In conversation: innovation in Leeds City Region

In a new series of interviews, we’re looking at the innovation ecosystem around the region. Part 1: Sue Cooke, CEO at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre

30 November 2020

In a new series of interviews, we’re looking at the innovation ecosystem around the region. We’re talking to partners from the West Yorkshire Innovation Network, academics, innovative businesses, and those who offer support programmes and resources for businesses, to share what they’re working on and how they are encouraging innovation.

First in our series is Sue Cooke, CEO at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in Huddersfield. Our interview with Sue will be shared in two parts to explore what 3M BIC can offer businesses and what businesses are doing to drive innovation and adapt in these uncertain times.

Q1. Can you tell us a bit about what you do at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre?

As CEO of the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, I lead a team that supports our community of businesses based at the centre, plus our virtual members.

Our wider role is to support business growth and innovation, so we have a dedicated Design & Tech team working with companies across West Yorkshire to help them develop and test new products and ideas. Our centre is kitted out with 3D printers, including leading edge additive manufacturing facilities using polymers, stainless steel and titanium, plus X-CT scanners and microscopy for fine measurement.

We want to raise awareness of these facilities to ensure as many businesses as possible across the region can take forward their innovation plans with access to the best technology and design expertise.

Q2: What can you offer SMEs in the region? 

We offer a ‘Design Diversification’ package that provides access to our expertise and facilities to help companies develop their ideas, sketches or rough prototypes. We can hone them into a professional 2D realisation, plus a CAD file and working prototype if suitable for our SLS 3D printing facilities. Our industrial design team can advise on materials for manufacture, as well as light-weighting techniques to reduce materials usage and cost. 

We are happy to meet with companies to discuss their ideas and advise on the best approach.

Q3. Can you describe what innovation means to you in five words?

Ideas into action, better outcomes.

Q4. How do you encourage innovation?

Last year we ran an Innovation Week at 3M BIC where we invited businesses to hear speakers from 3M, Siemens, the LEP, a panel of SMEs and innovation agencies, to inspire and guide businesses on the help available for innovation projects. 

We brought together our best academic researchers from the University of Huddersfield and invited businesses to drop in and pick their brains and share ideas.  We also ran a Design Challenge for students on the University of Huddersfield’s design courses, resulting in an exhibition of the shortlisted concepts with judging and prizes awarded by Siemens, 3M, Elmwood Design and Mamas & Papas. 

We’d like to expand the Innovation Week concept across West Yorkshire and involve other centres, universities and innovation support agencies in the regional eco-system. We want to make a bigger splash in the media about all the innovative people and companies in our area.

Q5. How do you think innovation will help with our region’s economic recovery?

We need more innovation driven start-ups and SMEs so that our companies can be leaders in their fields and make the most of their intellectual property (IP) and/or technology to set them apart. We have great university research facilities across the region, so there is plenty of scope to commercialise this fantastic research for economic and social benefit. This will create well paid jobs for our young people, so we should help those companies to make the most of the facilities on their doorstep to produce and commercialise the very best innovations possible.

Look out for part two of our interview next week!

Learn more about what the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre offers here, or if you’re wanting to understand more about what innovation support is available and how it could help your business, the LEP’s innovation support service can do just that. More information can be found on our innovation page and we have a team of Innovation Growth Managers ready to help.