Gateshead's PROTO Centre is soon to be open.
Rebecca Wayman

New £7.8m tech centre close to completion for Gateshead's Baltic Business Quarter

Construction work to build Europe’s first centre for emerging technologies and digital innovation is close to completion in Gateshead.

The £7.8m complex is being funded by Gateshead Council, the European Regional Development Fund and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

PROTO is set to open this summer at Baltic Business Quarter situated next to Gateshead Quays; an emerging district for knowledge driven and innovative companies.

The research and development (R&D) facility will allow businesses within the tech sector to develop digital solutions to real business challenges. It will showcase the latest emerging technologies including virtual and augmented reality.

Alongside the new R&D building, 2,300 sq m of empty office space is also being transformed into high-specification workspaces over four floors for tech companies wanting to base themselves at PROTO.

Cllr John Adams, Gateshead Council’s cabinet member for the Economy, said: “Our ambition to serve the region’s growing augmented and virtual reality sectors has brought a dedicated centre for emerging technologies to the North East.

“If we want Gateshead businesses to succeed in the global market, creating high quality jobs for local people, we need to be at the cutting edge of R&D. PROTO will put Gateshead and the North East at the forefront of this new technology.”

PROTO has received grant funding of £968,830 from the North East LEP through the Local Growth Fund.

Helen Golightly, executive director at the North East LEP, commented: “The creative and digital sector is identified in our Strategic Economic Plan as one of the key areas that provides an opportunity for growth within the North East economy and this centre will enable the growth of a powerful cluster within this sector.

“It will also serve to encourage more businesses to start their innovation journey, and embrace exciting technologies of the future and explore the potential for the commercialisation of their ideas and concepts which, in turn, will lead to more and better jobs for our region.”

Technology at PROTO will include VR headsets, haptics and wearable bodysuits, as well as motion capture equipment. The centre aims to build on the North East’s reputation as a UK leader in immersive technologies.

The council is working in partnership with Digital Catapult North East and Tees Valley (NETV) to ensure the support available at PROTO promotes digital innovation and transformation in the region.

Naomi Morrow, lead for Digital Catapult NETV, also said: “The launch of PROTO provides an opportunity for businesses in the North East to gain hands-on experience with the latest technologies being developed.

“Emerging technology is already having an impact on traditionally non-digital businesses such as those in the automotive and manufacturing sectors – which are particular strengths in the North East.

“PROTO will give these businesses the chance to explore the bleeding edge of technology, at a much lower entry cost point and without the commitment of purchasing equipment to trial.”

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