Burning Issue: June ’20

June 1, 2020

The UK’s health and life science sector has historically been driven by the ‘Golden Triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge. But with North East companies and organisations increasingly proving their prowess as innovators on the national and global stage, are we seeing a closing of the geographical divide?

Professor Dianne Ford
Pro vice-chancellor, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Northumbria University

The region has prowess in multiple areas: ageing and innovative healthcare workforce development, where my own university excels, are just two. Unlocking the full potential requires more- equitable research and development investment and more regional job opportunities for our excellent graduates. The award of our new cross-sector £9 million NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) may be one positive signal. This is one of 15 funded nationally to drive innovation in health and care. Seven are in the ‘Golden Triangle’, but adjustment for population density shows equitable investment in our region – perhaps one of the signs local innovation is closing the geographical divide.

Rachel Anderson
Assistant director – policy (Tees Valley and energy)
North East England Chamber of Commerce

Progress happened when the North East put facilities in place to commercialise the fantastic blue-sky research done here in the region, rather than watching it disappear over the horizon to make money elsewhere. We had research in the universities and large- scale manufacturing capability, but not the crucial part in between. Three things changed; NETPark, CPI and the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre. All three were gamechangers in establishing the North East’s capability. The future is bright, with new companies that are growing and expanding, and complementing and collaborating – not necessarily competing with – the ‘Golden Triangle’.

Katherine Forbes (pictured)
Health and life sciences programme lead
North East Local Enterprise Partnership

In the last decade, our health and life sciences sector has seen significant growth – delivering high-value jobs with real economic and social value. In national policy, the focus is on London, Oxford and Cambridge, but the North East has two internationally- renowned science parks and the UK’s largest research active public health system. It also has world-leading academic expertise, a strong innovation eco-system and the ability to translate research into commercial opportunities. These assets are recognised by leading industry figures – like Professor Sir John Bell, the Government’s Life Sciences Champion – as creating one of the best life sciences environments in the world.

Professor Stephen Cummings
Dean of the School of Health and Life Sciences
Teesside University

The life sciences sector in this region has huge potential. We’re seeing some fantastic collaborative work, across the public and private sector, to help facilitate the growth of the North-East’s bio- economy. Our new £22.3 million National Horizons Centre is one such example. Together with CPI, and supported by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, we’re creating a national cluster of excellence for the biosciences at Darlington’s Central Park. Working with businesses from multinationals to SMEs and start-ups, we’re doing ground-breaking research destined to make a huge impact in areas ranging from cancer treatment to sustainable food alternatives.

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