Igniting the M-Sparc

A look at Bangor University's £15.5m research and teaching facility, M-Sparc

The Menai Science Park (M-Sparc) is the first science park to be developed in Wales and aims to drive growth in knowledge-based industries, with a focus on clean and sustainable technologies.The £20m facility, part funded by European Regional Development Funding through the Welsh Government was in development for five years, and on March 1st this year, the vision became reality.

Three months on, and M-SParc has already beaten its original occupancy target of 15% in the first quarter, and is now well on its way to 40% by the end of next month. It continues to have a healthy pipeline of tenants.

Owned as a subsidiary of Bangor University, the Menai Science Park aims to foster strong links with the local enterprise, from start-ups to large corporate companies, in partnership with local businesses and the community. The 5,000m² space offers “everything a business requires, from outstanding facilities and bespoke business support services to flexible office space and laboratories”, said John Rooney, Business Development Officer.

Also on offer are ‘virtual tenancies’ which allow companies to make use of the facilities and expertise on offer at M-Sparc without committing to the expense of renting office space. Companies who sign up to the option will have visibility on the M-Sparc website, use of unlimited Wi-Fi and other amenities at the park, and help and support to grow their business through networking events and seminars. There is an additional ‘Virtual Tenancy +’ option which also offers the help of a dedicated business support officer, identification and access to a range of funding sources through the Welsh Government, Bangor University and various start-up and development grants.

This is not the first research and development facility Bangor has opened

This is not the first research and development facility Bangor has opened. In November 2017, the University opened the Nuclear Futures Institute – Wales’ first nuclear research facility. Like the M-Sparc, Nuclear Futures was established with funding from the Welsh Government’s Sêr Cymru, as well as other sources of UK and EU funding. The aim of both projects is to further Bangor’s reputation as leading research institute – more than three-quarters of its research is already judged world-leading or international, according to the latest REF findings. In addition, it is hoped that the facilities, especially M-Sparc, will work economically, socially and culturally “for the benefit of the region, creating wealth and opportunity for people in north Wales and beyond”.

As the latest high-tech facility to open in the region, it is hoped that M-Sparc will consolidate North Wales’ fast-growing reputation as an alternative to the UK’s other centres of innovation and technology such as Cambridge’s ‘Silicon Fen’. The region offers an ideal balance between spectacular natural beauty, and the opportunity to tap into the resources and expertise of an internationally renowned research university. M-Sparc certainly makes the most of that natural beauty: their main boardroom boasts a panoramic view of Mount Snowdon. More than simple aesthetics though, the architecture of the building reflects the collaborative and cross-fertilisation ethos of the park. Its graceful, arching curves and airy, expansive co-working spaces, built to foster community but with sufficient flexibility to allow for privacy, is “intended to reflect the values of M-Sparc”, said Leighton Cooksey, Project Director at FaulknerBrowns, the architecture firm responsible. “[We] wanted to create a high-quality, unique environment to promote energy and innovation while attracting the best new initiatives and creating a thriving community space.”