September 20 2019 @ 15:46 by Steven Hugill
Three North East universities have received more than £3 million to strengthen ties with business and deliver fresh economic growth to the region.
Teesside University, Durham University and the University of Sunderland will use the funding to create enterprise zones.
Bosses say the hubs will bolster academic and industrial partnerships by supporting the development of spin-out and start-up businesses.
Officials at Teesside University, which received more than £1.4 million from the Research England Development Fund, say its Middlesbrough campus will become a £5.6 million digital innovation hub.
Known as the Innovate Tees Valley University Enterprise Zone, they say it will build on the university’s track record of helping tech start-ups, with the development of two enterprise hubs.
Durham University, which also received more than £1.4 million, says its enterprise zone will be based at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, and house lab space, hot desks and meeting facilities for up to 17 businesses to work on new concepts.
The University of Sunderland, which was given £600,000 funding, says its enterprise zone will provide crucial space to explore new ideas in the world of sports technology and improved facilities and support for creative and media start-ups.
Professor Paul Croney, vice chancellor and chief executive at Teesside University, hailed the news as “a hugely positive development for the area.”
He revealed work for the enterprise zone will include re-purposing the university’s existing Launchpad start-up centre and Phoenix Building to provide incubation, collaboration and acceleration space on campus, adding it will mean additional start-up and grow-on units, games studios, co-working and maker spaces and events facilities.
“Teesside University has an excellent reputation for creating and sustaining digital start-ups and, by working alongside our established academic expertise in business and digital technologies, we look forward to delivering a new pipeline of sustainable, high-growth businesses into the Tees Valley business sector,” said Professor Croney.
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, added: “The Tees Valley is already home to world-class digital companies, with many stemming from graduates of the university.
“As we look to drive forward growth in this vital sector, we need to make sure we are providing the top-quality facilities businesses need to help them.”
A Durham University spokesperson said its enterprise zone “will be open to all businesses who want to collaborate with the university and our partners,” adding the institution hopes to open the base in early 2021.
Sir David Bell, vice chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said: “The enterprise zone will bring new jobs and help to create the hi-tech businesses of the future.
“The 12-month project builds on existing facilities and aims to create new, pioneering student, graduate, and staff businesses, as well as supporting local enterprises.
“Particular features include a new digital incubator in the university’s David Goldman Informatics Centre, exploration of new ideas in the world of sports technology and improved facilities and support for creative and media start-ups at the university and in the local area.”
The North East enterprise zones form part of a £20 million Government plan to develop 20 such sites across the UK that focus on areas such as artificial intelligence, clean growth, smart energy and agri-food.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the enterprise zones will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital stepping-stone to succeed.”