Innovation quarter attracting world’s leading scientists and hi-tech companies to the North East

In launching the UK’s Industrial Strategy last month, Prime Minister Theresa May focussed on four ‘grand challenges’ reflecting global trends shaping the future; artificial intelligence and data, healthy ageing, the future of mobility, and clean growth.

“We cannot predict the future or guess what technological or scientific breakthroughs might lie just around the corner,” she said. “But we can observe the long-term trends that are shaping change in our world today and which will drive and demand innovation in the years ahead.”


Newcastle University and the city is positioning itself as a leader in these fields. The application of artificial intel-ligence to transform the diagnosis of chronic diseases is a major focus of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Innovation Observatory, located at Newcastle University.

The university also hosts the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, which works with academia, industry, and the public to explore, test and bring to mar-ket products which promote healthy ageing and wellbeing.

“More and more life sciences busi-nesses have been attracted to Newcastle over the past few years,” said Martin Cox, director of business development and enterprise at the university.

“Our world-class medical school, proximity to one of the UK’s leading hospital trusts, and a local authority that is genuinely open to and supportive of business – the combination gives a real edge in terms of translational medicine and means that Newcastle is a really exciting place for life sciences compa-nies.

“The medical school has tradition-ally been strong, but it’s been in the last decade that the partnership with the hospital has led to increasing busi-ness opportunities which have really accelerated over the last few years. The partnership with the council has been very important in that; the investments that they have made in infrastructure have been transformational. “In terms of talent, our life sciences sector is now creating the kinds of highly-skilled posts that mean our medical graduates and science-related PhDs do not have to leave the area for work. People from outside the region, once they come here to see the quality of life for themselves, want to stay. And we have been very successful, in a partnership with Durham University, in attracting chief executives experienced in working with spin-outs and scale-ups.”

The university also has more than 100 leading academics specialising in energy. Last year, it launched InTE-GReL, with Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid, an energy research and demonstration site. Work-ing with Nissan, it is part of the world’s first, large-scale trial of vehicle-to-grid technology.

Partnering with Northern Powergrid, it was one of the founding institutions of the £65m Faraday Battery Institu-tion, looking at recycling, reuse and lifetime extension of batteries. Through its National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Smart Grid lab, part of a range of major collaborations with Siemens, it is testing innovative energy storage and whole-energy systems solutions.


he university is a partner in New-castle’s global hub for urban innova-tion which has entered its next phase in development. Newcastle Helix is a £350m flagship project bringing together academia, communities, busi-ness, industry and the public sector.

It is a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, and Legal & General, and is already home to the university’s award-winning Urban Sciences Building and The Core, a seven-storey home for knowledge-based science and technology SMEs.

The latest building on the site, The Biosphere, will open later this year, providing laboratories and offices for a wide range of scientific based companies, primarily life science and healthcare).

The site of a former brewery, it is being transformed into an exemplar of urban sustainability; a unique testbed for innovative technologies and solu-tions that will tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing cities around the world, such as flooding, resilient infrastructure and energy.

Drawing on the expertise of key industry partners such as Siemens, Microsoft, and Northumbrian Water, the aim is for Newcastle Helix to improve the lives of people not just in Newcastle, but all over the world.

A new round of construction and investment is now underway for what is the UK’s biggest urban development outside London; an internationally-renowned innovation centre for sustainable engineering, ageing, and data science.

The next two years will see the opening of the National Innovation Centres for Data and Ageing and Newcastle Uni-versity’s £29m Learning and Teaching Centre. Legal & General are underway constructing the site’s first private sec-tor building, The Lumen, a 100,000 sq. ft. Grade A office development.

Building on its growing reputation and infrastructure investments, Newcastle expects to attract further innovative businesses to the city, many of whom will locate and grow on New-castle Helix.

Newcastle-based QuantuMDx, devel-opers of a globally-significant portable diagnostics device, is one example of a company that has benefited from basing themselves in the city and col-laborating with Newcastle University. Earlier this year, it raised $12m in a new round of funding.

“Locating our HQ in the innova-tive North East - in preference to the ‘biotech golden triangle” of Oxford/Cambridge/London - was a conscious decision,” said Elaine Warburton, Quan-tuMDx’s Chief Executive.

“When we arrived in Newcastle six years ago, we found a city with an incredible genetics network alongside an excellent network of academic, industrial and key opinion leaders, all seeking to support a forward-looking young biotech, with a global vision, that wanted to change the world.

“We were looking for, and continue to do so, research scientists who can take pure research and apply it to everyday life. Newcastle and Northumbria Uni-versities focus on this skill-set offering numerous high calibre graduates and postgraduates from all scientific disci-plines including engineering, biology, chemistry, software development.

“This multidisciplinary approach is vital to be able to design and develop such a ground-breaking device as our Q-POC™ portable lab for low resource settings. Newcastle is also a wonderful city to attract staff from all over the globe - with such friendly people and a real buzz.”

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