Work has begun on a £60 million project to restore a historic Birmingham building to its former glory and house an innovation centre for artists, academics and industry to collaborate.
Birmingham’s 121-year-old Belmont Works factory will undergo a transformation to become the new home for Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse initiative, which aims to drive innovation and economic growth by connecting traditional STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) with the arts.
The centre will provide a platform for individuals and groups to collaborate on new projects or business ideas, alongside the latest academic thinking and teaching.
Contractors Bowmer + Kirkland will carry out the work, which will see an overhaul of the building, including an extension behind its iconic façade and a full-scale reconstruction of its 27-metre high water tower.
Once complete, the STEAMhouse site will provide access to new skills, business support and commercial space, alongside start-of-the-art facilities and technology to help small businesses to create and launch new products and ideas.
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) has helped fund the project through £1 million of Local Growth Funding and £14 million from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, also managed by the GBSLEP.
The funding supports the project’s aims to regenerate existing graded buildings and provide collaborative works spaces for artist, academics and businesses to develop innovative approaches to economic growth.
Members of Birmingham City University and Bowmer + Kirkland were joined by special guests for a ground-breaking ceremony today (March 13) to mark the occasion at the Belmont Works site on Cardigan Street in the city’s Eastside.
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “It is fantastic news that it is now full steam ahead in the transformation of this historic building which continues our regeneration in Birmingham’s Eastside.
This is the latest step in creating a real vibrant learning and creative quarter in this part of the city, which is already seeing major investment to pave the way for the arrival of HS2 and the Midland Metro tramline.
Professor Julian Beer
“This is not just about restoring an iconic part of Birmingham’s history, but is about preparing the city for its future development by creating new businesses and collaborations which will underpin growth in our region.
“Birmingham City University is an acknowledged thought-leader in STEAM – the collaboration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. This thinking has a key role to play in the development of our regional economy, and by providing free access to space, support and equipment we can play a transformational part in that journey.”
The Belmont Works factory has stood derelict in Birmingham’s Eastside since being gutted by a fire in 2007.
The investment will breathe new life into the building allowing industry to work alongside artists, academics and students, and pave the way for the launch of a new package of STEAM related courses.
The Victorian factory has an extensive history in the city, having previously served as the headquarters for the historic Eccles Rubber and Cycle Company before being used to produce linen clothing, bedsteads and pianos.
Paul Lomas, Bowmer + Kirkland Construction Director, said: “Bowmer + Kirkland is delighted to be working with Goodman again to deliver this exciting new project for BCU.
“The project adds to our growing workload in the buoyant West Midlands Region allowing us to continue to support our supply chain and provide new local employment and training opportunities.”
Chris Loughran, Deputy Chair for Delivery at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “The transformation of derelict and unused sites such as this are fundamental to the ongoing regeneration of both the city and the wider region. BCU’s impact on the city – and the Eastside area in particular – has demonstrated a clear vision in the reclaiming and reuse of brownfield sites for the development of our regional economy.
This represents a really exciting step for STEAMhouse, and for the businesses that will be supported by the facilities. I am exceptionally pleased that we have been able to make a contribution to the delivery of this project through Local Growth Funding.”
STEAMhouse was devised in collaboration with Eastside Projects as part of a major Birmingham City University projectto embed the arts alongside traditional science and technology disciplines to drive growth and innovation.
Since the first phase of STEAMhouse was opened in 2018, it has supported over 200 businesses with prototyping new, created new research partnerships and invested more than £75,000 in financial support.
The Belmont Works project is partly funded by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). The partnership is made up of businesses, the public sector and education. It aims to drive sustainable economic growth across the city-region, creating jobs and improving quality of life.