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Innovation experts collaborate to promote healthy ageing

World-leading innovation experts from industry and academia are gathering to create new ideas and concepts to encourage healthy and active ageing - one of the biggest issues and opportunities facing society today.

The event is the latest to be organised by the N8 Industry Innovation Forum (N8 IIF) – set up earlier this year to encourage new collaborations between industry and the eight most research-intensive universities in the North of England to drive innovation, competitive advantage and growth.

A video on Working with Business featuring  Prof Chris Brink, Chair of the N8 Board of Directors can be viewed here.

Involving over 100 senior figures from industry, charities, the NHS and the N8 group of universities (Newcastle, Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and York) the event focuses on digital innovation for health and well-being, ageing skin, and food and nutrition. Companies taking part include Boots, Phillips and AstraZeneca as well as the charities Age UK, Carers UK and Help the Hospices.

Ideas emerging from today’s event included smart technology to help older adults manage increasingly complex personal health needs and diagnostic tools for improved nutrition.

Professor Chris Brink, Chair of the N8 Board of Directors and Vice-Chancellor at Newcastle University, said:“We listened to industry and set up the N8 IIF to provide a new way of working, and to stimulate new ideas by using ‘the power of 8’ – connecting academic and business partners to meet the challenges facing industry with new insights and solutions emerging from the world-class research being carried out in our universities.

“Combining the best with the best – joining up the talent and expertise of university research and industry-led R&D – is how the best ideas come about, supports innovation across a range of sectors, which in turn, can create growth and new jobs in our economy.”

Professor Trevor McMillan, Chair of the N8 Executive Management Group and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Lancaster University, said: “The N8 IIF has been very positively received by both industry and the academic world.  There is real desire among academics to engage with industry and see their research make a difference in some of the biggest areas facing society, while industry has the skills and technical know-how required to commercialise ideas and bring them to market.

“An ageing population has implications for healthcare provision and the structure and shape of the labour market. But as well as challenges, there are opportunities – and already we are seeing growth in new sectors such as those providing healthcare services for the very old.

“Today’s event has provides an opportunity for everyone taking part to meet with ‘unlikely partners’ – organisations who they would not normally work with - and we’ve already seen a number of exciting and innovative ideas come out of it as a result.”

The N8 IIF is supported by the Technology Strategy Board and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: "Helping businesses to deliver technological solutions to address the healthcare challenges caused by the impact of living longer, and to support independent and healthy living for an ageing population, are key parts of the Technology Strategy Board’s extensive programme of activity to support innovation in the UK’s healthcare sector. 

"We are therefore delighted to support the N8 Industry Innovation Forum’s initiative.  By supporting business-led innovation and translating new research and technology from some of our leading universities into commercially-viable products and services, it is an exemplar model for driving innovation and growth in the economy."

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: “The N8 Industry Innovation Forum is an excellent example of the way in which universities and businesses can work effectively together to make a significant impact on the needs of society, and a major contribution to economic growth. HEFCE was keen to invest in this powerful research collaboration, which has been developed and driven by the universities themselves. A particular strength is its potential to stimulate cluster development in an area of the country in need of private sector growth.”

The first N8 IIF meeting took place in February 2012 and focussed on Advanced Materials, an area which presents huge opportunities for ideas and applications across a range of sectors in the UK including chemicals, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and aerospace. Discussions at the event led to a number of ideas for multi-partner collaboration and generated 25 new industry-led ideas for university research - of which four were progressed to Stage 2 funding.

To find out more about the N8 Industry Innovation Forum.

published on: 21 November 2012