The Energy Centre at University of Chester's Thornton Science Park is open for business!

Posted on 6th March 2017
  • Project funded by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership 'Local Growth Fund' completes ahead of schedule
  • Will promote growth and acceleration in the development, demonstration and exploitation of technologies for the energy market
  • Aligns to wider regional energy strategy, including the adjacent Protos site, as well as the national Government Industrial Strategy
  • PowerHouse Energy Group plc committed to becoming commercial tenant
Industrial test bays at The Energy Centre at Thornton
Industrial test bays at The Energy Centre at Thornton

The creation of the ‘Intelligent Energy System Demonstrator (IESD)’ facility, located on Thornton Science Park, has finished ahead of schedule. It involved the complete gutting and refurbishment of an existing building on site, successfully conducted by Willmott Dixon. The facility, which has now been named ‘The Energy Centre at Thornton’, provides a flexible space where industry and academia are able to come together to innovate, develop and demonstrate new intelligent energy technologies. 

Examples of technologies that may be tested and developed include:

  • New types of photovoltaic solar cells
  • Innovative electrical energy storage solutions
  • Developments in low power motor drives
  • Advanced software to control and manage multiple renewable energy sources connected to the same power network
  • New thermal systems based on stored and pumped heat 

Brian Fitzpatrick, Energy Centre Project Director, who is also Senior Executive Director and Chief Information Officer, said: “We are extremely pleased that the development of The Energy Centre at Thornton has been completed ahead of schedule. We would like to thank Willmott Dixon and all their teams for making this happen, and colleagues and partners on site at Thornton for their patience and support during the building works for this project.” 

The Energy Centre has been funded from the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), who contributed £6.8m from the Local Growth Fund awarded as part of the LEP’s Growth Deal. The new facility is spread across three floors and offers: 

Ground floor:

  • Four industrial test bays with 7m ceilings, with a concrete/resin floor and roller shutters – enabling access for large units and equipment
  • A suite of equipment, including an intelligent multi vector micro grid (multiple energy sources and storage units connected to the same local power grid).
  • Purpose built industrial space, to build, develop, evaluate and showcase new and innovative energy technologies
  • Board room, with video-conferencing facilities
  • Coffee shop, with glass frontage, overlooking test bays.

First floor:

  •  High quality office and laboratory space.

Second floor: 

  • Office space – opportunity for national headquarters and future expansion.

Roof and plant room:

  • Opportunity for plant / technology installation eg. solar monitoring and testing. 

Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director and Professor of the Thornton Energy Research Institute said: “The Energy Centre will promote growth and acceleration in the development and exploitation of technologies for the energy market and is a flagship innovation project of the Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone, of which Thornton is a designated site. This project forms part of a wider energy focus for Thornton Science Park, and indeed the region, ensuring the site is ideally placed to anticipate and fulfil the needs of the Government’s recently announced Industrial Strategy.” 

Exterior of the energy centre at Thornton

John Adlen, Growth Director of the Cheshire Science Corridor at Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “Cheshire and Warrington is a hotbed for science and innovation, home to a number of globally competitive science assets across the Cheshire Science Corridor. This is a nationally significant facility that really adds strength and complements the development of Peel’s energy hub Protos. It will drive research and innovation in the energy sector, and is a real flagship for Thornton Science Park and the Science Corridor as a whole.” 

The Energy Centre at Thornton

Thornton is a high-tech site, in the North West, along the southern shores of the Mersey Gateway and with excellent links to transport networks. It has 1.1M sq. ft. of space under roof and is equipped for innovative and growing businesses in the energy, environmental, automotive and advanced manufacturing sectors. The 30 plus businesses located on site have the opportunity to join a thriving community of companies, drawing on active commercial support and collaboration with the University of Chester and the academic and research expertise and facilities of the co-located Faculty of Science and Engineering and its circa 700 undergraduate and postgraduate students. 

The adjacent Protos development by Peel Environmental is a strategic hub for energy, innovation and industry, which complements the University’s academic and commercial focus on energy. Collaboration between the two offers opportunities to embed research and development and pilot activities in the innovative environment at Thornton, while planning expansion and larger scale delivery at Protos. Access to a constant reserve of highly-skilled graduates and a large local workforce is also a significant advantage. 

A direct result of this pathway has resulted in PowerHouse Energy Group plc entering into a Heads of Terms agreement with the University, to become the first commercial tenant of the Energy Centre, researching gasification. 

Paul Vernon, Senior Executive Director of Commercial Operations, and Chief Executive of Thornton Research Properties Limited, added: “The Energy Centre at Thornton will offer companies unrivalled possibilities to allow lightbulb moments to happen. They will be able to innovate, interact with clients and supply chain partners, in a state-of the- art building with access to the latest equipment and expertise for energy technology development and testing. Researchers will be able to ‘plug and play’ with a number of facilities, across all aspects of energy systems (conventional and unconventional) and smart grids. We are now looking forward to the official launch and opening of the Energy Centre this summer.” 

Companies wishing to find out more about the Energy Centre can contact:

  • Email: thornton@chester.ac.uk
  • Tel: 01244 567 500
  • Twitter: @EnergyThornton
  • Commercial Operations, University of Chester, Thornton Science Park, Pool Lane, Ince, Cheshire, CH2 4NU 

The Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal of £142.7 million to be invested in Cheshire & Warrington will help to create up to 9,000 jobs, allow up to 400 homes to be built, and generate up to £50m in public and private investment. The Cheshire & Warrington Growth Deal is part of a £12 billion long-term programme to revitalise local economies.