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Harness the potential of HE to 'supercharge recovery' for the region

Published on: 22 September 2021

Government should harness the jobs, skills and investment universities bring to the community as they look to recover from Covid-19, leading universities in the North East have said. 

Bounce back

The Vice Chancellors of the Universities of Newcastle and Durham believe the track record of universities in attracting investment, creating new jobs and providing local employers with skilled workers means they have the experience and capability to drive a rapid recovery as the region looks to bounce back from Covid. 

As members of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, they are among the UK’s top universities and bring a range of benefits to the local area. Research-intensive universities in the region have been at the heart of innovation clusters based around emerging technologies, bringing high-skilled jobs and investment to the area.

Between 2014 and 2020, more than 6,300 new jobs were created by spinouts linked to Russell Group universities in the North East. Those 1,436 active companies had a combined turnover of £602m and brought £180m of investment to the region.

In addition to the high value jobs created by their business spin-out activities, Russell Group universities in the North East currently employ 11,000 staff, an increase of 5.8% over the last five years.

As the Government looks ahead to its Comprehensive Spending Review in the Autumn, the Russell Group is calling on it to boost funding to nurture existing and scale-up developing regional innovation clusters that bring together research-intensive organisations, highly skilled researchers and academics, businesses of all sizes, and other key local players to exploit regional pockets of research and innovation excellence. 

The group has also proposed a series of other measures, many of which are low cost, to supercharge university-business collaboration, boost local economies and create job, including tweaks to taxation facing businesses engaging in collaborative R&D, as well as the tax faced by universities when building new facilities which will be used for research collaborations with businesses. 

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University

Globally recognised

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University said: “We are proud to play our role in the civic life of the North East and of our record in creating jobs and driving investment into our region.

“Newcastle is a globally recognised city of innovation. Newcastle Helix is an exemplar of a sustainable urban innovation dedicated to helping us all live better lives and where we base three of the UK’s National Innovation Centres – Ageing, Data and Rural Economy. The dynamic and flourishing community is proof of what close working partnerships can achieve, bringing universities together with industry, the public sector and local communities.

“By backing universities and investing in schemes that have a proven track record of success, such as Newcastle’s Campus for Ageing and Vitality, the Government could make a real difference to people’s lives in the North East.”

Professor Antony Long, Acting Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We are proud to have been part of North East England for nearly 200 years and to be working with partners across the region and beyond to drive investment, innovation, job creation and development, and the adaptation of our economy for the challenges that lie ahead.

“We know the Government has a challenging economic task when every pound of public money spent must be carefully balanced. We’re asking the Government to work with us, harnessing the jobs, skills and investment we and neighbouring universities bring to the North East to supercharge our region’s recovery.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: “By supporting innovation clusters around emerging technologies that have huge commercial potential and/or the ability to tackle some of the key issues facing UK and the world, the Government can help to unlock the potential of the UK’s regions.” 


Case studies

Newcastle Helix is a £350m sustainable urban innovation site in the centre of Newcastle has continued to grow even during the pandemic. This innovative partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and Legal & General, is a 24 acre testbed which delivers opportunities for innovation and collaboration. A landmark location for science, technology and business, living and leisure, there are more than 2600 jobs now on site in 65 different organisations. Helix has led to a true coming together of academia, business, the public sector and more.

Situated on the former Newcastle General Hospital site, the Campus for Ageing and Vitality is being redeveloped to become the world’s premier centre for healthy ageing and living. Newcastle University is working with partners including the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council on a vision which will see the city’s West End become nationally and internationally-renowned as a leader in ageing and health. The 29-acre site will encompass a range of uses to allow for healthy ageing innovation, research and development to be carried out at one location.

Durham has just launched Orbit, a University enterprise zone based at NETPark, one of the UK’s leading science parks, in Sedgefield, County Durham:

The Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE) project, run jointly with Durham County Council to support start-ups, scale-ups and local SMEs through a subsidised internship programme, Durham City Incubator and a programme of enterprise interventions for students, has delivered over £3.3m in value to its participants in its first three years. 

Experts from Durham University Business School analysed data from over 2 million UK companies to better understand supply chain configurations, then set up a free triage service to help businesses in Country Durham and North East England to survive the impact of Covid-19 and prepare to compete in a post-pandemic marketplace.


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