Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has pledged £20m towards the creation of a national centre for ageing at Newcastle University in his Autumn statement.
The National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation (NASI) will lead the UK’s efforts to improve the health and well-being of older people by developing new technologies and services to support older people to continue to live in their own homes and remain socially active for as long as possible.
NASI will build on Newcastle’s world leading reputation in ageing research by bringing together, in one centre, scientists and doctors from the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and its two partner Trusts (The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust) with industry and the public to develop and bring to market products which optimise health and well-being as people grow older.
Located on the Campus for Ageing and Vitality in the west end of Newcastle, the development is set to contribute to the Government’s ambition to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ based on the strengths of universities by creating over 1,000 jobs and an economic contribution of £22m over the next decade.
Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University, said the University would be matching the funding with a further £20m, bringing the project to an overall £40m investment.
"The phenomenon of an ageing population is of national and international importance. Over the past two decades Newcastle University working closely with its partner NHS Hospital Trusts has become a world leader regarding both the causes and the effects of this phenomenon, and in pointing out the many opportunities arising from it. The Chancellor’s announcement is a welcome recognition of the societal challenge of ageing, and it is wonderful news that Newcastle, through this new national centre, will lead the response to this challenge.
“The University has invested significantly over the years in ageing research and, by identifying ageing as one of our three key research areas, it is now an institution-wide priority which sees doctors and ageing researchers working alongside computer scientists and engineers to solve problems resulting from one of society’s greatest challenges.
“Securing a national centre of this scale in the North will be a major economic boost, but crucially, it will provide a critical mass of experts in this field which will allow the UK to compete with the rest of the world.”
Working with its NHS partners, Newcastle University has made several breakthroughs in the field of ageing over the past two decades. These include the first diagnosis and treatment of dementia with Lewy bodies, a condition affecting over four million people worldwide and which is now known to be the second most frequent cause of degenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Most recently, it was the first university in the UK to trial the innovative Google Glass technology to develop a way to support Parkinson’s sufferers by providing visual reminders. In 2009, this work was recognised with the award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for research on ageing.
Professor Louise Robinson, Director of the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and a GP, added: “Newcastle University and the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust are established as world-leaders in biological, clinical and epidemiological aspects of ageing research.
"Our portfolio of research awards underpins our significant advances in addressing the complex needs of the older person. The new NASI will add to existing centres of ageing research at Newcastle which include: the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, the MRC Centre for Ageing & Vitality, and the Wellcome/Wolfson funded Clinical Ageing Research Unit.
“Living longer is now inevitable; average life expectancy for a man is almost 80 years. Our challenge is to ensure optimal health in our extra years. The creation of this new national centre will allow our researchers to work with other academic centres across the country to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the global drive to try and improve quality of life in our extra years.
“If we can find ways for people to live healthier lives for longer, we can support people to continue to work, live in their own homes and reduce health and social care costs. In turn, this will create a huge economic opportunity to deliver new products at a scale to meet the needs of a rapidly growing older market. Currently, 40% of consumer spend is from the over 50s, but few companies develop products targeted at older people.”
In his announcement, George Osborne said that as part of his investment in major new research facilities of national significance he would be “backing the brilliant work on ageing being done at Newcastle University.”
For more information about Newcastle University’s research in ageing, please visit: www.ncl.ac.uk/ageing
published on: 3 December 2014