NORTHALLERTON’S old prison might not seem the obvious location for a business innovation centre.

But in the heart of the Victorian structure, something very exciting is taking place.

Last Friday it was my privilege to open a space designed to help new business ideas, based on technology, take root and grow.

The Barclays Eagle Lab – a partnership between the bank and the Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) already established in the building – aims to boost North Yorkshire’s start-up and entrepreneurial culture, driving growth in our local economy.

C4DI has been created in the former female wing of the prison, one of the five listed buildings on what is now known as the Treadmills development. The new Sunderland University/York College campus is also on the site.

The wing has been completely transformed into business units while still paying respect to its past – the old prison cells have become offices, complete with the original cell doors.

The Eagle Lab provides start-up firms and entrepreneurs with co-working, office and meeting space. And Barclays will support them with banking services, business expertise, mentoring and coaching from specialists in scaling up small innovative enterprises.

The Northallerton Prison site, which is being reinvented

The Northallerton Prison site, which is being reinvented

It is great news that Barclays chose Northallerton for the Lab and our local economy stands to benefit from this encouragement of new, innovative enterprises.

I met some of the small businesses that have already become members, such as AmbaSat, led by Martin Platt, which enables school pupils, students and space enthusiasts to build and launch their own space satellite for little more than the cost of a games console.

It has real potential as an educational tool and Martin aims to promote science, technology, maths, engineering and environmental studies through sales of his AmbaSat space satellite kits.

I was equally impressed by Andy Howard and Edward Milbank’s CSX Carbon enterprise – a business that will use drone technology and high-quality data analysis to measure carbon so that farmers and landowners can receive a fair return on their natural assets and businesses can offset their carbon footprint in a transparent and independently verified way.

Just 24 hours before meeting these energetic and enthusiastic entrepreneurs, I had delivered a keynote speech about business, growth and innovation.

In the annual Mais lecture at the Bayes Business School in London I spoke about my vision for a new UK culture of enterprise.

That’s a vision where the free market is underpinned by Government creating the conditions so that entrepreneurs like Martin, Andy and Edward can prosper.

I want to help accelerate growth and productivity focusing on capital, people and ideas; encouraging greater levels of capital investment by businesses, improving workers’ technical skills and driving up business investment in research and development.

What I saw last Friday very much fits with that vision and I wish the project every success.

The situation facing the people of the Ukraine is desperate. This week I’ve been part of the Government’s efforts to exert the maximum pressure on President Putin as terrible events have unfolded.

As I write this, the extensive package of financial sanctions on Russia agreed with our allies have had a significant impact. The Russian rouble has lost a third of its value, Russian interest rates have doubled and the country’s stock market has seen its biggest decline on record.

I’ll continue to work with my Government colleagues and our Western allies to bring this unjust war to an end.