Northern Universities Sharing World Leading Research Capabilities To Support Job Creation

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The North of England’s eight most research intensive universities, the N8, are working together to support industry access to the world class research base in the North, creating 60 jobs and working with 200 businesses in the past three years.

The N8 Research Partnership is a collaboration between the Universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, which focuses on the research and industrial strengths of the North of England. Centres have been established which focus on areas of future growth in the economy, such as regenerative medicine and molecular engineering, each working to create collaboration between industry and academia.

A recently published report, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in partnership with consultants KPMG claimed that in the next 12 months more private sector jobs will be cut than new jobs created, with the North being hit the hardest. According to the report, confidence in the manufacturing sector has fallen badly, which will hamper Government plans to offset public sector job cuts with export-led business.

The N8 universities are working together to combat the issues detailed in the report and have been supporting innovation and new job creation in the Northern economy since the programme started in 2008. As well as this, partnerships with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Local Authorities have been strengthened in order to support policy development and service delivery through cutting edge social sciences research.

The Centres that N8 created (regeNer8 and METRC) focus on bringing new technology and
therapies to market in order to create jobs, businesses and to benefit society as a whole. This is achieved through collaboration between Universities, SMEs, larger R&D companies and also the NHS. Together the centres have worked with over 200 businesses, many of which are SMEs, and created 60 jobs since they were formed in 2008.

Examples of their success include:

  • The N8 Centre for Molecular Engineering (METRC) works at the cutting edge of soft nanotechnology research, and N8 university collaboration has resulted in hi-tech firm QuantuMDx Group relocating key overseas operations to Newcastle with the anticipated creation of over 30 scientific jobs.
  • The N8 centre for regenerative medicine, regeNer8, supports collaborations in this area.
  • One of regener8’s recent projects involved the development of cardiac valves using stem cell technology, and was a partnership between the University of Leeds, NHS Blood and Transplant Tissue Services, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and York-based regenerative medicine company Tissue Regenix Ltd.

Professor Keith Burnett, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield and Chair of N8 is keen to point out the strengths of the North of England:

“The eight research intensive universities in the North can play a key role in exploiting the long term economic opportunities available across the North as a centre for manufacturing, innovation, science, technology and low carbon energy. By working together through the N8, we can focus our research capabilities more effectively to support businesses during this vital economic recovery phase.”

N8 will move into its second phase on 15 September 2011, which will see a further £1 million invested by the Universities to make it easier for businesses to access the N8 Universities’ expertise. The project will build on the strength of the world leading research capabilities of the North of England and economic growth opportunities.

Professor Trevor McMillan, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at Lancaster University and Chair of the N8 Pro Vice Chancellors Group commented:

“The science and technology research base is a key asset to drive business growth and economic recovery in the North. Through the N8 partnership we are developing new and innovative ways of connecting SMEs and large companies to the world class research expertise within our 8 universities, focusing on areas like regenerative medicine where we have strong research and industrial capabilities. We are also developing new models to exploit our capital asset base in the universities, making these more accessible to business and academics to create new exciting research collaborations to support innovation.”