AMBITIOUS plans to create a Centre for Research and Innovation in Taunton Deane have been unveiled - and will be part of a debate next week.

The scheme, detailed in a new report and spearheaded by borough councillor Habib Farbahi, aims to capitalise on the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy, which sets out Grand Challenges to the UK to be at the forefront of the industries of the future.

Areas which could form the basis of the centre include environmental innovation, including tackling the blight of plastics, renewable energy, education, artificial intelligence and medical science.

Experts from the likes of Exeter University and the South West Academic Health Science Network have agreed to take part in discussions around the creation of the centre, Cllr Farbahi said.

“Taunton Deane is very strategically placed, with universities nearby such as Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Plymouth and the Combined Universities in Cornwall,” he said.

“Also with strategic linkages to industries such as agriculture and fisheries which are important in terms of food production, thus meeting the technology needs of the agricultural sector in the future is paramount.

“We want to enable new collaborations across different growth sectors as stated in our report and reshape policies to be in line with our ambitions.

“We know that we have low productivity in the South West, but gradually we can in part improve this situation by attracting highly educated people to the region.

“The South West is the number one area that people come to retire because it is a great place to live, our collective aim is to also make this area and particularly Taunton Deane a leading region for jobs, technical apprenticeships and graduate research programmes.”

Jo Johnson, the science minister, has announced a fund of £100m to attract overseas talent as part of the biggest shake-up of public research funding since 1965,named after the father of nuclear physics and immigrant to the UK, Ernest Rutherford.

The Rutherford fund is part of wider reforms, which will see an umbrella body, the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), take on responsibility for strategic oversight of all public research spending.

The announcement in November 2016 of an additional £4.7 billion in research funding up to 2020 will see UKRI controlling a budget of £8 billion per annum by 2020.

Much of the rationale for UKRI is to create a body that can foster multidisciplinary research.

PLANS for a new innovation centre for Taunton will be at the heart of a debate being held in the town next week.

Local and regional government, universities, and the medical science, environmental, educational and artificial intelligence sectors will come together with local stakeholders to discuss the transformation of their enterprises centred on growth industries, revenue-generation and cost-savings.

The Great Plastics Debate will put sungle-use plastics at the heart of a debate over how innovation across industry and education could help tackle society’s problems and deliver prosperity to the region. 

A spokesman for the event said: “Join us for an evening of inspiring talks from experienced leaders in their sectors. 

“Attendees will gain exclusive insights and advice on the direction of travel worldwide, to help them succeed in shaping an exciting and challenging time ahead.

“(We hope to) create a natural environment for the growth industries to choose our county town as a destination for a prospective research and development institution incorporating environment, medical science, renewables, education and artificial intelligence.”

The Great Plastics Debate is set to take place on September 14 at Queen’s College, in Trull Road.

Doors will open at 6.15pm, for a 6.35pm start.

Limited spaces are available and for more information and to book a place, contact Democratic Services on 01823 219570, or email