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In conversation with Dr Peter Simpson, director of N8 Research Partnership and member of the North East LEP Innovation Board

North East economic growth through Life Sciences innovation – can you help by completing our survey?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is currently working on a new strategy to grow the North East’s Health and Life Sciences sector.

I have the pleasure of representing this sector in my role as Health and Life Sciences Lead on the North East LEP’s Innovation Board. Over the last 16 years in delivering innovation in technologies, products and partnerships working in major global pharmaceutical organisations, I have learnt how important a supportive environment, research community, translational tools, skills and resources can be to make innovation happen.

The North East LEP identified Life Sciences as an important strategic area of economic activity in the North East. The LEP is keen to develop an industry strategy and action plan that will foster growth of the Health and Life Sciences sector in the North East – generating economic returns from more and better jobs.

The North East is a great place to do Life Sciences, and a great place to live and work. But there is so much more potential to unlock. The Innovation Board wants to help grow this key economic area through targeted, insightful actions that drive up innovation, and economic investment.

We want to position the North East as a leader in Life Sciences, attracting more companies to locate and employ skilled people in the region, and to help those companies already here to grow and flourish. To deliver this we have been thinking about how to leverage the region’s academic and clinical expertise, and key research institutes and Catapults, to grow the sector.

Seven months ago, the North East LEP Innovation Board set up a working group of volunteers from public and private sector organisations. They have been working in recent months to consider, with me, what we on the Innovation Board should do to help Life Sciences flourish. Under the coordination of Geoff Davison, chief executive of Bionow, the group have been very busy understanding and assessing current capabilities and capacities in the region; and identifying the North East’s strengths, and gaps, in support mechanisms.

We know that we don’t have all the ideas, and we would love to hear views from people working across Health and Life Sciences in the North East to shape priorities to emerge this piece of work.

Areas we have identified as possible opportunities so far include:

• Developing a cluster economy opportunity around world-leading companies selecting the North East for production plants – supplementing the supply chain

• Improving and leveraging the structures that support innovation commercialisation

• Unlocking the commercial potential of North East universities’ areas of world class research

• Helping clinical development in NHS by infrastructure that translates discovery through development to adoption

• Supporting existing North East key high growth businesses and sub-sectors

• Developing a specialist life science skills strategy for the region

We can’t do everything, so focus is vital. What steps would have the most impact on economic growth of the North East region? What have we missed?

I am most grateful to my colleagues on the working group. We are all in this together, I would love to see even more engagement from the industrial, public and academic sector to help move Health and Life Sciences forward in the North East. Insights from businesses, individuals, academics and clinicians are key to translating ideas into actions, and actions into results.

The Health and Life Sciences working group and the North East LEP Innovation Board are doing this work as volunteers because their passion is for the growing the economy of the region together.

Please contribute to this work by filling in our easy-to-use survey, and you can also volunteer time to help with the work too.

By Dr Peter Simpson