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University of Chester Announces Plans to Develop UK Technology Site

Manchester, 8th March 2013 - Shell has concluded ‘heads of terms’ with the University of Chester to divest the current Shell Technology Centre Thornton site to the University.

Jones Lang LaSalle advised Shell on the disposal.
The University plans to:
  • establish an internationally-renowned campus at Thornton, aligning students directly with food, engineering and chemicals industries, through the creation of a new faculty – Science, Engineering and Technology. New areas of study will include geotechnical engineering; mechanical engineering; and electronic/electrical engineering;
  • accommodate pre-start and high growth small and medium enterprises from the environment, engineering, advanced manufacturing and automotive sectors, by offering  22 ‘incubator’ spaces on-site, to access specialist knowledge, expertise, facilities and equipment; 
  • further unlock the region’s economic potential, through attracting and retaining multi-national firms by providing attractive commercial options for partnerships with the University and other stakeholders at a dedicated science park. This will include an international-standard Food Processing and Sensory Solutions Centre and communal laboratory and office space.
Shell announced in December 2011 that it would vacate the site in early 2014 after the cessation of experimental activity at the end of this year. The decision followed a strategic review of the global footprint of Projects & Technology (P&T) that sought to design the most effective global technology footprint to help position Shell as the most innovative and competitive energy company. The review’s findings included the identification of considerable duplication and under-utilised assets at both Thornton and Hamburg, with scope for consolidation. The transfer of experimental activity, primarily to Hamburg, is underway and there is provision for non-experimental work to continue from Shell’s offices in London and Manchester.
“The original decision to exit Thornton was an incredibly difficult one to take especially in the context of such a distinguished history that stretches back so many years, a very dedicated scientific community, and close links with the local community and stakeholders,” commented Ed Daniels, UK Country Chair and EVP, Global Solutions Downstream, in P&T.
“For these reasons, Shell sought a partner who could ensure that innovation/technology activity would be a part of the site’s future and that it would continue to play a role in the economic and social development of the local community and wider region,” continued Ed. “By reaching this agreement, we believe we have achieved our initial aims and we are impressed with the University’s plans.” 
“During an extended period of personal and organisational change and uncertainty, everyone at Thornton has been exceptionally vigilant to matters of health and safety” said Ed. “The team deserves to be commended for their continued commitment and exceptional delivery in very challenging circumstances.”
The University’s origins go back to 1839 with its original buildings in the ancient city of Chester in North West England being the first in the country to be purpose-built for the professional teacher training. The institution has steadily expanded to now accommodate almost 17,000 UK and international students.
Professor Tim Wheeler, the University’s Vice-Chancellor,said: “Thornton, with 1,100,000 square feet of space in 48 buildings, is the most substantial acquisition in the University’s history, as we enter our 175th year and the next phase of our evolution, which should see it sitting more prominently on the international stage – and taking Cheshire West and Chester with it.”
“The Science, Engineering and Technology agenda is very much a growth area for the University and the region and will complement both their existing strengths. It is also a national priority in terms both of education and training, innovation and business, so understandably, Thornton is already attracting significant interest.”
"The University's vision for the Thornton site is to build on the excellent foundations laid by Shell to create an internationally-recognised, financially self-sustaining and multi-disciplinary campus that targets and stimulates private sector growth through employment, education and inward investment. It will integrate students with employers and employees.”
Strong support has been received from the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; the Higher Education Funding Council for England; local MPs; and local economic development partners.
The University will, after exchange of contracts, begin to establish a presence on site at Thornton and begin some refurbishment work. Occupancy will be phased over the next 18 months. Shell intends to cease all activity on the site by the end of Q1 2014.