Connecting automotive businesses with the expertise of four of the region’s universities to boost innovation and growth will be under the spotlight next week.
A major event staged by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and the universities of Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham and Sunderland, is aiming to act as a catalyst for increased collaboration between industry and academics to create new investment, businesses and products.
Driving Innovation 2013, a free half-day event at Gosforth Park Marriott on October 23, will give automotive businesses the opportunity to talk about technical or developmental challenges that are putting the brakes on improvements or the creation of new products and services. Experts from the four universities will be able to provide guidance on setting up new collaborations for bespoke projects or ongoing work.
The day will showcase a number of areas where the region’s universities are leading the field in innovative automotive technology, including energy recovery, engine development, precision/micro-manufacturing, autonomous driving, electric vehicles and sensors, smart electronics, and lighting.
Keynote speaker Richard Ebrahim, who is heading production of Nissan’s new Infiniti luxury model at Sunderland, will speak at the event about the automotive industry in the region. The Japanese car giant has a successful track record of collaboration with academia in its research and development work, both in conventional vehicles and the new generation of electric cars.
The event is the first of its kind co-organised by the North East LEP to drive its North East Innovation programme. North East LEP director Edward Twiddy, who will also address the conference, said: “Driving Innovation 2013 is a key building block to encourage universities and local businesses to work together to encourage growth, as recommended by the Witty Review carried out for the Government.
“One of our key remits is to lead innovation-driven work, and find ways to bring together applied research, academia and industry. The event also highlights how our universities are collaborating on important sectors such as the automotive industry, to share their collective expertise for the benefit of the North East economy.”
International innovator Prof Roy Sandbach, who spent three decades with global consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, leads the North East LEP’s innovation strategy. Prof Sandbach, the current David Goldman visiting Professor of Innovation & Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School, said: “This is a great example of the new sense of focused collaboration that the North East LEP must foster. It really deserves active support.
“We all need to show our commitment to economic growth through collaboration across institutions, businesses and innovation agencies. This is a team game. And I am very happy that the universities are taking the lead on this. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic direction outlined in the just-published Witty report to focus on strengths and create collaborative networks with universities at the heart. We are at the front of the pack with this event.”
He said the North East LEP’s innovation strategy is now crystallising to build on innovation hubs and support networks. “The North East LEP will build a credible outward-facing engagement with global innovation opportunities and it will develop a vibrant innovation culture through training and mentoring,” said Prof Sandbach.
“This demands cross-organisational leadership and I am confident that all the key players will step up. They have to, for the region to thrive.
“We all want this region to be recognised for innovation. It is in our DNA.”
The North East universities recognise that building stronger links with industry is a vital component in shaping our research and teaching activities, not to mention employment for our talented graduates. We want to ensure that the outputs of our fundamental research and industrial-led solutions are adopted by local companies allowing them to create new, smarter, faster, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly products, services and technologies. These innovations and knowledge will in turn drive the creation of more jobs within the region and help achieve a better overall economic standing.
Dr Sam Neill, head of Enterprise at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Science Agriculture and Engineering said, “We are confident that the ‘Driving Innovation 2013’ event we have worked hard to create will give automotive companies, large and small, the chance to strike up a dialogue with the universities and to share their technical challenges and future needs.
"We will strive to identify the best multi-disciplinary research teams from the four universities to work collaboratively to solve these specific challenges with industry. It is our overall aim to build on-going, mutually beneficial collaborations that we hope to sustain long after the initial event”.
Driving Innovation takes place on Wednesday October 23 at Gosforth Park Marriott from 8am to 1pm. To book a place, please register online or contact Nicola Taylor, Newcastle University, or phone 0191 208 5488.
The initiative is funded and supported by the North East LEP and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
published on: 18 October 2013