Construction on the new Daphne Steele Building at the University of Huddersfield is now well under way following a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the National Health Innovation Campus (NHIC).

This first building on the Southgate site, close to the main campus, is the first of the exciting project that will help to improve health outcomes and lead innovation in healthcare for the North of England.

Daphne Steele, who emigrated to the UK from Guyana in the 1940s, was the first black matron in the UK. The building named in her honour will bring together public-facing facilities including award-winning student-led clinics, and be a focus for entrepreneurial academic activity, serving the regional and wider health economy in strong public-private partnerships. Specialist clinical teaching facilities will provide unparalleled support for workforce development.

Guests at the ceremony included Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Health Education England’s Chief Nurse Mark Radford, Cllr Graham Turner of Kirklees Council, John Phillips of construction partners BAM and Andrew France from architects AHR.

With spades now in the ground, construction is expected to be completed in 2024. The project has also received a grant of £5.8m in capital funding from the Office For Students.

The NHIC will work with partners across the region to address some of the health and wellbeing issues facing Yorkshire and the Humber, including high levels of obesity, the third lowest life expectancy for men and women, and the second highest rate of deaths in infancy.

It will feature specialist clinical teaching facilities, world leading research facilities, public facing clinics and co-located public and private sector partners. It will directly impact on the health outcomes of the people and communities across the North of England.

Health and wellbeing of individuals, medical technologies and associated services provide a key focus for economic development and business productivity, and the campus will deliver a major boost to regeneration and jobs.

Speaking at the ceremony, Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob Cryan CBE said, “We are excited to break new ground on a project that promises to make a hugely significant and long-lasting contribution to the health and wellbeing of people in the Yorkshire and Humber region. 

“We are honoured that such an important facility is to be named after Daphne Steele, and we thank the Steele family for graciously allowing us to be associated with her.”

Tracy Brabin said, “It was really exciting to be here to see the ambition for the National Health Innovation Campus. It’s also delightful to see that Daphne Steele is being commemorated, which also shows the project’s ambition for equality and inclusivity. We want to make sure that everybody in West Yorkshire has access to the great jobs the NHIC will generate, and it will help to close the health inequality gap in our region by having a well-trained workforce.” John Phillips, Regional Director at BAM, said: “Our longstanding partnership with the University has seen us deliver so much of its developing estate. It means a great deal to us to be able to work with the University again, and it is the strength of that collaborative partnership that solves problems and makes for high standards in quality and sustainability.”

Charles Maltby, programme director of Huddersfield Unlimited, said: “It is fantastic to see the rapid pace that the University of Huddersfield has been able to start building the new NHIC facility at Southgate. The campus’s planned transformation and the proposed redevelopment of Crown House next door only adds to this exciting news, contributing to a modern and forward-thinking image for Huddersfield.”