A NEW £1million business centre at Bicton College has been officially opened by a government minister.

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Food and farming minister George Eustice MP opened the Farmhouse Business Centre project, which has seen a redundant farmhouse converted to provide rural office space for new and expanding businesses.

Mr Eustice was in the region to discuss the Heart of South West Rural Growth Network, which was awarded £2.9million from defra to develop a network of rural enterprise hubs, and has given a £300,000 grant to the Bicton project.

“It’s an impressive venue and great to see an old house restored to its former glory,” said Mr Eustice.

“Projects like this are important to revitalise the rural economy, acting as incubation areas for new businesses where they can learn from one another and support one another. And where they are co-located with a college – like Bicton – they’ve got academic input where they need it.

“Also here you’ve got the EaRTH Centre, which focuses on renewable energy. Getting all these things together can really help support new innovative businesses to grow.

“The rural economy is important. The advent of new digital infrastructure, such as high-speed broadband, is reducing some of the disadvantages that rural areas like Devon and Cornwall used to suffer. It means that businesses can now locate to places like this, beautiful parts of the country, and also be connected to a global market through high-speed broadband.”

Bicton College principal David Henley said: “The converted farmhouse on Bicton’s Home Farm has been given a new lease of life via this project and now provides valuable space for emerging businesses. It is vital that every assistance is given to stimulate the economy in rural areas and Bicton College sees itself at the heart of this initiative.”

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