PLANS TO develop a new Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre in Inverness have been unveiled, with an estimated budget of around £9 million.

Scotland’s Rural College has submitted a planning application for the centre on its Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Inverness Campus.

Last month, SRUC announced plans to create Scotland’s first veterinary school in 150 years and it is expected that the new centre will contribute to the vet school.

Read more - SRUC unveils its plan for a new Scottish vet school

Utilising technology and expertise in big data, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre will create and support the development of new and existing small to medium-sized businesses to grow jobs and the economy. It will also support knowledge exchange and continued professional development. It is proposed to contain seven spaces and breakout areas for new bioscience-focused start-up businesses, and will feature a necropsy suite for wildlife and laboratory spaces to support the development of new products and services, as well as industry-focused research.

Previously called the Rural Veterinary Hub, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre will enhance SRUC’s knowledge exchange with new lecture and workshops spaces, which can also be used for community events and talks with space to showcase new innovations.

The total estimated budget of the project is around £9 million. The European Regional Development Fund Scotland Programme 2014-2020 awarded £4.1m to part-fund the development and an additional £4.2m financial transactional loan from the Scottish Funding Council, which includes £1m for carbon sustainability enhancements.

Principal and chief executive of SRUC, Wayne Powell, said: “By being based on the Inverness Campus, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre will be part of one of the most exciting biotech hubs in Europe.

“It’s never been clearer that human health and animal health are part of the same system. By bringing researchers and commercial innovators together within the same space, we have a wonderful opportunity to develop new products and technology that will help prevent and deal with a future pandemic," he explained.

“We have also taken the opportunity to create new spaces for knowledge exchange and continued professional development for local business. By providing postgraduate education, we will create opportunities for students to engage with business. This will help foster the next generation of biotech entrepreneurs within the Highlands and Islands.”

Director of Business Infrastructure, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Ruaraidh McNeil, added: “We have worked closely with SRUC over several years and it’s great to see their plans to broaden their work on Inverness Campus reach this stage. The new centre will be important in supporting the growth of rural enterprises. With its mix of research, learning, knowledge exchange and business engagement, it will also further strengthen the collaborative ethos of the Campus, which has been a key theme since the outset of the development.”

The design of the building is being led by Inverness-based Threesixty Architecture. The build is being project-managed by Currie & Brown.