The £26 million Sheffield schemes giving society a healthy future

From the food people eat to the amount of exercise they take, significant factors can have an impact on wellbeing – a principle that is driving two new schemes from Sheffield Hallam University that aim to truly bring healthcare into the 21st century and tackle some of society's biggest challenges.

The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering are being built in Attercliffe on the Olympic Legacy Park, which is taking shape on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium.

How the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre will look.

How the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre will look.

Costing £26 million and expected to be ready to open by August next year, the facilities form part of Hallam's vision for a Health Innovation Park, intended to support its ambition to become the world's leading 'applied university', carrying out activities with a practical purpose.

The advanced wellbeing centre will cater for up to 70 researchers who will conduct studies on health and physical activity, as well as incorporating laboratories and NHS clinics. Its private sector partners are Canon Medical Systems and Westfield Health, and the Parkrun organisation is also involved.

Meanwhile the NCEFE will be home to a 20-strong team. The aim is to help the food industry improve productivity, cut waste and reduce costs, offering a small-scale process plant allowing teams to try out different methods quickly.

The university is a member of the Sheffield Property Association. The Star is focusing on the mission of the SPA – which aims to be the ‘collective voice of property in Sheffield’ and was the first organisation of its kind outside the capital – through a series of features looking at major ventures supported by its 50 backers, a diverse group including developers, construction firms, solicitors and commercial agents.

An artist's impression of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.

An artist's impression of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.

Dan Ladbury, Hallam's director of estates, says the food complex was originally meant to be in the city centre before the decision was made to create it on the legacy park.

"We thought, actually there's a bit of critical mass there," he says. "It made sense to try and locate it near to the AWRC. Both of those are conveniently located either side of Attercliffe Road so it creates quite a nice gateway. It also helps with the wider regeneration of that area so hopefully when it all comes together the legacy park will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration around that part of town."

The first proposed site - an office building called Furnival Works - will instead be used to house staff from the Science Park on Howard Street, which is due to be knocked down to make way for new buildings, one element of a 20-year, £800 million campus masterplan.

"There's a real theme with both of the facilities about partnership and collaboration," says Dan. "The aim is hopefully these will spawn other facilities such as wider research and further innovation."

Healthcare and medical technology are being viewed as strong growth areas in the region as the population ages, bringing a need for more preventative medicine to keep individuals fitter for longer. 

Dan says the challenge when designing the new centres was around 'trying to do something that's cost effective'. Both projects have been supported by external funding from the likes of the Government and the EU. Of the £26 million sum, the university has only contributed around £4 million.

"We've done well," says Dan. "Budget has been a key consideration."

The timber-clad AWRC will be visible from the main road – accordingly, attractive green space and open terraces have been included to boost its healthy credentials. A 'feature staircase' is being provided inside to encourage people to walk and not take the lift.

"Normally when you go into a building the stairs are tucked behind a lobby," Dan observes.

He says Attercliffe – a suburb that was once the heart of steelmaking in Sheffield, but which fell on hard times when the sector went into decline – may well be on the up at last. "I think the regeneration around the park hopefully sets a tone."