For our latest personal profile, Our Huddersfield has caught up with Liz Towns-Andrews, regional and business lead for the National Health Innovation Campus, 3M Professor of Innovation and Director of External Engagement for the Huddersfield Business School and founder of 3M BIC.
So Liz, could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am an only child and daughter of an engineer who had his own company. I think my father’s influence is the reason I became a chemist/physicist and became very interested in enterprise and innovation.
I was Director of Innovation for the Science and Technology Facilities Council before joining the University as Director of Research and Enterprise in 2009. I established the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), and I am now the regional and business lead for the National Health Innovation Campus which is under development on the Southgate site in the centre of Huddersfield.
What inspired you to join Huddersfield Unlimited?
When Huddersfield Unlimited was established by senior business leaders, to provide a collective voice to promote the town to potential investors, I was keen to provide my support and share my networks to try and help such a fantastic initiative.
I have always believed that Huddersfield has so much to offer but hides its light under a bushel and doesn’t shout about it, almost like it doesn’t believe in itself!
Could you explain your role within Huddersfield Unlimited?
I lead on the University’s National Health Innovation Campus and act as the HUL Director directly connected to the project and regional health sector.
What do you think are Huddersfield’s main strengths?
I think the University is a major asset for the town driving higher level skills, research and innovation also investing in real estate to transform the town centre.
The geographic location between Manchester and Leeds makes it an attractive place to live, especially in surrounding villages, but people commute to Leeds and Manchester to work. We need good jobs in Huddersfield to retain them. The Transpennine Route Upgrade will make Huddersfield even more attractive as a location.
The industrial heritage of the town is a major asset, along with the number of listed buildings. I feel the heritage aspect should be used more innovatively to promote the town and create an identity.
How crucial do you believe the University of Huddersfield is to bringing investment to the town?
The University is key in attracting investment to Huddersfield. Whilst businesses look for tax breaks and financial incentives when choosing a location, in my experience, this comes after co-location in an area which has a strong pool of talent and knowledge experts on the doorstep to help drive innovation and growth!
How important is the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre to the town?
The 3M BIC is important as it was the first University innovation centre of its type in the UK and won awards for its spin-in approach to drive collaborative relationships between the University and business.
It’s been important for the town and has been recognised by WYCA as one of two innovation hubs in the region. It has raised the profile of the town regarding innovation and business support initiatives.
How did it feel to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013 for the development of 3M Buckley Innovation Centre?
It was a great honour and meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace was very special. I was quite surprised to receive the award for something which I believed was just part of my day-to-day job. I hadn’t really appreciated at that stage how groundbreaking the 3M BIC approach really was.
What have been your challenges in securing funding for the University?
The biggest challenges have really been personal bandwidth and finding time to write the applications. In many instances the applications have had multiple partners from public and private sectors, so being able to work seamlessly across sectors and take consortia with me has become quite a skill!
How significant do you think National Health and Innovation Campus will be to the town and what opportunities will it bring?
Very significant. The campus is the biggest strategic project I have been involved in since joining the University 14 years ago and represents a major investment in the town. It is an innovative development encompassing public and private sector which has a strong, unique vision to drive economic prosperity through community wellbeing. It is already raising the profile of the town with key policy makers and potential inward investors.
What are your aims for the University of Huddersfield?
As an anchor institution in Huddersfield, the University aims to support economic and societal impact across West Yorkshire. We aim for locally and regionally delivered programmes, such as the Health Innovation Campus, to be international exemplars of best practice putting both the University and the town on the World stage.
What is your personal vision for the town in the next 10 years?
For the Cultural Heart, Transpennine Route Upgrade, the Station to Stadium Corridor and Health Innovation Campus to come to fruition, and for the town to start believing in itself!
If I can play my part delivering the Campus vision and leave a legacy for the town, I will have done my job and be happy!
On a personal level, what do you love most about the town?
The diversity of people and communities, they are its biggest asset. They are instrumental in delivering the ambitious vision.