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Gloucestershire Business News

Major investment as Versarien reveals relocation to the Forest of Dean

Leading Gloucestershire innovation firm Versarien has found the 'perfect place' for its next stage manufacturing and research facility - the Forest of Dean.

"It's the right facilities for us in the right place at the right time," Neill Ricketts, CEO Versarien, enthused. "I made a pledge in the very early days that we would bring opportunities to the Forest of Dean and this is part of delivering that promise.

"We are back. We are home. And this is where we are going to continue to expand."

The company which makes the revolutionary graphene - a 2D material made from a single layer of carbon atoms - has leased units at the flagship Longhope Business Park.

The 14,000 sq ft development comes with an option for Versarien to take on another 10,000 sq ft at a later date.

This new unit will house the company's innovation centre and manufacturing, and will create upto 15 new jobs.

Roger Head, joint owner of the Longhope Business Park, said: "This really is a jewel in the crown for the site. We're delighted to have Versarien here, a good high profile local company moving back to the Forest."

The move is seen as a major boost for the area, with the leader of the District Council saying it showed the Forest was 'open for business'.

Tim Gwilliam, leader of the council, said: "It's simply fantastic that Neill is bringing this superb company back home. Neill, the fella never really left and his input to this council and the Forest Economic Partnership has been constant in my time as leader. But for Versarien to make this move sends a message.

"Make no bones about it, Neill is as passionate a Forester as they come, but he's also a highly knowledgeable and skilled businessman. He would not be bringing Versarien home if it would be to its detriment. This for me is further evidence that the Forest is open for business.

"It also means that we are going to bring a huge level of skills into the Forest. We're going to be very keen to get young people onto apprenticeships and sponsored university places and to develop the work force here so that we can give them those opportunities.

"The Forest has always had a really good background in materials development, and this is the modern version."

Currently, Research and Development (R&D) is carried out in Manchester and Cambridge. But the aim is for some of that additional work to be done 'in house'.

Mr Ricketts explained: "Some of the work is of a more sensitive nature and our clients want that to be confidential."

The company, which currently has its headquarters in Cheltenham, received £5 million in Innovate funding via an Innovation loan to scale up various work themes.

The units will incorporate 3D printing, graphene enhanced concrete production and expanded capacity for testing samples and making demonstrators.

Versarien recently collaborated with construction firm Nationwide Engineering to produce the world's first graphene commercial concrete slab, engineered for sustainability.

The production of cement - the 'glue' for concrete - is one of the leading causes of global carbon dioxide emissions, producing around 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

The addition of tiny amounts of graphene strengthens the concrete so that less material is needed to achieve the equivalent structural performance, reducing carbon footprint and costs.

It can also reduce the need for steel reinforcement, saving material and time on site, further promoting the green credentials of the material.

Tim Gwilliam, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, added: "If the Forest can be home to such a successful, vibrant and high spec company as Versarien, then other major companies, looking to give their employees a quality lifestyle or looking for quality new employees can also find that home here in the Forest of Dean. It's brilliant news!"

Mr Ricketts said: "We are looking at developing new technologies and we're looking at delivering those new technologies into big global companies and we are going to do that from here in the Forest of Dean, which is fantastic."

The wider Longhope Business Park development is over 14 acres, with 100,000 sq ft completed and another 100,000 in the pipeline, transforming the former haulage yard into light industrial, general industrial and storage space. Once complete, the full site could offer more than 400 jobs.

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