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More taxpayer’s money needed for “innovation matrix” building project in Swansea

MORE taxpayers’ money will be needed for a new building for start-up businesses in Swansea because of a private sector finance issue.

University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is behind the “innovation matrix” building at its new campus in SA1, and had secured a £1.9 million private funding agreement towards it.

The planned innovation matrix is part of the £1.15 billion city deal project for the Swansea Bay City Region, which pools public and private sector money to create jobs and improve economic productivity.

But a report before city deal leaders said the private sector partner for the innovation matrix “has not been forthcoming”.

UWTSD now proposes to deliver the £13.2 million building itself to avoid years of delay.

The innovation matrix had a predecessor – known as the “box village” – which was only supposed to cost £9.4 million when the city deal was signed off four years ago. But construction costs have risen for its revamped successor and the building’s design has changed, with more floorspace one of the improvements.

The upshot is a funding gap which UWTSD chiefs want to resolve by using £5.7 million of central Government money which had previously been allocated to a longer term city deal project the university is overseeing.

It means less funding for this longer-term project, called the “innovation precinct”, plus more reliance on private sector contributions than previously expected.

But the overall costs of the matrix and precinct projects – totalling £30.6 million – and the share of contributions from the various funding bodies, won’t change.

Addressing a city deal joint committee meeting, UWTSD Vice-Chancellor, Professor Medwin Hughes, said: “There are no changes in the deliverables or the cash context.”

His colleague Geraint Fowers said the innovation precinct – also aimed at business growth – was now likely to be in the city centre rather than UWTSD’s SA1 campus. It could involve the refurbishment of an existing building.

Joint committee chairman, Cllr Rob Stewart, who is also leader of Swansea Council, said he was “very pleased” to see the longer-term innovation precinct was now earmarked for the city centre.

Committee members approved UWTSD’s request to alter the funding profile of the two projects, but a final decision will be needed from the UK and Welsh Governments.

Dr Jonathan Burnes, who is the city deal’s portfolio director, said he understood that Government officers are due to consider the funding changes next week, with a final decision potentially early next month.

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