The Innovation Village @ the RAU

Based on a 25-acre site at the University’s Cirencester campus, the new Innovation Village will push the boundaries of sustainable design to ensure a development that is beautiful, carbon neutral, rich in nature, and inspires innovation through its environment.

The Innovation Village aims to support industry, food producers, farmers, and landowners in developing sustainable solutions for healthy land and nature, food production, and resilience in rural communities.

Our vision

As the UK’s global agricultural university, the Innovation Village is central to our vision and will be a vibrant home to a community of entrepreneurs, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers, committed to addressing the major global challenges we all face including climate change, sustainable land use and food production, biodiversity loss, and heritage management.

A cluster development of this nature, applied to agriculture, food and land management, does not exist in the UK and gives opportunity to impact globally. The Innovation Village will provide a rural counterbalance to the proposed developments in the urban core of the county such as Cyber Central in Cheltenham and Kings Quarter/The Forum in Gloucester. In addition, there will be benefits to the prosperity and productivity of rural communities, locally and regionally. 

The initiative, which has a GDV of between £80 and £100m, already has the support of the Department of International Trade (DIT), Gloucestershire County Council, and GFirst LEP.

About the Innovation Village

The site will comprise a number of integrated areas including a Research and Innovation centre, live/work residential units, business start-up and support spaces, as well as business and conference hospitality facilities.

We are committed to ensuring that the Innovation Village will push the boundaries of sustainable design to ensure a development that is beautiful, carbon neutral, rich in nature, and inspires innovation through its environment.

Design principles include:

  • Construction methods and materials that will minimize environmental impact of the development
  • The design will enable energy efficient and low carbon ongoing usage, operations and maintenance of the site
  • The development will promote low carbon transportation in and around the site
  • The site will be designed to protect, and enhance, biodiversity
  • Visually, the construction will complement the local landscape

The RAU has a proven track record of delivering development projects for innovation and enterprise in agriculture. In 2016, construction of the Alliston Centre, which houses the University’s Farm491, was completed. Farm491 has gone on to become one of the leading agri-technology incubator and accelerator facilities in the country, helping more than 200 businesses generate £33m in investment to enable the success of their business, creating 120+ jobs.

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There are a number of intended benefits of the scheme, these include:

  • New businesses – doubling the current outputs of Farm491 and Growth Hub within first five years of operation, representing additional £35M of investment, 120 jobs created, and support for 200 start-ups and SMEs
  • Provision of skills, training, employment, and affordable housing, targeted towards improving retention of 16-24 year olds
  • Research funding – attracting annual research income of £10M p.a. by 2030, growing from current baseline of £2M p.a.
  • High-value job creation – new Academic and R&D opportunities estimated at 50FTE
  • Increase in conferencing business and associated revenue growth – estimated value of £5M p.a.

According to a study undertaken in 2020 by Hatch Regeneris, the Royal Agricultural University contributes GVA of £20M to the local economy and £32M to the regional economy. This development aims to increase this by at least 75%.

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Next steps 

Sustainable design is a fundamental success factor for the University and we have employed Architype, the leading Passivhaus Architect with more than 30 years’ experience, to lead the design process.

The Hereford-based architect will be joined by Cirencester’s OPS Structures and QODA MEP Consultants of Faringdon, meaning that the core design team are all based within 60 miles of the site. The landscape-led design befitting such a project will be the responsibility of BD Landscape Architects of Tewkesbury whose job it is to develop a scheme that embodies the values of the university and supports the ‘village’. The design team has already started consulting with stakeholders and industry.

The first milestone will be to pass the RIBA stage 2 concept design phase enabling submission of an outline planning application in 2023.

This will then lead to the second key milestone, completion of RIBA stage 3, with a view to gaining full planning consent by Autumn 2024.