Space Park Leicester partnership signals formal start of operations at East Midlands Freeport
The Government has today (Thursday) announced that East Midlands Freeport (EMF) has been given formal approval to open for business.
As part of the announcement, the University of Leicester’s world-leading space research centre Space Park Leicester (SPL) was given the green light by the Government to become a customs site operator for EMF, significantly bolstering the freeport’s focus on driving innovation and skills.
EMF is England’s only inland freeport with 533 hectares of prime, strategic development land at three sites - East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC), East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) and the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station redevelopment site.
Space Park Leicester is a unique single-site science and innovation park dedicated to – and specifically designed for – space-related companies and researchers, covering enterprise, innovation and teaching. Since opening in Spring 2022, Space Park Leicester has generated an estimated £89m for the economy in its first year of operation, supported 607 jobs and landed five major Foreign Direct Investments. A strategically placed space sector cluster with a national and international focus, it is forecast to contribute £750 million a year to the UK space sector over the next decade.
Centred around East Midlands Airport, the country’s largest dedicated cargo airport, EMF offers unrivalled UK access to air, rail and road links, connecting businesses and customs sites to national and global markets.
EMF, which is set to create thousands of new high quality jobs in the region and boost the East Midlands’ economy by £8.4bn, will also create trade hubs to drive the low carbon and renewable energy, advanced manufacturing and advanced logistics sectors as well as support investment in research and development.
The freeports model has three objectives for the Government – to establish national hubs for global trade and investment, create innovation hotbeds, and promote regeneration.
Formal Government approval enables businesses locating on the three EMF sites to have access to a range of special incentives. Tax benefits include a zero rate of secondary national insurance contributions for freeport employees, enhanced capital allowance for plant and machinery, enhanced structures and buildings allowance, and relief from both stamp duty land tax and business rates.
The approval will also release over £25m of seed capital funding to deliver infrastructure and investment projects including new roads, transport infrastructure and a Hydrogen Skills Academy.
Levelling Up Minister Dehenna Davison said: “The East Midlands has a thriving manufacturing sector and we want to capitalise on those strengths while also developing new green growth industries.
“The East Midlands Freeport, the only inland Freeport, is up and running and will bring high quality jobs, investment and trading opportunities for businesses in the region.
“This will help us deliver on our mission to grow the economy and level up right across the UK.”
EMF Chair, Nora Senior CBE, said: “Space Park Leicester is a trailblazing collaboration which is leading pioneering research and I’m delighted it’s on board with EMF. SPL has become the latest organisation to join an innovative, inland freeport designed to boost jobs and power the region’s economy. Securing a customs site operator was the final piece of the jigsaw for the freeport and means that EMF can now officially open for business and become fully operational.
“EMF is focused on green tech and innovation and teaming up with the space sector will only attract more businesses to make the freeport their home.”
EMF Chief Executive, Tom Newman-Taylor, said: “The Freeport represents a massive opportunity for the East Midlands. We can now set about delivering on our core objectives: to drive up low-carbon investment and innovation in the region – boosting jobs, skills and wages for the communities we serve.”
Space Park Leicester Executive Director, Professor Richard Ambrosi, said: “The establishment of the East Midlands Freeport and Customs Site Operator at Space Park Leicester represent a significant step in the development of a Space Cluster and space ecosystem in the region.
“These initiatives will have an impact in attracting inward investment and boosting export opportunities. We look forward to working with our East Midlands Freeport partners, Leicestershire County Council and Leicester City Council in realising the full potential of this initiative."