Home / Updates / In conversation with Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, about the opening of The Biosphere

In conversation with Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, about the opening of The Biosphere

In 2005, the last batch of Newcastle Brown was produced at the Newcastle Breweries site, which stood opposite another of our city’s iconic buildings, St James’ Park.

Exported to more than 40 countries across the world, Newcastle Brown helped put Newcastle upon Tyne on the map. Fast forward to 2019 and a new building on the former brewery site is about to do the same.

The Biosphere, part of the Newcastle Helix development in the city centre, is a specialist lab facility tailored to commercialisation of life sciences. Home to some of the most innovative and pioneering health and life sciences companies operating today, the work they do in our region will impact people across the world.

The life sciences sector is one of the fastest growing areas of industry in the North East. From CPI’s (Centre for Process Innovation), world-class centres at NETPark in County Durham to the Centre for Life in Newcastle, we have developed a strong cluster that will be bolstered by the opening of The Biosphere.

Congratulations should go to Newcastle City Council for spearheading the project. It demonstrates the city’s ambition and forward thinking approach to growing our economy and creating more and better jobs by investing in sectors linked to the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Without specialist facilities like The Biosphere, ambitious companies within life sciences, healthcare and emerging fields of biotechnology will go elsewhere and that would be bad news for our region.

Being based at Newcastle Helix not only gives companies access to essential support services but also opens a wealth of opportunities such as access to university expertise and research but also the potential of collaboration with others on site – and it’s when companies collaborate that will see real innovation happening which can unlock business growth.

Let’s not forget, we also have a large NHS footprint in the North East, which means we’re home to the UK’s largest research active public health system. North East Health Trusts lead the rest of the country for involvement in clinical research with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust ranked first for the last six years. That’s provides a significant opportunity for health and life sciences companies working in our region.

It’s for those reasons and more the North East Local Enterprise Partnership was happy to invest £8.6m in The Biosphere from the Local Growth Fund. We recognise its importance to growing the sector and our economy as a whole. More needs to be done to commercialise the health and life sciences sector and The Biosphere will provide the right environment for that to happen.

Newcastle Brown may longer be brewed on Tyneside, so I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass of Wylam Brewery’s Jakehead IPA, or another of your favourite local ales, to toast the opening of The Biosphere.