The North East’s universities are joining forces under a £3.9m scheme to connect the region’s businesses with research to encourage growth and job creation.
The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme (IIIP) will see Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities work directly with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop new services and products for the market.
The three-year programme has been funded by £2.2m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with additional funding coming from the four partner universities.
A total of up to 48 SMEs will each be supported by a dedicated PhD research student, as well as access to senior academic researchers and university research facilities.
The project is targeted at priority sectors identified in the economic plans of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Tees Valley Combined Authority.
Sectors include creative, digital, software and technology-based services; healthcare and health innovation; energy; manufacturing and logistics.
The ultimate aim of the IIIP is to encourage a culture of innovation that benefits business, leading to greater export opportunities and increased graduate employment, particularly in science and engineering.
The project is being led by Durham University. Professor Patrick Hussey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Science), Durham University, said: 'The North East has a proud track record in industry and innovation which continues today through the leading research of our universities and the entrepreneurial flair of our small and medium sized businesses.
'The IIIP will bring this creative talent together, allowing businesses who are best placed to identify new opportunities for growth to directly benefit from the research expertise and facilities of the region’s universities.
'Encouraging a culture of innovation has broad benefits to a business as innovators are more likely to export, employ science and engineering graduates and employ other graduates.
'This is a tremendous opportunity to work together to enhance business growth and develop new market opportunities with the aim of encouraging longer-term job creation in the SME sector.'
Professor Jane Turner OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement), Teesside University, said: 'At Teesside we are very aware of the important role that the University sector plays in helping to drive forward economic growth in the region and have an established record of working with the business community.
'We are therefore delighted that the Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme will give us the opportunity to collaborate with our regional partners to help innovative companies grow and reach their potential.'
The IIIP supports the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy which aims to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs through investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.
The project also links into the UK’s National Science and Innovation Strategy and the National Productivity Plan, designed to create a programme of intensive innovation involving Higher Education and regional businesses.
Eligible SMEs will be chosen via a selection process and can apply until midday on Monday 4 June by contacting IIIP.NE@durham.ac.uk, or calling Jennifer Taylor, Economic Development Funding Manager, Durham University on +44 (0)191 334 4657.
Quartet of North-East universities join forces to boost business prospects
Northern Echo, online, 04/05/2018, Darlington and Stockton Times, online, 04/05/2018, BQ Magazine, online, 03/05/2018, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, online, 03/05/2018, Business Durham, online, 08/05/2018, The Journal, p36, 04/05/2018
Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities will work directly with up to 48 SMEs, each supported by a dedicated PhD research student and given access to university research facilities.