Huddersfield’s Best Kept Secrets is a monthly feature kindly sponsored by entrepreneur and philanthropist Prof Graham Leslie CBE. Here we showcase the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) and how, for almost a decade, it has been supporting businesses to innovate, connect and grow.
Situated in close proximity to the University of Huddersfield, it’s hard to miss the striking glass façade of the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, or 3M BIC, based on Firth Street.
A former woollen mill, the building now owned by the University of Huddersfield has been transformed into a place for businesses to grow through access to office and lab space, flexible working solutions, event space and advanced technology.
Created as a business for businesses based on the vision of Prof Liz Towns-Andrews to help bridge the gap between industry and academia, the 3M BIC is an exemplar of how companies and universities can work together.
“The 3M BIC is a simple, yet effective business model,” said Sue Cooke, CEO of the 3M BIC.
“We identified the needs of SMEs and created a one-stop-shop for businesses. Using the 3M BIC as a step into the academic world has allowed a greater transfer of knowledge and helped close that gap between industry and academia.”
Putting a spotlight on the capabilities and facilities at the university has also led to greater levels of innovation and commercialisation across the region.
The 3M BIC name derives from Sir George Buckley, former chairman of the multi-national 3M Corporation, who helped grow the company into what it is today.
He is also an alumnus of the University of Huddersfield, and more recently, was appointed as the new Chancellor of the university.
You’ll be forgiven for mistaking it for another university building. Within its walls, however, ground-breaking things are happening in the commercial world.
Sue added: “We’ve invested in technology and expertise, built up a management team and network of professionals and associated businesses that collaborate, advise and share knowledge on all aspects of business.”
Businesses at the 3M BIC are from a variety of sectors including software, nuclear, artificial intelligence (AI), legal, metrology and chemistry – all of which are striving to enhance the worlds we work and live in.
The majority of companies that came to the 3M BIC in the early days are still there today, having expanded into more space within the building as they’ve grown over the years.
A decade on since it first opened its doors to businesses in 2012 and the centre is still thriving.
“The 3M BIC has always been ahead of its time as one of the first innovation centres of its kind, inspiring many hubs that have followed in recent years,” said Sue.
Coming out of the other side of the pandemic there is a revived buzz about the place, as people return to the office and meetings, conferences and with more in-person events being held at the centre.
Technology is also at its core with Innovation Avenue running through the heart of the centre. Boasting technology for product development, such as 3D printing, its experienced team of designers and business development specialists work with companies, large and small.
“We support businesses to get to the next level in their growth journey and tap into technology and academic collaborations that in the past would have been out of reach,” Sue added.
From helping turn ideas into tangible, marketable products to enhancing existing products to become more efficient and sustainable.
“Consumer needs are changing with the advancement of digitisation and the need for more environmentally friendly processes and products, which is putting increasing pressure on businesses.”
Societal and environmental changes are having a big impact on the commercial and academic worlds but are also opening up new opportunities for research and innovation.
“It has never been as important to embrace innovation and find ways to evolve, thrive and succeed, and we can help facilitate that at the 3M BIC,” said Sue.
More information about the 3M BIC can be found here.
Here are just three of the companies based at 3M BIC
Adventoris has been at the 3M BIC for almost eight years. Grown from a gap in the market to provide more efficient customer and sales processes using digital technology, Adventoris’ flagship B2B app, SwiftCloud, is now a leading international sales and marketing tool, benefitting around 200 clients across the globe.
The pandemic catapulted the company’s growth, as businesses realised the value of adopting digital processes. Adventoris was also able to create a B2C app to support struggling wholesalers that saw a dip in B2B customers who had to pause trading.
From a team of four to a team of 30 and counting, the company is destined for further accelerated growth as it evolves its technology to make it even better and more efficient.
Ionix is a global leaderin the design and production of high-performance sensors and piezoelectric materials that can operate in extreme environments, including high temperatures, to monitor plant and machinery integrity and processes.
Its devices are used globally for applications such as corrosion and crack monitoring, flow measurement and position sensing, reducing the need for shutdowns and leading to greater productivity and increased safety in sectors such as oil, gas, energy, aerospace and automotive.
Cost savings to its customers using these devices run into the millions of pounds from reducing shutdown and unscheduled outages.
They are the only standalone high temperature transducers in the world that have achieved the highest safety certifications for explosive environments, a key requirement for many energy applications.
Working alongside the University of Huddersfield, Simplifai has created a smart traffic solution using artificial intelligence (AI) that will ease traffic congestion and other traffic-related problems, such as helping to reduce air pollution.
The traffic management software will help control traffic around roadworks, traffic incidents or major events, and is up to 20% more effective than existing approaches that are unsuitable for the complexity and scale of traffic management in the modern age.
Simplifai built its first prototype in 2017 and is already delivering its systems to transport and health authorities in the North of England and looking to roll out the technology across the rest of the UK, US and China in the near future.
The 3M BIC is home to the Huddersfield AI Transport Research Centre, a joint initiative between Simplifai Systems, Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield.