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Universities in the North East vow to help region bounce back stronger from COVID-19

Universities, employers, and local leaders will be working together to create thousands of local jobs as the recovery from the pandemic gathers pace.

New research published by Universities UK (UUK), ‘Universities and the UK’s economic recovery: an analysis of future impact’, which was compiled by the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE), predicts that over the next five years universities in the North East will:

  • Be involved in research projects with partners worth almost £1 billion.
  • Help 725 new businesses and charities to be formed.
  • Train over 10,000 nurses, almost 4,000 medics and 8,000 teachers.

The research is published as UUK launches #GettingResults – a campaign to put universities at the heart of the economic and social recovery – with a renewed commitment from universities to do even more to reach out to new partners locally and nationally and deliver even greater impact than currently estimated.

The work is being overseen by a newly created Universities UK Economic and Social Taskforce, which is led by Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, and a board member of Universities UK.

Professor Day said:

“Universities are at the heart of the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. Over the past year we have seen first-hand what can be achieved through strong collaboration between our universities and their partners.

“Now universities want to do more, to help the UK to bounce back stronger, with opportunity and prosperity spread across the country. We are looking to form strategic partnerships with employers and sector bodies throughout the UK to strengthen collaboration between universities and their partners.

“A great example of this is the Newcastle Helix, a £350m development with 2,600 jobs in 65 different organisations on the site. This true coming together of academia, business, public sector and more has been innovating and collaborating to support the global fight against COVID-19. Not only to combat the immediate impacts but preparing cities and regions for our post-covid world.”

Throughout the pandemic, businesses, and a wide range of sectors not just within the North East region, but across the UK, have suffered greatly, leading to economic and social damage. The contributions made by universities and their students through knowledge and skills exchange, partnerships and support for local employers have huge potential to help businesses, industries, and other partners to continue, recover and thrive following the pandemic.

The skills of graduates from Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside universities will also have an important role to play in the future success of businesses and sectors during the Covid-19 recovery process.

  • Newcastle University has been running bootcamps for student or graduate entrepreneurs.  One successful enterprise has been the creation of the ‘Spareable‘ app which enables individuals to donate to their local food bank remotely to save time and food waste. The platform is now providing 25% more food for food banks and its founder – Electronic Business and Information Systems MSc graduate Masitano Sichone – was recently named a ‘Top 100 Changemaker 2020 Defeating Poverty.’
  • Durham University, Sphera UK is a student spinout based in Stockton-on-Tees that is focussed on developing carbon zero and carbon negative concrete blocks. Their innovation pipeline includes a concrete accelerant to speed up concrete curing rate and decrease cement content. These pioneering solutions are developed to help tackle climate change by offering the industry low carbon material alternatives that specifically focus on embodied carbon content.
  • Newcastle Business School, at Northumbria University, has worked with the Small Business Charter over the past year to provide a government-funded programme for leaders of small businesses across the North of England to survive and thrive following the Covid-19 pandemic. Through this Small Business Leadership programme Northumbria supported more than 180 businesses across the North East and Cumbria. Based on its success, Northumbria has now been selected as the only university in the region to deliver a follow-up programme called Help to Grow Management. The new programme is backed by £150 million of additional Government funding to help up to 30,000 SMEs across the UK – including a significant number in the North East.
  • Over the past year, Teesside University has assisted more than 220 small and medium sized businesses with 339 projects. It has also helped launch 11 new businesses, worked with a total of 34 start-ups, and prepared 26 budding entrepreneurs through the Microbiz Academy programme. The University has also matched 156 graduate interns with work in Tees Valley businesses and provided digital skills training for 276 people.
  • The University of Sunderland has recently established the new £1.6million Digital Incubator at St Peter’s Campus, which is already playing a key role in supporting entrepreneurial students who want to establish their own online businesses, many of which will be based in the north-east.

Durham University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge said:

“At Durham University we’ve been part of the North East landscape for nearly 200 years and we make a significant positive contribution to the regional economy.

“We’re proud of the support we offer our academics and students in their launching of innovative businesses here in the North East, creating high-quality jobs and driving the economy. From electrochemical wound healing to efficient electrical circuits in space, our departments are at the forefront of innovation.”

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University, said:

“We are more strongly enthused than ever by our roles as anchor institutions, as major employers and as key partners in driving regional economic and social recovery. It has never been more important, given the enormous challenges created by Covid-19, and the huge opportunities to shape the North East’s economic landscape through our research and our graduates, that we work together to address need and maximise impact.

“We know that Northumbria’s investments in high-level skills, research, entrepreneurship and economic growth, and improving employment opportunities, are key to helping the North East build forward better and shape a better future.  As the largest provider of graduates in the North East’s professional and managerial jobs market we are also strongly placed to deliver highly-skilled graduates to the regional workforce as it grows, modernises and develops.”

Sir David Bell KCB DL, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland, said: “As we begin to rebuild from the pandemic, the role of universities is more relevant than ever.

“Data released recently in Research England’s first Knowledge Exchange Framework revealed the University of Sunderland to be in the top 10% of universities nationally for contributing to local growth and regeneration, through projects like the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) initiative, which has just been evaluated as contributing a gross £43 million to the regional economy.”

Teesside University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Paul Croney said:

“Teesside University has worked tirelessly during the pandemic to support and strengthen communities.

“The University has offered skills, expertise, facilities and time, producing much needed PPE, training healthcare workers, bolstering the frontline and volunteer response and enabling businesses to pivot to online operating models. Our commitment to working in partnership to deliver social impact powers our mission to transform lives and economies, and we will continue to deliver this as we support the UK to build back better.”

Find out more about Universities UK’s #GettingResults campaign www.universitiesuk.ac.uk.

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North East employers asked to share their experiences as part of a study on flexible working

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Durham University are launching a joint project exploring how flexible working practices can benefit businesses and communities in the North East.

The Good Work Agenda project aims to identify how businesses and employees can adapt to new ways of working after the impact of COVID-19, and to highlight organisations that have successfully adopted flexible working practices.

The team is now looking for North East businesses that have examples of successful flexible working to share.

Professor Jo McBride from Durham University said: “We know that flexible working, when done in a way that works both for organisations and the whole workforce, can help make businesses more successful, and employees feel more supported and engaged.

COVID-19 is challenging the notion of what ‘normal’ working looks like, and we are temporarily working with a ‘new form of flexibility’. As a result of the pandemic, employers are discovering what is and is not possible and we are also facing an opportunity to reflect on the way we work, and how we can encourage ‘good working’ in the future.”

The project builds on ‘The Forgotten Workers’ research by Prof Jo McBride at Durham University and Dr Andrew Smith from Bradford University, and work previously carried out by the North East LEP. Both projects identified flexible working and underemployment – when employees’ skills and experience aren’t fully utilised – as areas where improvements could have a positive impact on the North East regional economy.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “When flexible working is at its best, it allows people to work to the best of their ability, to make the most of their skills, and to feel secure in their roles.

“As our region begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we want to hear from businesses about their experiences of managing flexibility before and after the pandemic, and to learn how we can all work in a better way in the future.”

Emma Ward, Research and Evaluation Manager at the North East LEP, added: This is part of a wider programme of research between the University and the North East LEP and we aim to develop a closer research relationship, drawing particularly on Durham University’s expertise in social and economic research.

“We’re committed to delivering a North East Strategic Economic Plan that is underpinned by robust evidence, and a key commitment of Durham University’s strategy is for research to have a positive impact on regional challenges, with cultural, social and economic benefits.”  

The research team is very keen to hear from North East employers in any sector who have good examples of flexible working practices to share.

Businesses will take part in an online interview with the academic researchers, and the findings will be shared through a series of case studies in 2021.

The project complements the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Good Work pledge and aims to help employers across the whole North East LEP area benefit from successful flexible working.

To take part in the research or to share an example of flexible working, contact [email protected] and [email protected].


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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Network-H2

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study about Durham University’s leading role in a national research project – Network-H2 – to decarbonise transport through hydrogen-fuelled vehicles and technology.

Road, rail, air and marine transport accounts for almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions making it a significant contributor to climate change. Hydrogen offers a clean and renewable alternative to fossil fuels and can bring significant environmental benefits to transport, society and the wider energy system.

Durham University is leading a national research project to decarbonise transport through hydrogen-fuelled vehicles and technology. Network-H2 brings together international experts from the energy, road, rail, air and marine transport sectors to support the decarbonisation of the whole transport network.

The project is looking at the technological, social, political and economic factors necessary to increase the use of hydrogen as fuel, and knowledge exchange between researchers and industry.

The energy sector has been identified as an area of strategic importance in North East Strategic Economic Plan. It provides huge opportunities to drive and enable regional economic growth, and North East organisations are creating wealth, skills, and jobs in the region by responding to national energy challenges and opportunities.

To find out more about Network-H2, visit www.net-zero-research.co.uk.

Read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Durham University finds the formula for young mathematicians in North East England

Durham University, in partnership with Durham Sixth Form Centre, will open a new flagship Mathematics School in 2022 to help raise attainment in mathematics and other STEM subject across the North East.

The only one of its kind in the region, the school will benefit talented students in County Durham, Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, Cleveland, the North Yorkshire Coast, and Cumbria.

The new state-funded school is a response to the national skills-gap and the call to improve attainment, increase participation and raise aspiration in Mathematics and STEM subjects from A-Level onwards.

The North East’s vibrant tech sector is forecast to grow to £2.5bn by 2020 and will continue to offer bright futures for many young people in the region who have the right knowledge and skills.

However, opportunities to study Mathematics at a higher level are currently unevenly distributed across the region. It is hoped the new Durham Mathematics School will improve opportunities for all, ensuring every young person has the option to pursue a career in STEM.

Durham Mathematics School will catalyse improvements across the region, increasing applications from students to study Mathematics and other STEM subjects at university, pursue STEM related careers or just to nurture a passion and interest in the subject.

As well as providing specialist teaching for a select number of students, the school will also run outreach programmes across the region and professional development opportunities for maths teachers. It will help raise standards across the North East, attracting the brightest teachers to the region, and opening opportunities for many young people.

The school will offer A-Level courses in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Computer Science and/or Physics, with students having the option to study a fourth subject at the Durham Sixth Form Centre.

The School will be close to Durham University and Durham Sixth Form Centre, which will offer a wealth of extra-curricular activities and other opportunities.

The School will also offer boarding for students who live too far away to commute every day.

The initial business case has been approved by the Department of Education.

Find out more by visiting the official Durham Mathematics School website.

The North East’s higher education and further education institutions play a vital role in helping to build a strong regional economy, from their contributions to innovation, social mobility and workplace productivity, to the role they play in bringing skills and investment to the region. Read more about the role of our universities, colleges and educational establishments in the North East Strategic Economic Plan.

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In conversation with Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University

Education employs 85,000 people in the North East and offers significant opportunities for more and better jobs in the region, directly and indirectly. Durham University is a world leader and has a ten-year strategy to invest £1 billion in people, and digital and physical infrastructures. Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge explores how universities can make a major contribution locally and globally, support a diverse and vibrant economy, and help tackle the country’s productivity challenge.

Education has long been a North East success story. But it’s not just part of our heritage, it’s a key sector for our future too: both in nurturing the highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow, and as a major employer, innovator, and exporter today.

Here at Durham, we’re not just England’s third oldest university; we’re making significant investments to ensure we remain a world-class university: investment that is absolutely necessary as we face increasing competition from universities in Asia, North America, Europe and elsewhere.

Universities already make a sizeable contribution to the economy: over £50 billion GVA in 2014/15, according to Universities UK. Our own figures suggest we were responsible for around £1.1 billion of that total.

At Durham, we employ 4,300 staff and have 18,400 students – considerable numbers in a City with a population of around 65,000.

But we believe there is also great potential for growth: the average student head count across Russell Group universities is 27,000; and the average staff roll is 7,700. So we’re in a period of carefully planned expansion: to recruit an extra 360 academic staff and grow our student numbers to 21,500 by 2027.

We believe we can achieve these targets because we continue to attract high calibre staff and students from around the world. We are also consistently ranked among the world’s top 100 universities (most recently 78th in the QS World University Rankings 2020).

But this isn’t just about us: the North East stands to benefit hugely from our success and from that of all the universities in the region: Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland.

It’s estimated that international students contribute around £700 million a year to the North East economy. As we and others look to attract more students from overseas (our target is 35% by 2027) this income will grow significantly.

Education and training is another valuable export industry. We continue to benefit from English being the international language of choice and the long-standing reputation of UK education. Many of our alumni hold senior roles in government and industry worldwide.

The value of education exports to the UK was almost £20 billion in 2016, and the value of transnational education within that, though still relatively small (£1.8 billion), was up 73% on 2010, showing the growing attractiveness of this option to overseas students.

We also need to tackle the big challenges facing our home economy – not least the productivity gap. Universities are well-placed on this front as we collaborate with industry to develop new technologies, research new ways of working and deliver high-level skills for the workforce of the future.

The Northern Accelerator programme, which brings together Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland Universities, is helping researchers to spin out and commercialise ideas, leading to the formation of potentially high-growth, research-intensive businesses linked to the research expertise here in the North East.

The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme, which involves Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities, is helping SMEs access academics, PhD students and research facilities to address their research challenges, leading in turn to the development of new products and services.

And the Durham City Incubator, a partnership between ourselves, Durham County Council and New College Durham, is supporting and encouraging graduate and student enterprise: helping our graduates stay in the North East and creating new and better jobs.

We’re all aware of the challenges facing us, but working together as a region we can drive success. Universities aren’t businesses in a conventional sense. We don’t have shareholders, nor do we seek to maximise profits. But we do deliver jobs, value and innovation. We are major enterprises in the modern economy. We are anchors for the future of the North East.

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Durham University recruiting for three Energy PhD posts

Durham University is currently recruiting for three Energy PhD posts to support its work in Offshore Renewable Energy and Offshore Wind Energy.

Full details, including deadlines dates for applications, are available below. Applications can be made online at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/study/apply/

Vacancy for Collaborative PhD with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult

A PhD studentship is available for research into offshore investment planning under severe uncertainty, at the School of Engineering & Computing Sciences, and the Department Mathematical Sciences, Durham University. Support and active involvement will come from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which has facilities in Blyth, Glasgow and Fife.

The aim of the project is to investigate investment planning over a wide range of technology options by formulating a set of decision problems taking into account severe uncertainties in both operational and environmental data. The potential candidate will have a good degree (normally first class or equivalent) undergraduate or MSc degree in Engineering, Mathematics, or Statistics. A good background in Statistics is required.

For more information about this opportunity please do not hesitate to contact Dr B Kazemtabrizi ([email protected]), or Dr M Troffaes ([email protected]) as soon as possible and preferably before 23rd September 2016. Proposed start date is 1st October 2016 but there is flexibility.

For further information about this opportunity go to http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AON868/phd-studentship-offshore-transmission-systems-asset-management-under-severe-uncertainty/


Vacancy for 2 PhD studentships in Data Mining Wind Farm Operational and Maintenance data funded through DONG Energy

Off shore wind energy is one of the fastest growing sectors, with major new projects planned within European waters as well as further afield. These new wind farm developments are sited further off shore than ever before (the Round 3 wind farm projects in the North Sea are some 200km off shore).

This presents new challenges in terms of maintenance and repair: the cost of going on site is significantly greater (both financially and time).

These two linked PhD projects will develop novel data mining methods to maximise the information gathered from wind turbines’ sensor arrays. The aim is to be able to identify that a wind turbine is developing a fault well in advance of that fault becoming sufficiently severe that it prevents the wind turbine from operating. Given this advanced warning, a wind farm operator is then able to organise maintenance and identify a good weather window to carry that maintenance out.

These projects will be undertaken with close collaboration with DONG Energy (Danish Oil and Natural Gas, one of the largest wind farm operators globally).

These PhD studentships are available to Home and EU students. Please contact Dr Peter Matthews ([email protected]) for further information preferably before 30th September.

For further information go to https://www.findaphd.com/search/ProjectDetails.aspx?PJID=73802&LID=427

Durham University’s online application link can be found at https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/study/apply/

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Brightest brains take on North East business problems

Durham University hosts UK and international maths, probability and statistics specialists this spring

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has teamed up with Durham University and the Smith Institute to offer a unique opportunity for the region’s businesses to have their problems solved by some of the world’s top maths, statistics and probability experts.

Durham University will be hosting the UK edition of the 116th European Study Group with Industry from April 11 to 15. The Study Group series includes one annual conference in the UK, which brings together specialists from all over Britain and beyond in order to seek solutions to maths-based corporate conundrums.

The North East LEP and Durham University are offering local businesses the opportunity to present to a team of expert thinkers the mathematical, statistical or probability problems that they feel are holding back their growth or preventing them from reaching their potential. The scientific panel will be able to consider industry issues of up to eight businesses, including some from the North East, and suggest ideas to tackle them.

In previous years, panels of the order of one hundred academics have worked with a wide cross-section of sectors and were always able to offer some novel approaches to help finding solutions.

Previous projects have included the use of track curvature as measured by cameras positioned on trains to determine their exact location; working out the best price for consumers for a large retailer; customer focused price optimisation; image analysis; decision support for nuclear arms control and studying the degree of mimicry of speech between people.

Dr Bernard Piette from Durham University’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, said: “We’re honoured to be hosting this year’s UK edition of the European Study Group with Industry at the Palatine Centre and Durham’s Collingwood College.

“It offers a chance to see how mathematics is used in the real world to offer solutions that can help businesses become more efficient or to boost their profits. It’s a great opportunity for North East businesses to take advantage of some of the world’s best mathematical thinking and gain new insights into complex problems that may be frustrating their growth.”

Submissions from North East businesses that are accepted by the panel of experts will be studied intensively over the week, and included in a presentation on the final day of the conference. Each business will also receive a written report a few weeks after the event.

Hans Möller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “This really is a fantastic chance for businesses to find innovative solutions to issues that may be holding them back.

“Even if the panel can’t solve the problem within the timescale, in every case so far, progress has been made towards finding a solution, which has often resulted in further collaborations between the parties involved.

“I’d urge any North East business that has a problem that could benefit from an appraisal by the team to get in touch with Durham University and apply to take part in the event.”

Businesses interested in submitting a proposal can find out more at https://www.maths.dur.ac.uk/events/Meetings/ESGI_116/ or contact Dr Bernard Piette on [email protected]