more confidence in an interview situation. Two students even secured jobs and they felt that their success was due in part to being involved in Challenge Academy, so we’re really looking forward to opening this out across the University.


“The idea is that businesses or other organisations will come to us with a challenge, problem or opportunity and the students will provide short-term support. The business benefits from highly cost effective support from a specialist student under the supervision of academics or professional mentors, and the students’ employment prospects are enhanced at the same time – it’s a win-win.”


One of the companies that has already benefited from the partnership is Walsall-based Marlborough of England, formerly Marlborough World, which undertook a project focused on export marketing and decided to rename itself as a result.

Richard Taylor, Director, Marlborough of England, said: “We’re involved with the Challenge Academy as it gives students the opportunity to go that next step further. When students enter the world of work, they’ll find they need real world experiences and things that give them the extra edge to stand out from the crowd.

“University of Wolverhampton students have collaborated and worked with La Salle Institute in Troy, New York, America, previously on Challenge Academy live briefs and this partnership has transform our business – we changed our company name from Marlborough World to Marlborough of England, which has help expanded our business into the US Market.”


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Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

Date Issued: Monday, 20 February 2017 by University of Wolverhampton



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Law firm’s deal with university races into action


A Midlands law firm has unveiled a new deal to keep the University of Wolverhampton’s Formula 3 team on the winning track. Neil Lloyd from FBC Manby Bowdler with Shane Kelly, Professional Driver and Team Mentor for the University of Wolverhampton Racing Team FBC Manby Bowdler, which has its headquarters in the city, has signed […]

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Wolverhampton Enjoys a brand-story with Depict Creative.


Depict Creative have been appointed by the Wolverhampton BID Company to create their online & offline marketing for Enjoy Wolverhampton. The consumer facing brand which markets the City centre to residents and tourists, offers more information about the city – ranging from highlights, shopping zones, business districts, attractions and events.

Depict Creative, based in the Wolverhampton Science Park have in the last 12 months designed and developed the Enjoy Wolverhampton website, creating marketing and promotion material for the many city events such as ‘Seaside In The City’ summer bank holiday event and “Enjoy Christmas in Wolverhampton”.

Nick Watts, Creative Director at Depict said, “Wolverhampton has had its fair share of bad press. Yet there is a big positive story to tell and there are a lot of exciting things coming to the city. Having a brand that acts as a hub for the City Centre will not only tie together a community but also raise awareness of the city developments and offerings to people who are looking for a destination to visit.

Based in the Wolverhampton Science Park and a member of the SPARK Incubation Centre, Depict Creative specialise in brand story telling across print & digital, and are enjoying a fruitful start to business life. Currently in their second year of trading, they have already picked up some impressive clients along the way – BBC’s QI with Stephen Fry, Oxfam, AFC Telford United, RIBA and Mensa. They have also been appointed to design the new website for SPARK, the business incubation scheme of which they are a part.

With a brand new website showcasing their recent work, Nick said he is looking forward to the future of Depict Creative. “There are a lot of business with brand stories to tell and that’s where we truly excel. We want to expand our clients based locally and work with those businesses in this region that have a great story to tell and see design as an investment into their business strategy.

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Gaming Success for SPARK Company RetroFist


A University of Wolverhampton supported start-up company has had its new app snapped up by Channel 4’s new game publishing arm.

RetroFist, which is based at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park’s SPARK Business Incubation Centre, is set to launch Fire Fu in the next few months, with the support of the broadcaster’s All 4 Games arm.

The company, run by John Kearney and Rich Cross, was founded in August 2013 and this is their first game launch.

The 2D action/arcade game features various hand-painted environments and martial arts moves and was created after a year of extensive writing and planning.

RetroFist is one of a group of tenant companies based within SPARK.

The centre offers support and guidance for new and developing companies with a mission to retain creative talent in the local area, and to attract investment to Wolverhampton and the West Midlands.

Louise Hunter, Business Incubation Manager for the University, said: “I am extremely delighted for the business. RetroFist is the only gaming app company we have at the moment and we provide them with an inexpensive, vibrant, trendy yet relaxed working environment as well as ongoing business growth opportunities and support.”

John Kearney, one of the co-founders of RetroFist, said: “We chose Spark as our base due to the fact that we had already worked at the University’s Science Park for several years and found it to be a creative and relaxed working environment.

“We’re really excited about the launch and also the future prospects of business, and we’re already working on a follow-up title.”

For more information on RetroFist Limited, please visit: