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Science and Innovation Excellence in the N8

Shaping the way forward for Northern Science and Innovation Excellence

Published on: 19 January 2016

N8 and local enterprise leaders meet to determine how to map and understand Northern regional research and innovation strengths, and areas of excellence.

Driving economic growth

Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Gareth Davies, Director General for Business and Science at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), have met with Northern academic, business and local enterprise leaders to offer advice on accessing research funding to help regions drive economic growth.

In a series of roundtables and workshops held in Leeds, they discussed with the Northern leaders, including Prof Nick Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation and Dr James Callaghan, Director of Research & Enterprise Service from Newcastle University and representatives from the North East LEP and Combined Authority, how to map and understand Northern regional research and innovation strengths, and areas of excellence.

Sir Mark Walport at N8 event
Sir Mark Walport joins Professor Nick Wright and others at N8 event

Science and Innovation Audit

Last autumn, Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP announced that the government was inviting organisations to form into consortia and express an interest in completing a Science and Innovation Audit (SIA). These consortia could include universities, research and innovation organisations, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) or their equivalents in the devolved administrations, and city and business leaders.

The SIAs provide a way to help build evidence of potential global competitive advantage, and to identify routes to fully realise that potential. Government has given a deadline of end of January for expressions of interest.

The event, held at University of Leeds, was the third in a series of Northern Innovation Forums focussing on the potential Northern Innovation groupings. This series is organised by the N8 Research Partnership (N8), the collaboration body of the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.

Local science and innovation strengths

During the workshops, consortia leaders including senior representatives from the northern Local Enterprise Partnerships and N8 universities, were able to present their ideas on local and regional science and innovation strengths, and to seek input from Sir Mark and Gareth on how best to refine their plans.

Sir Mark said: “The strength of the Science and Innovation Audits lies in pinpointing the areas where research excellence overlaps with innovation capabilities. By prioritising these areas, the UK can support regional innovation to bring much wider benefits.

“We hope the Science and Innovation Audits will generate the ambitious thinking and effective leadership needed to achieve this.”

The objective of the SIAs are to help government develop tools to inform the UK’s science and innovation strategies; provide an evidence base for strategic decision making on local innovation priorities; strengthen future bids for local investment; and foster collaboration between universities and local businesses, local authorities and LEPs or their equivalents in the devolved administrations.

Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University said: “Evidence-based targeting of science and innovation investments can support regional economic development. UK science and innovation funding will continue to be allocated on a national basis to very strong proposals only. In that light, Science and Innovation Audits offer a real opportunity to strengthen the evidence base and our detailed understanding. This will lead to a greater ability to demonstrate Northern research and innovation excellence in themes and localities that can deliver economic impact.

“This day provided a great opportunity to refine and improve potential Northern SIA bids. It has enabled consortia to refine their ideas, cross-reference their bids with others, and investigate collaboration opportunities. We are delighted that Sir Mark and Gareth were able to join with the Northern consortia for this event.”


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