Smith and Nephew officially opens world-class R&D centre in Hull

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 12 May 2017

Smith and Nephew (S&N) has officially opened its new world-class research and development (R&D) centre.

Parliamentarian Alan Johnson cut a ribbon in S&N's trademark orange to launch the £8m facility, being joined by the company's Cyrille Petit, chief corporate development officer; Stewart McKinley, vice president of research and innovation, and Paul Body, project manager, in the ceremony.

The R&D centre forms part of a wider £50m investment in the west Hull site by the global medical technology business, which has been part of the Hessle Road community for 110 years.

During a series of speeches, Mr Johnson, who recently announced his intention to step down as Hull West and Hessle MP after 20 years, joked about the ribbon provided for the ceremony being the colour of the Liberal Democrats.

Watch Alan Johnson speaking at the R&D centre opening

"This was the first company I came to when I was a candidate back in 1997," he said.

"My agent John Atkinson told me about the incredible history of this company.

"It wasn't just that history that was important to Smith and Nephew, it was the vision for the future of Hull."

Mr Johnson said S&N had been part of the "culture and social fabric of Hessle Road since 1907", and that the continuing investment by the company linked the past to the future.

He introduced historian Dr Alec Gill, whose striking collection of Hessle Road photographs documenting the life and times of the area in the 1970s will be exhibited in the city next month, thanks to sponsorship by S&N.

Some of the framed images were on display in the factory.

Mr Gill, who has collaborated in the venture with Paul Berriff, who was also invited to the R&D opening, said his own links with S&N dated back to 1962 when he was a messenger boy for a freight forwarding company and used to come to collect dockets from Tadman Street.

He described the "family feeling" within the company, and the wonderful work of the S&N team.

"What you are doing through research and development is questioning things, and I think that ethos was there in 1907," said Dr Gill.

Referencing his book, Superstitions: Folk Magic in Hull's Fishing Community, Dr Gill said in choosing May 12 for the opening, during a phase of the full moon, it was a "good omen" for the company.

Councillor Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council, said: "Putting in this investment this year, along with the other major investment, is giving a newfound confidence to this city."

Cllr Brady said literally thousands of people depended on employers like S&N for good pay, good conditions and good pensions.

He spoke about his links to the company through his uncle, a union negotiator on the site 30 or 40 years ago, and of his own connection to Hessle Road when he used to work in a butcher's.

"It was going quite well until I was carrying a lamb in from the van one day and a woman fainted because she thought the lamb was walking into the shop," he said.

Mr Petit spoke of S&N's pride in sponsoring Hull's City of Culture year and of the city's importance to the company.

He said that the R&D centre, which had brought about 100 jobs to the site from various parts of the world, and from various areas of expertise, was probably one of the top centres for medical devices globally.

"What we are probably most proud of on this site is developing relationships with education and the university community in the region – Hull and York Medical School, the University of Hull and the University of Sheffield," said Mr Petit.

"It is not only that Smith and Nephew provides jobs, it also provides careers, and that really matters to us."

Invited guests were given a tour of the R&D facilities, whose surface analysis and bio-mechanics laboratories specialise in toxicology, chemistry and microbiology, among other specialist fields.

The visitors saw inside the new wound model lab and heard that the microscopy lab was so sensitive that about 120 tonnes of concrete had been laid underneath to isolate it not only from passing traffic but also from the vibration from people's footsteps.

World-leading equipment provides magnification so powerful it can increase a virus particle, measuring ten millionths of a millimetre, to the size of a melon.

First founded in Hull more than 160 years ago, S&N has grown from a Whitefriargate pharmacy to a global supplier of advanced medical devices, with nearly 16,000 employees – almost 1,000 of whom are based in the city.

Read more: The number of people employed in Hull is the highest on record

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