Providing support throughout the pandemic

November 8, 2020

Since the start of the crisis, Teesside University has worked with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help them tackle economic and health challenges.

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At the start of lockdown, Teesside University quickly reconfigured its expert-led programmes to ensure they were meeting innovation and skills needs across the region. Subsequent support has ranged from individual efforts by members of staff lending their expertise, and loans of equipment to help the NHS, to fully-fledged support programmes working with scores of businesses.

Analysis by the University has shown that significant numbers are making use of its support.

By late October:

  • 51 companies had been given specialist technical support
  • 254 people had acquired new skills through the Digital Skills for Growth programme
  • 27 companies had undergone detailed diagnostics resulting in packages tailored to their COVID-19 challenges, with the opportunity to apply to the University’s ERDF-funded Spark Fund for financial support to implement them

Despite the pandemic, the region’s entrepreneurial appetite is as strong as ever, with 21 new start-ups taking part in the DigitalCity Accelerator and five start- ups supported through the University’s online Microbiz Academy.

The university-led DigitalCity initiative, which has seen high levels of demand since March, has also helped 13 companies prepare for growth through its SCALE programme. Staff at the university prepared 13 bids for grant support with companies looking to innovate and grow. This analysis follows the news that the activities of Teesside University benefited the region by more than £128.4 million in 2018/19, as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA), according to a new report from independent consultancy New Skills Consulting, which investigated the university’s economic impact.

In addition to the support provided to businesses, the university’s National Horizons Centre (NHC), a £22.3 million centre of excellence for the biosciences industries based in Darlington, loaned vital equipment to the region’s health trusts to assist with the testing processes.

Researchers from the NHC also worked alongside clinicians from local NHS trusts to understand the clinical course of COVID-19 cases in the region. Clinical data from coronavirus patients was analysed to identify risk factors associated with patient survival that could be used to guide future treatment strategies.

University staff also lent their skills and expertise to support the rapid prototyping of COVID-19 PPE production in the UK and abroad, using digital manufacturing techniques. The team created, adapted and collaborated on designs for COVID-19 face mask filters and visors, which were donated to keyworkers in healthcare, retail and the police.

The university also used its own state-of-the-art equipment to help manufacture the visors.

Laura Woods, director of Academic Enterprise at Teesside University, says: “We’re pleased that the university is able to play its part in helping to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on Tees Valley organisations.

“The past few months have demonstrated again – and more sharply than ever – the innovation and resilience of our region, and its ability to respond to significant challenges.

“Companies have changed their business models to adapt, while entrepreneurs have continued to find new markets for their goods and services.

“The challenges are far from over, and we have to redouble our efforts now to support the region’s recovery.”

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