Institute for Ageing

Graham Armitage

Interview: Graham Armitage

Graham Armitage is Deputy Director: Innovation and Partnerships, Newcastle University Institute for Ageing.

The Campus for Ageing and Vitality in Newcastle is unique in Europe and presents an enormous opportunity for businesses. It offers companies a chance to develop alongside a critical mass of multi-disciplinary research teams within Newcastle University working on almost every aspect of ageing.

The Changing Age for Business Programme was created to encourage companies to engage with the University, to help them grow their businesses in the emerging market offered by rising numbers of older people.

Graham Armitage, Deputy Director of the Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age, points out that as more people are living longer they are creating a vast demand for diversified products and services – a market that until now has been badly served by businesses.

"For small and medium sized businesses it’s about waking up to that fact the world is changing around you, with the population ageing and their needs being neglected. So you can’t continue in the same fashion, because if you do you will lose market share.

Graham Armitage - interview page

Creating a business gateway into the University

"We decided to set out our stall to local and regional businesses, to highlight what the opportunities are," he explained.

"Alongside that was an aspiration to provide a gateway into the University, to explore with businesses what they are trying to achieve and help them to shape projects."

Graham was successful in bidding for £2.5m of European Regional Development Fund backing that has enabled the fitting out of the entire second floor of the new Biomedical Research Building in the Academic Quarter on the Campus. Known as the ‘Project Hotel’, this has facilities for up to 15 companies with a small support team that includes Business Development Manager Mike Morgan.

Newcastle Science City is a business partner with the University in this area. So Changing Age for Business provides support to companies with ageing related products and services, while Science City caters for more general science and technology based enterprises.

The Campus itself is being developed on a site owned by the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is working with the University on a shared vision "to establish the world’s premier centre for ageing and living, making Newcastle the best place in the world to grow old".

Eventually a Business Quarter and a Retail Quarter will be developed on the Campus as demand grows.

One of the research projects undertaken by the University that will benefit businesses is the Newcastle 85+ Study. This is examining and building a deep understanding of what it means to be 85 and over – in particular what are the issues and needs of this growing section of the population.

"Once you understand them better, from that evidence point of view, you can start to think about products and services for that market," said Graham.

Growing business in an emerging market

Another of the tremendous resources made available by the University is VOICE North. This has recruited a cohort of well over 1,500 older people, who participate in research projects and can provide a sounding board about products and services.

"Businesses can come to talk to older people in the context of a facilitated focus group supported by an academic or someone with appropriate research skills, to draw out information and advice," said Graham, who has been with the University for six years, following 20 years of experience in a variety of management and leadership roles in the Royal Air Force and the defence industry.

"We could see one of the things businesses needed was input from older people about how they actually felt about products and services. We want companies to be able to look people in the eye and talk about their business propositions."

Changing Age for Business can also help companies find certain types of funding and introduce them to scientists who might best help develop solutions around, for example, tools for daily living, or for managing diet and exercise.

"The whole point is that they should be able to get their products to market more quickly and cheaply by working with the university in this way," added Graham.