Multi-million pound plans for publicly accessible Living Lab at Peterborough university move forward

The creation of a publicly accessible science centre at Peterborough’s university has taken a big step forward.

This image shows how the ARU Peterborough will look at completion. EMN-200812-115728009
This image shows how the ARU Peterborough will look at completion. EMN-200812-115728009

Multi-million pound plans to build the interactive Living Lab and a second teaching building at the under-construction university have been approved by business chiefs at the Cambridgeshire and Peterboropugh Combined Authority,

Mmebers of the authority’s business board have given the thumbs up to what is the the third phase of the university, on the Embankment, after a detailed assessment of its costs, benefits and educational needs.

The Living Lab, which will be a publicly accessible science centre, will be used to stimulate and inspire more people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sectors.

It will provide a window into the city’s net zero carbon future and will host events, exhibitions and flexible learning, including festivals of ideas, immersive displays, forums and evening classes.

It will also help create a distinct ‘University Quarter’ around the Embankment.

It is hoped the second teaching building will open in September 2024 and provide space for 1,750 more students.

Combined Authority Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “I’m pleased this third phase business case has won the backing of the Combined Authority Board and we can continue progress with this important addition to the campus.

“As well as additional capacity, the Living Lab will, I hope, inspire local people in the power of learning.

“To have three phases fully funded in a relatively short time span is great progress.

“We are moving at pace because the skills divide in this region is a major cause of the inequalities which hold back everyone’s prosperity and harm people’s health and wellbeing.

“ARU Peterborough is a key part of the solution to some of our most important social and economic challenges.

“In just eight months we will have the first students starting their courses and we can start to see the benefits of this transformative project.”

The £30 million ARU Peterborough is being developed in phases over the next ten years and is a partnership between the Combined Authority, Peterborough City Council and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Austen Adams, chair of the Business Board, said: “Our economy needs long term, strategic investment in its skills base, which is rooted in the needs of local enterprise.

“That’s what ARU Peterborough is here to deliver, and this third phase will only increase the university’s capacity and its ability to make an impact.”

Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald, leader of Peterborough City Council, said: “The university will really address the skills gap we currently have in this city, helping our residents to become career-ready.

“The Living Lab really accelerates this. The decision by the board will help many thousands of residents get into STEM careers and improve the prosperity of themselves as individuals and also the city as a whole.”

Professor Ross Renton, principal of ARU Peterborough, said: “This building will provide additional teaching capacity, with cutting edge technology, for our students, outstanding facilities for the local community, and help to create a vibrant campus for ARU Peterborough.

“We passionately believe that universities should be spaces that the whole community can benefit from and enjoy.

“Phase 3 will be at the heart of Peterborough’s exciting new University Quarter, with the Living Lab offering a unique, hands-on science space that will be a fabulous asset to the city and the wider region.”

The university’s first teaching building is on track to open to 2,000 students in September this year.

The adjacent second phase is a research and development and business innovation centre – a joint venture between the Combined Authority and Peterborough-based Photocentric.

Building works started in October last year and are planned to complete in December this year.

It will support start-up and growing tech businesses and aims to create a homegrown business innovation ‘ecosystem’ which further drives up the demand for skills coming out of the university.

The university’s curriculum is being developed in collaboration with local employers, to ensure that students are equipped with skills demanded in the economy.