Last Thursday marked the opening of Sussex Innovation – Croydon. Distinguished guests from across the world of business and politics flocked to East Croydon to bear witness to Anna Soubry, Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise officially open the centre. Mark and I had the honour of representing the Catalyst team. We made our way up on the train with enough time to enjoy a strong coffee to ease us through the early commute. I’d been hearing great things about the new Croydon hub since I started at Catalyst and was really looking forward to finally visiting the site myself.
As someone who often gets lost on my own street, I was relieved to find the centre is hard to miss – the distinctive “50p Building” is just a stone’s throw away from the station. I span through the revolving doors into a flurry of activity, the VIP’s were due to arrive within the hour.
The Innovation Centre takes up the 6th and 11th floor, giving an impressive bird’s eye view of Croydon that I attempted to take in during a swift guided tour. After setting our Catalyst Team banner in pride of place, I headed back down to reception to sign in the 80 visitors. Professors, Innovation staff, MP’s and Ministers were checked off the register and ushered up for tea and coffee in the panoramic offices.
Check me out! My third week as a Catalyst team member and I’m already being formally introduced to Mayors and Ministers… I was going up in the world. Quite literally, as I followed the final dignitaries into the lift, by now feeling positively travel sick with all the trips up and down the building. Throwing up on the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research wouldn’t be a great start to the day…
We listened to some inspiring speeches from Michael Davies and Gavin Barwell (MP for Croydon Central). Mike Herd (Exec Director) talked eloquently about the added value the Catalyst scheme has bought to start-up businesses before Anna Soubry took to the podium and officially opened the centre.
The speakers were joined by academic experts and prominent members of the business community at a round table event that followed, leaving the rest of us free to network. I had some very interesting conversations, including a chat with the lovely Patricia Hay-Justice, Mayor of Croydon. I just about managed to restrain myself from asking to try on her mayoral chain! After the round table session, Anna Soubry came over to meet the Catalyst Team. Lucy talked about the great things Catalyst have been up to over the past year and our current projects we have on the go.
Eventually every hand had been shaken, the free pastries had been consumed and the hubbub of the morning wound to an end. It was enlightening to witness the work that went into the day and to meet such a variety of professionals. I felt proud to be a part of the event, and as ever, the free food was very welcome.
The day was a perfect introduction to all the lovely staff members at the new centre and an exceptional way to celebrate the opening of Sussex Innovation – Croydon. As Professor Michael Davies, the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said:
"We recognised two decades ago that universities like Sussex have huge innovation potential and a lot to offer growing businesses. We're delighted to be bringing our successful model to Croydon, one of the most exciting places to do business right now. By 'putting flags in the ground' around the region beyond our campus, we hope to enable a two-way flow of positive opportunity between us and local and business communities."
Anna Soubry officially opening the Centre.