Business ideas will become a reality thanks to £4.2m initiative at RAU

A £4.2m project which will support both rural and agritech businesses is taking shape at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU).

The building, on the RAU’s campus near Cirencester, is set to be a hive of activity – housing two initiatives which will provide vital support to a range of businesses.

One floor will be used by Farm491, the RAU’s expanding agritech innovation and incubation hub. Opened in 2016, Farm491 offers an affordable and flexible co-working environment for entrepreneurs looking to set up businesses which use technology to improve sustainable food production. As well as providing its members with office space, workshops and business support, there is also access to 491 hectares of farmland for research and testing. This new building adds to its current RAU sites at Trent Lodge and Harnhill.

The new structure will also be home to the Cirencester Growth Hub, an initiative which will help boost the county’s economy by assisting local businesses, of all sizes and from all sectors, to accelerate growth, create new jobs and achieve their potential.

The dual purpose building reached a milestone today (February 7) with a “topping out” ceremony, ahead of its opening this summer.

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the Royal Agricultural University, said: “Entrepreneurship and innovation are central to the University’s academic mission; we have excellent links with industry and many of our students set up their own successful businesses. I am delighted that this new initiative will help such a range of businesses. Farm491 offers support to local, national and global agritech ventures, while Cirencester Growth Hub will provide a vital boost to the local economy; adding to the diverse range of prosperous rural businesses which Gloucestershire is already home to.”

GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership provided just over £3m towards the initiative. GFirst LEP Chief Executive David Owen said: “GFirst LEP is thrilled to support this pioneering project, the roll-out of more Growth Hubs across the county means that more businesses than ever have access to the very best business support. The Growth Hub at the RAU is the perfect location for rural businesses and entrepreneurs to grow and contribute to the local economy of Gloucestershire.”

The Cirencester Growth Hub will provide personalised support to rural businesses of all types in the region, from pre-start through to existing companies and organisations looking to grow.  It will deliver business development and support networks, as well as strategy and advisory services.

Aidan and Sarah Stevens, directors of Cirencester-based Stratton House Hotel attended the “topping out” ceremony. Mr Stevens said: “The Growth Hub network is a fantastic initiative. We have benefited from a number of services at the Gloucester Growth Hub. We would encourage other local businesses to take advantage of the Cirencester Growth Hub. The hubs provide excellent local insight and knowledge. Any business that wants to grow should be able to pick up the phone to the Growth Hub and ask for help.”

The Cirencester Growth Hub is one of an expanding network of Growth Hubs which will be placed in strategic locations throughout the county. Driven by GFirst LEP, this network will enable enhanced business support services to be delivered at a range of venues to ensure that location is not a barrier for businesses to get the support they need.

The plans for the Cirencester Growth Hub have been supported by a wide-ranging group of partners including; Cotswold District Council, Cirencester Town Council, Cirencester Chamber of Commerce, Cirencester Community Development Trust and Cirencester College.

To find out more about Gloucestershire’s Growth Hub Network and how your business can access fully funded support for growth, visit You can also sign up for regular updates at