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Industrial Strategy

Rising to the challenge

Published on: 21 May 2018

Leading scientists say Newcastle University will rise to the challenge of the Prime Minister’s new Industrial Strategy.

Today Theresa May said that maintaining "a deep science partnership" with the EU after the UK leaves in 2019 was in the interest of both Britain and the trading community.

Speaking at Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield, Cheshire, she launched the Government’s ambitious new Industrial Strategy, which is focused on four Grand Challenges reflecting global trends that will shape our future and represent industries where the UK has an edge.

The Grand Challenges are artificial intelligence and the data economy; healthy ageing; clean growth, and the future of mobility.

Artificial intelligence and the data economy

The Prime Minister urged the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector and health charities to use data and AI to transform the diagnosis of chronic diseases.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Innovation Observatory is the national medical horizon scanning facility located at Newcastle University – it aims to shape the future of health advances to provide better and more efficient healthcare for patients and the wider public.

Professor Mike Trenell, Director of the NIHR Innovation Observatory, said: “Using technology to understand our individual differences will position the UK at the forefront of preventative health and medicine globally. Technology has transformed our everyday lives, from how we bank to how we socialise.

“Now is the time for the same transformational benefits of technology to be used for our health and wellbeing. To do this will require significant contributions from citizens, companies, and care teams, but there is a pressing need to do this given the growing individual and societal burden of our ageing population.

“The lack of transformative drugs in the pipeline mean that we need to better understand who they work for and possibly more importantly, how to stop people needing them in the first place."

Healthy ageing

The healthy ageing grand challenge is the Government’s response to ensuring that people can enjoy five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

This is already well-established as a key area of research at Newcastle University: the National Innovation Centre for Ageing  works across academia, industry and the public to explore, test and bring to market products which promote healthy ageing and wellbeing as we grow.

Professor Michael Catt, Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, said: “We are delighted to see the Prime Minister’s commitment to improving the quality of life in later years, reducing inequality to help us all experience happier, healthier and more independent lives, and supporting older people to contribute to their careers for longer.

“These issues are at the heart of what we focus on at the National Innovation Centre for Ageing as we lead on innovations that improve all aspects of life for our ageing societies by bringing together scientists, business and industry.

“It is important to encourage industry to innovate products and services to ensure healthy ageing is embedded across the four Grand Challenge themes, outlined by the Prime Minister, to create healthier lives and communities both here in the UK and internationally.”

Future of mobility and clean growth

The future of mobility grand challenge is a mission to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.

Meanwhile, in the clean growth grand challenge, the Government will use new technologies and modern construction practices to at least halve the energy usage of new buildings by 2030.

Professor Phil Taylor, Head of the School of Engineering at Newcastle University and Director of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) led by Newcastle University, said: “Low carbon energy transitions are essential if we are to stand any chance of keeping climate change within 1.5 oC warming. We have made good progress in recent years in decarbonising electricity generation but last year 80% of our energy still came from fossil fuels.

“We need to find ways to take managed risks in order to speed up innovation cycles and move from ideas to implementation and large scale roll out more frequently and rapidly. It is essential for universities and industry to work together more closely and effectively if this is to be realised. By throwing down the gauntlet and putting her support behind the challenge of clean growth, Theresa May’s announcement today will help to drive this forward.

“Here at Newcastle we are well placed to play a key role in this, with more than 100 leading academics working across the energy field from future transport and smart grids to implementing a whole systems approach to energy transitions.

“Last year we launched InTEGReL with Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid – an energy research and demonstration site to develop a fully integrated, zero carbon multi vector energy system for Research, Learning/Skills and Engagement.

“Working with Nissan, we are part of the world’s first, large-scale trial of Vehicle-to-Grid technology and through our National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Smart Grid lab we are testing innovative energy storage and whole-energy systems solutions.

“Together with Northern Powergrid, we are also one of the founding institutions of the £65m Faraday Battery Institution with special projects relating to recycling and reuse of battery technology as well as research to better understand how to extend their lifetime..

“We have huge expertise in this area this is an opportunity for us to bring together that talent behind a common set of strategic goals to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this global challenge.”


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