Placing the Northern Powerhouse at the heart of the 4th Industrial Revolution


Dr Annette Bramley, Director of the N8 Research Partnership and Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry.

It’s clear that the key to the North’s future success in rebalancing the UK economy and improving Northern economic performance is through deep collaboration – both pan-Northern and international.  Some of the best collaborators are found in our universities. Through the generation of new ideas and the transfer of know how to business and engagement in specific initiatives the North’s knowledge assets support the creation and growth of indigenous business and attract inward investment. In short they create the conditions in which innovation and entrepreneurialism can thrive.

The world-leading educational institutions in the Northern Powerhouse are so much greater than the sum of their parts.  Through working hand-in-hand with industry and collaborating with each other they are creating the economy of tomorrow with advanced manufacturing, scientific and digital innovation and a highly skilled, highly educated new generation of graduates at its heart.

Dr Annette Bramley

The ‘N8’ research-intensive universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York deliver 119,000 jobs and £12bn to the regional economy, provide help to more than 31,000 businesses and create more than £6.6 billion GVA to the region.  That’s a larger contribution to Northern Powerhouse GVA than the entire Northern media industry, agriculture or motor vehicle manufacturing sectors.

They also bring an international reputation and world class research, including the excellent work, happening here and through overseas partnerships, of N8’s Urban and Community Transformation and AgriFood programmes.

N8 also collaborates closely with other stakeholders whose goal is also Northern growth – Business North, IPPR North, Northern Health Science Alliance, the 11 Northern LEPs, Transport for the North, Northern PowerWomen, to name but a few.

Working with universities, industry and society, N8 is leading the way in tackling the grand challenges of our time. With 80 per cent of the UK population now living in cities, it’s important that we find novel solutions to solving the problems of urban living – housing, food security, transportation, poverty and inequality, crime and climate change. Meanwhile its agri-reslience programme is addressing the importance of the rural economy.

Jake Berry

Building on our science and innovation capacity and capability is therefore essential to this. That’s why, alongside major new commitments to increase R&D funding nationally, Government has invested more than £859 million in universities, research institutions, and business-led research across the Northern Powerhouse.

Last year, through Innovate UK, Government also provided £46.5 million in grant funding to more than 500 innovative organisations across the North. These investments are paying dividends with the Northern Powerhouse economy now worth in excess of £329 billion – that’s larger than the economies of Norway and Austria.

There are around 30 universities in the North of England and each is an anchor institution of its community. They believe that their role includes delivering deep, transformational impact on the society around us. From grass-roots programmes helping young people discover a passion for learning, to running initiatives which help local SMEs, Northern universities are helping rejuvenate local areas where there has been a historic decline of industry.


Teesside University’s DigitalCity initiative is a great example of this. Through connecting local businesses with the knowledge, skills and expertise they need to flourish in the digital age, the University has helped create 286 businesses and more than 700 new jobs while boosting the thriving tech economy of the North East.

Similarly, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston is working with the City Council in adapting a pioneering grassroots approach from America to tackling inequality and keeping profits local. By doing so, UCLAN is enhancing its presence and contribution to the community it serves through projects for increased undergraduate co-operative education leading to business plans for graduates who will discover new opportunities and reasons to remain in Preston.

With our combined strength, there are new opportunities for the Northern Powerhouse to position itself at the heart of the 4th Industrial Revolution as a resilient modern Northern economy ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with Britain exiting the European Union. Through working together, we believe that there is nothing that the world-leading universities of the Northern Powerhouse can’t achieve in forging the Global Britain of tomorrow.