Site at Thornton will become a science park under the stewardship of the University of Chester

A UK R&D centre owned by Shell but scheduled for closure in 2014 is to be acquired by a nearby university.

The University of Chester has agreed a deal to acquire the Shell Technology Centre Thornton in Chester with the intention of turning it into a science park, creating an engineering and technology faculty for the university at the same time.

Shell announced in January 2012 that it intended to close the Thornton site by 2014, putting at risk 280 jobs and prompting speculation about the future of chemical R&D in the UK.

The site will provide 22 incubator spaces for small and medium enterprises, and the university says that the move could bring 2000 jobs to the area over the next five years.

‘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 multidisciplinary campus that targets and stimulates private sector growth through employment, education and inward investment,’ said Tim Wheeler, vice chancellor at the University of Chester. ‘It will integrate students with employers and employees.’

The site will focus on new technology for chemical manufacturing, energy supply, materials science and food production and include laboratories for bio-science. The university is looking to secure £36 million in capital funding to support the regeneration project.