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Innovation experts join North East LEP

Newcastle University secondments will drive regional innovation agenda.

Two specialists from Newcastle University have been seconded to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to drive forward the region’s innovation agenda.

Professor Michael Whitaker and Katharine Paterson are bringing their expertise to work for the North East LEP team headed by Prof Roy Sandbach. They will use their skills and contacts to boost the links between the region’s universities and businesses to fuel growth though innovation and the development of higher level skills.

Professor Whitaker is Professor of Physiology and Associate Dean of Innovation at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle, where he works to further links between the university and the commercial sector. He is co-Director of the joint Durham/ Newcastle/NHS North East England Stem Cell Institute. He is also co-ordinator for the regional pharmaceuticals manufacturing initiative, FirstforPharma.

He will work at the North East LEP on a part time basis, co-ordinating a common approach to open innovation with the region’s universities based on industry needs both regionally and globally. Prof Whitaker’s work will particularly concentrate on opportunities in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals industry for healthcare innovation through the NHS. His new role ties in with his previous work to draw up a regional strategy for the sector, particularly around ageing, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

He said: “The North East is the perfect size to develop a network for innovation through an equal partnership between business and universities. We can build on already existing strengths in high value manufacturing and continue to develop exports and jobs, while also attracting companies to the region by adding to the region’s high level skills. This is an exciting opportunity for me and for the region.”

Katharine Paterson has joined the North East LEP on a full time basis until January 2015. She was seconded from her role at Newcastle University, where she was based in the Stakeholder and Funding Development team. Katharine, who has spent more than 20 years working in the region’s academic sector, also runs her own start-up business which has developed an innovative cotbed for babies and toddlers.

She said: “I was previously Director of the North East Higher Skills Pathfinder, where I engaged with all of the region’s universities and colleges, so I’m known in the universities and have insights into their needs, issues and aspirations in terms of how they can continue to support economic development, in particular through supporting innovation and the development of higher level skills that local businesses need.

“At the North East LEP, my role is to act as the voice of the universities within the LEP area, and also take the LEP’s work out to the universities, acting as a bridge and a focal point for them.”

Newcastle University’s vice chancellor Professor Chris Brink offered the two secondments to the North East LEP to strengthen the innovation team headed by former Procter & Gamble innovation leader, Professor Roy Sandbach.
Professor Sandbach, the David Goldman visiting Professor of Innovation and Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School, said: “The North East LEP is focussed on building dynamic innovation partnerships across the region and with innovation leaders everywhere. Katharine and Michael will play key roles in building these partnerships, especially between business and academia. It’s brilliant news that they are joining the team.”

North East LEP chairman, Paul Woolston, said: “We were delighted to accept Newcastle University’s very generous offer to second these two innovation experts to us.

“Michael Whitaker and Katharine Paterson have both proven abilities in the area of innovation and bring with them strong links between the academic and commercial worlds that will help to drive the North East LEP’s agenda for growth though innovation.”

Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.