A major new partnership launched by the North's eight research-intensive universities will enable northern businesses to access world-class knowledge to gain a significant competitive advantage.
Leading figures from academia and industry attended the launch of the N8 Research Centres at the University of Leeds to mark the new partnership that will utilise the research excellence of the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.
Guests heard from Neville Chamberlain, Chairman of the Northern Way, that innovation in industry is "key to a prosperous North".
He said: "The Northern Way has recognised that innovation is a key component in any successful economy. That is why we have invested £6 million in setting up the N8 Research Centres as we believe their work will offer real opportunity for us to combine our research excellence across the North and develop increased commercial activity."
The N8 consortium gives northern businesses the opportunity to become more competitive. By using the research excellence of the N8 they will be able to innovate faster - and take a larger share of rapidly-changing global markets.
Keynote speaker, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury Ed Balls MP, said: "The Northern Way by launching N8 today are leading the way in business innovation in the UK. In a global economy it is only businesses that continue to innovate and change that will grow and succeed.
"This unique partnership will give business access to some of the best research in the UK, this can only benefit the North's businesses and economy. I want the North to punch above its weight, and today's announcement will help it to achieve this."
The intellectual critical mass offered by N8 will drive up business performance in global growth markets, and add extra cylinders to the UK economic engine. It aims to match and complement the research power of the golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London, leading innovation and boosting the economy.
It is the first time that a group of UK universities have formed a jointly held company - N8 Ltd - specifically to work together and work with business. Teams of researchers from each of the universities will work on programmes jointly developed from discussions with industry in the following areas:
- Sustainable water use
- Ageing and related health matters
- Regenerative medicine
- Molecular engineering
The audience at the launch heard from Professor Louise Heathwaite, leader of the sustainable water management theme and Professor Richard Jones, leader of the molecular engineering theme on the exciting research to be undertaken in their fields.
N8 Chief Executive Professor David Secher, based at the University of Sheffield, added: "The combination of the global research quality that exists across the North, with the close links to relevant industries, promises to make the N8 Research Centres powerful drivers, both for internationally competitive research and for economic development."
Professor Michael Arthur, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: "We are delighted to be hosting the launch of this exciting new partnership. Bringing together the research power of these eight institutions will deliver fresh impetus to innovation with the potential to make a significant economic impact across the North.
Professor Phil Jones, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Durham University, said: "This initiative has the potential to effect positive change in the North of England. Durham already has very strong collaborative links with most of the research intensive universities in the North and its research strengths will bring a lot to each of the five N8 research centres.
"As well as having strong research in molecular science, alternative energy and sustainable water use, we have very good links in polymer science with Sheffield and Leeds and collaborate closely with Newcastle and the NHS on stem cells and regenerative medicine."
Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills at Northwest Regional Development Agency, said: "Creation of N8 Ltd is a real 'step-change' for the North, demonstrating that the eight research universities are really serious about sharing their knowledge with business, and are more open to meeting business needs for new products, processes and services.
"The combined research power of N8 is broadly equivalent to that of the 'Golden Triangle', and so will both boost the Northern economy and add significantly to overall UK economic development potential."
Notes to editors:
The Northern Way is a unique collaboration led by the three Northern Regional Development Agencies (One NorthEast, Northwest Regional Development Agency and Yorkshire Forward) working with partners to close the £30 billion output gap between the North and the average for England over a 25 year period.
With a population of 14.5 million the North is equivalent to a medium-sized country (such as Sweden) with a large internal market. Its economy is worth in excess of £200 billion.
The North has undergone a period of revival over the last nine years. Its economy is now stronger than at any time in the last 40 years and employment is at a post war high. Local authorities and RDAs have led the revitalisation of our regions, cities, towns and local communities.
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