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New innovation centre will improve international problem solving

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has given the green light to a £10 million investment from its North East Investment Fund, including £8m from its Regional Growth fund allocation, to help fund the first phase of a multi-million pound world-class innovation centre to be based at Durham University.

The Centre for Innovation and Growth (CIG) is a research hub designed to foster strong innovation and growth. The early phases of this project will support research arising from the long-standing relationship between Durham University and the consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble (P&G).

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:
“Innovation is a key driver for economic growth in the UK. This investment will help to create a world class innovation centre in the North East and provide exciting new job opportunities. Collaborative working between universities and industry is vital if we are to remain ahead in the global race for innovation and growth.”

University and industry partners will be able to work together at the CIG to co-produce innovative solutions to commercial research needs using cross- and multi-disciplinary teams.

Chair of the North East LEP, Paul Woolston, said:
“This is a significant investment from the North East LEP’s investment fund, which helps to strengthen innovation growth across the North East. The Centre for Innovation and Growth further cements the commercial relationship between Durham University and Procter & Gamble and fits very strongly with the open innovation brand that we want to ensure the North East, its universities and institutions, are known for.

“P&G is one of the world’s leaders in open innovation and the centre provides an opportunity for the company and non-competitive partners to bring problems to the North East and the North East to provide solutions. It will strengthen our reputation and branding as a problem-solving region and help to create more and better jobs.”

Future expansion of the centre is anticipated to provide an open innovation hub in which Durham University can work with a range of non-competitive industrial partners. The centre will house data handling and laboratory space and act as a catalyst to revolutionise business engagement on a local, national and international scale.

It will link together corporate business partnerships, supply chain partners, national and local businesses, partnerships with leading research groups in other universities, and government laboratories. P&G is growing its UK academic programme around Durham and a few other select UK universities.

The Centre for Innovation and Growth will be built in four distinct phases. The first investment will support a “private cloud” for data management and partnership working to expand Durham University’s facilities for open innovation.

Dr Tim Hammond, Director of Durham Business and Innovation Services at the University, said:
“The centre will foster an environment of strong innovation and growth which builds on Durham’s multi-disciplines, its ability to build teams that deliver business partners’ needs, and its proven track record of extensive open innovation over broad domains with leading open innovation exponent, Procter& Gamble.

“It will leverage Durham’s international reputation and use its very strong international business and academic partnerships to realise stronger business growth and boost the world class status of Durham science.”

Work currently being undertaken between P&G and Durham University, such as developing products to wash clothes at lower temperatures, will be applicable to many other industries worldwide. This North East centre is particularly significant because of the relationship and international standing of both Durham University and P&G.

Professor Roy Sandbach, who leads the strategic innovation strand for the North East LEP said:
“The Centre for Innovation and Growth is exactly what we need for the region, a strategic collaboration between a prestigious university and a innovation-centric corporate business partner with global reach. Our regional profile as a destination for inward innovation investment will be greatly enhanced by this initiative.

“The strategic relationship between Durham and P&G has already been brilliantly developed by both sides. Innovation delivery needs great dialogue leading to focussed programmes with shared action and clear metrics. Durham and P&G have shown everyone the way in this. I’m hoping that the new Centre will catalyse even more creative innovation, managed with efficiency and momentum and with broader collaborations. It will generate more jobs and build the open innovation brand for the region. The rest of the world will sit up and seriously consider the North East for innovation investment.”

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