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How university collaboration, Northern Accelerator, is driving an innovation-led COVID-19 recovery

A collaboration between four North East universities – Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland – Northern Accelerator commercialises research to create sustainable businesses in the North East.

Since it launched in 2016, Northern Accelerator has created 28 businesses and placed 23 CEOs in startups. It has also awarded £2.1m worth of pre-incorporation funding to help 50 research projects move closer to commercialisation.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, and University of Sunderland are all members of Northern Accelerator and 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.

Tim Hammond, Director of Northern Accelerator, explains why the university partnership is key to driving forward the region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and why it will help deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan by creating more and better jobs in the region.

The COVID-19 crisis has hit the North East hard. But, whilst the Spending Review was heavily focussed around the ‘levelling up agenda’ and the announcement of a £4bn ‘Levelling Up Fund’, the region’s post-COVID-19 recovery plans acknowledge the key role that highly scalable business will play in getting the economy back on its feet. There is a need to focus on the opportunities and assets we have in the North East to ensure that we can deliver a strong economic bounce back.

As a region, we are host to some of the world’s leading experts and innovators, with a thriving number of investible businesses and fantastic regional assets such as Newcastle’s Centre for Life and the Centre for Process Innovation and science and technology clusters such as the Newcastle Helix and NETPark in Sedgefield.

Our region’s universities, Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland, are increasingly becoming vibrant hubs of innovation, with academics embracing the opportunity to become more enterprising and commercialise their research. North East universities, through the Northern Accelerator partnership, have played a pivotal role in supporting the continuing development of the region’s business community throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, and will continue to foster innovation as a part of the recovery.

A striking regional example of COVID-19 driven innovation is the novel prototype sampling device currently in development by Dr Moschos at Northumbria University. This device uses biological information in human breath to diagnose diseases in the lungs and, could be used at airports to monitor the spread of the virus.

Northern Accelerator has helped to build a strong innovation eco-system within the region, allowing academics to harness commercial opportunities that have, and continue to generate, high-quality jobs and increase regional GDP. Our activity is accelerating, with the number of businesses created from the universities increasing five-fold since the partnership began in 2016, and the partnership created 12 spin-out businesses in the 2018-19 academic year alone. To date we have placed 25 CEOs in start-ups, created 28 businesses and allocated £2.1m worth of pre-incorporation funding to help 50 research projects move closer to commercialisation.

Since its establishment in September this year, our £1.7m Seed Fund has invested over £500,000 in two innovative university spinouts, with high growth potential. AMLo Bioscience and gliff.ai are now pursuing further job creation and international expansion opportunities as a result.

Northern Accelerator’s focus is on quality, not just quantity. The partnership’s support and backing has primarily focussed on scaling up spinout businesses with high growth potential. This helps to feed into the wider targets that have been set by the region, and in the Chancellor’s Spending Review. The work that is carried out by Northern Accelerator will be integral to achieving the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s commitment to delivering 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

At a time when economic uncertainty looms, it is more important than ever that we continue to support and invest in the region. We are not resting on our laurels and have ambitions to take things further in the coming decade. We strongly believe that harnessing existing strengths to drive growth should be one of the region’s top priorities and one we will continue to support and nurture.

By Tim Hammond, Director of Northern Accelerator.

Home / Economic recovery

Universities support North East’s economic recovery: START UP at Newcastle University

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 Newcastle University’s START UP offer, with a focus on the impact student and graduate businesses it supports are having within the region, and how they are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Newcastle University is ranked Top 5 in the UK for graduate entrepreneurship based on start-up turnover and investment raised. Based on average investment per start-up, the University is ranked Top 10 in the UK for scalable graduate start-ups and has generated the most investable graduate start-ups in the North East.

START UP is an equity-free support system for Newcastle University students and graduates up to three years and includes START UP Founderships, a pre-accelerator programme to ready the individual and their businesses for market entry, investment and success.

There are currently 203 START UP-supported businesses trading with a combined annual turnover of close to £60 million. Between them, they’ve raised over £19 million in external investment, won national and global awards and created 695 full-time equivalent jobs.

*All rankings and statistics from HE-BCI Survey 2018-19.

Over 70% of these businesses have remained in the North East, many of which recruit within the region, such as One Utility Bill, Nebula Labs and My Healthcare Recruit. Many the businesses are securing impressive investment figures.

In September 2020, Equiwatt raised over £300,000 to roll-out its innovative, energy-efficient app and create four new jobs in Newcastle. A month prior, Tea Ventures Ltd (NovelTea) welcomed 1,000 investors onboard as part of a crowdfund campaign that raised £577,000 to advance its plans to break into the US market, and in December, gained a further £1.4M investment for expansion and job creation.

Many of the START UP founders are persevering or finding ways to pivot despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. Some have received grant support through Newcastle University’s partnership with Santander Universities UK to help them survive and thrive in 2020, and others are applying to a newly launched fund of £40,000.

“Last year with Santander Universities, we launched a Covid-19 Fund to help our START UP community adapt in response to the global crisis, supporting some businesses to scale in order to meet new demand. This new Fund is about stimulating and supporting the next wave of entrepreneurs and changemakers who will have a critical role to play in our economic and social recovery” said Claire Adamson, START UP Manager, Newcastle University. “It is also about making visible and celebrating the individuals joining the growing community of Newcastle University students and graduates who have created their own graduate jobs as well as employment opportunities for others”, she added.

Santander Universities has been in partnership with Newcastle University since 2009 and has provided close to £1.7M to the University, with £189k appointed to enterprise activities.

Matt Hutnell, Director, Santander Universities, says: “Santander is committed to supporting higher education as well as local communities across the UK. We’re proud of our partnership with Newcastle University and we’re delighted to support their new Start Up Fund which will enable many more budding entrepreneurs to thrive, particularly during this challenging time.”

To find out more about START UP, visit www.ncl.ac.uk.

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

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

Home / Economic recovery

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.

Home / Economic recovery

Universities support North East’s economic recovery: TechUPWomen

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 TechUPWomen programme, which took 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands, and retrained them for a career in technology.

Durham University wanted to address the fact that only 17% of the tech workforce is female, and women from Black, Asian and other minority communities are under-represented in the sector.

In 2019 it launched TechUPWomen, a programme that retrained 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands for a career in technology. In spring 2020, the TechUPWomen participants graduated from the six-month programme having developed skills in data science, machine learning, and project management.

Whilst studying for the programme, participant Benedicta Banga launched her own app – Blaqbase. Fellow graduate Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir is now working for HR in One as Content Manager and has been elected Board Trustee of Being Woman UK. Winona Sharpe, who also completed the course, started a new position as Junior Release Associate with Double Eleven Ltd, a games developer based in Teesside.

Other success stories include Jennifer Calland who has a new job as a Google Certified Platform Engineer for Cloud Technology Solutions and has been awarded a place at Edge Hill University to do an MSc in Big Data Analytics. Course graduate Amy Woodget has a new job as Lead Advisor in Earth Observation for the Civil Service, and Katherine Iveson has a new job as a Data Analyst for HMRC.

Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme was named winner of the Employment & Skills category at the Digital Agenda Impact Awards, which celebrates how technology and innovation improves lives.

For more information about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, visit www.techupwomen.org.

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

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

Home / Economic recovery

The impact of COVID-19 on the North East voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector – In conversation with Board member, Carol Botten

Carol Botten CEO of VONNE who sits on the Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector representative shares some of the insights on a report published by VONNE in May on the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the North East VCSE sector from the 400+ responses they received to their latest survey.

The report analysis is sobering, revealing that a third of organisations expect to lose more than half their quarterly income between April and June this year, which equates to between £75m and £223m of income lost.  40% of organisations have under 3 months of running costs in their reserves and 13% anticipate they might close.  Across the 7,200 VCSE organisations in the North East that could mean 900+ closures.

In addition, the report has revealed that the VCSE sector’s capacity is severely limited, with 53 per cent of the region’s workforce not currently operational, and 75 per cent of volunteers unable to support their organisations. Not only that, but longer-term expectations are that average staffing levels will reduce by 37% due to lost income, potentially 13,000-14,000 redundancies across the sector.

All of this means that almost 400,000 individuals are no longer receiving, or are receiving a significantly reduced service from the 269 VCSE survey respondents that support them.   If this is aggregated against the 7,200 VCSE organisations that operate across the North East region, the total figure is likely to be staggering.  Those hardest hit include children and young people, older people, and individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

Although some of the findings make for grim reading, positives have also been identified. A third of organisations have secured emergency funding to support them through Covid-19, almost two thirds of those surveyed praised funders for their response to the crisis, and their flexibility with regards to the support offered, while 73 per cent said they’d identified positive impacts, most notably, a move to more collaborative working between organisations, including local authorities as well as those in the sector.

As the umbrella body for the sector across the North East VONNE are so proud of the determination, flexibility and resilience of organisations as the situation has developed, but the fact is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated impact of lockdown and social distancing measures, are likely to be felt for a long time to come.

This is not only due to the reduction in organisational capacity and income across the sector, but also the increased demand for services created both directly and indirectly, due to the societal impact on health and wellbeing, poverty and debt, and levels of unemployment.

The sector needs clarity and practical advice in the short, medium and longer term across a number of key areas, and this support must be flexible, responsive and tailored to recognise the range of impacting factors.

But uncertainty and rapid change are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Long-term thinking is required, and organisations, including funders, commissioners and support agencies, must ensure they’re geared up to respond and flex to emerging needs.

You can read a summary of the report here.

You can download the full report at vonne.org.uk/news/ne-vcse-sector-covid-19-impact-survey-report-published

If you want to support local VCSE organisations we would recommend that you donate to the Covid Response & Recovery Funds held by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland and County Durham Community Foundation who are making grants to local organisations across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area.

 

 

 

Home / Economic recovery

‘Plan for Jobs’ – response from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

Speaking about today’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said:

“The Chancellor is right to be focusing on stimulus and recovery at this stage. This series of proposals will support the labour market and key sectors and provide much needed opportunities to transition towards a greener economy in the future.

“The steps taken to support the hardest hit sectors, especially hospitality and tourism, are particularly welcome, as is the Kickstart scheme, which will provide opportunities for young people to gain experience and build confidence and skills in the workplace, improving their chances of going on to find long-term sustainable work.

“We have set a three-stage plan for recovery and renewal for the North East and will be continuing to talk with Government about further investment for the region.”