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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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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.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East

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 Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East programme, which accelerates the North East’s economic impact by pairing Newcastle University’s research, knowledge and innovations with the needs of local SMEs.

Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East gives SMEs access to more than 2,500 academics, innovators and experts at Newcastle University to help them develop new products or services, access new markets, or gain market share.

Arrow matches businesses with academics, innovation specialists and world-class researchers that can provide insight and expertise in areas such as research and product testing, data analysis and artificial intelligence.

The £3.4m innovation programme can also offer eligible SMEs up to £10,000 of match funding to buy services or equipment including; proof of concept and validation; survey and feasibility testing; product design; development and prototyping; analysis and testing; and commercial and contract research.

To date, more than 50 North East SMEs have received intensive innovation support from Arrow, including Your Health and Care Ltd, which provides complimentary services for people suffering from dementia, and Armatrex Ltd, which utilises expanding foam polymers to mobilise and support injuries.

Arrow works with companies to help drive their businesses forward through innovation and R&D support, leading to new investments and jobs. In line with the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan, Arrow’s target sectors are; life sciences and healthcare; advanced manufacturing; creative and digital technologies; offshore, subsea and energy technologies.

To find out more about Arrow: Supporting Innovation in the North East, visit www.ncl.ac.uk.

Arrow is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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.

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Newcastle University Professor recognised for leading research into ageing

Universities in the North East are leading the way in developing solutions to global challenges such as ageing and productivity. At Newcastle University, Dame Professor Louise Robinson has been recognised for her research into ageing.

Professor Dame Louise Robinson is one of the Nation’s Lifesavers – the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

They were named as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.

Dame Louise was key in the £40m Government bid for Newcastle University to host the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) – the first to bring together a collaboration of business, academia and the public to develop products and services to improve lives as we get older.

Her research, published in more than 120 academic papers, focuses on helping people remain independent in old age and facilitating healthy ageing across their lifetime.

By Royal appointment, she received the only Regius Professorship of Ageing and has been made a Dame because of her outstanding contribution to the topic.

Her work to improve the care of those with dementia was recognised with the first NIHR professorship for her ‘Living well with dementia’ programme.

Dame Louise has twice been awarded the National Clinical Champion for Ageing by the Royal College of General Practitioners, she is currently leading a £2m Global Health Research programme.

Dame Louise said: “I have been passionate about improving care for people with dementia since I was a young GP.

“Joining Newcastle University as a Lecturer allowed me to develop a personal research programme in the area of dementia care and witness how my academic career has improved the quality of care for older people, not just at a local level but nationally and internationally.”

The Alzheimer’s Society funded £1.7m for Dame Louise to set up a ‘Centre of Excellence’ at Newcastle University for dementia care research.

Fiona Carragher, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Professor Dame Louise Robinson is working on the frontline of dementia research, bringing real change to the people who need it the most.

“Her recognition as one of the Nation’s Lifesavers reflects her commitment and passion to tackling dementia as a clinician and a researcher, improving the available support for people with dementia at every step, from diagnosis to end of life.

“We are delighted to be supporting her research through our ground-breaking Centre of Excellence PRI-dem, based at Newcastle University, which aims to end the postcode lottery of dementia care after diagnosis across the UK.

“It is dedicated researchers like Professor Dame Louise Robinson who will pave the way to breakthroughs that will ensure the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK receive the care they need and can live well.”

The Nation’s Lifesavers are fighting diseases, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life, supporting older people and improving our mental health and wellbeing. The selection reveals the amazing use of technology, such as drones to fight malaria, a smart glove for communicating sign language and robots helping older people.

Universities from across the country were invited to nominate an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing. Over 100 universities from Plymouth to Dundee submitted a nomination.

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said: “It is a fantastic honour that Professor Dame Louise Robinson is featured as one of the Nation’s Lifesavers for her world-leading work in dementia research.

“The MadeAtUni campaign is a great chance to celebrate the many ways universities are having a significant impact on our everyday lives.”

Find out more about the ways universities are having a significant impact on our everyday lives at www.madeatuni.org.uk.

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.