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Durham Business & Innovation Services

News & Press Cuttings

New forum set to forge innovation between universities and industry

(1 February 2012)

N8 Partnership Logo

Durham University is part of new scheme to bring together leading scientists from northern research intensive universities with senior figures from industry.

The Industry Innovation Forum (IIF), led by the N8 Research Partnership, aims to forge new collaborations and drive innovation, competitive advantage and growth.

Having recently been highlighted as a model for creating innovation and research clusters by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the N8 Research Partnership is launching IIF, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board and the Higher Education Funding Council for England(HEFCE).

The initiative brings together global companies involved in Research & Development, government bodies and world leading experts from the North of England's 8 most research-intensive universities, known as the N8, including Durham.

The IIF aims to maximise linkages and market pull between private sector research and development, industrial and consumer needs and the world class research base in the UK.

Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, officially marked the launch of this initiative.

The first IIF meeting on February 1 February was attended by more than 100 high profile university and industry partners. It focused on Advanced Materials Technologies which was identified as an area across a range of sectors, including aerospace and consumer goods where industry were looking for new and exciting possibilities.

The Technology Strategy Board's role within the IIF will be to facilitate the forum meetings and encourage industry and academia to 'engage and explore' ideas and insights.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: "The Technology Strategy Board's key role is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. We are delighted to pilot and support the N8 Industry Innovation Forum, which aims to help businesses of all sizes to work together and form collaborations, and to develop relationships with research-intensive universities in the North of England, translating new research and innovative technology into commercially-viable products and services. We already have excellent examples of working to support business in the North of England and look forward to building on its strong industrial capacity."

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The Industry Innovation Forum is an excellent example of the benefits of collaboration across the higher education sector. This initiative will give companies of all sizes access to the resources and expertise of eight research-intensive universities, driving innovation and providing them with informed solutions to the challenges they face."

HEFCE's role is to support the N8 universities to develop and implement the ideas and insights that come from the IIF events, working with industry, and put them into practice.

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: "I congratulate the N8 universities on coming together on this innovative proposal. It is built on the considerable success of the universities in knowledge exchange to date, and using our Higher Education Innovation funding most effectively in working together. We are pleased to be able to invest further in the venture by making available funds which will provide a catalyst to developments underpinning economic growth and recovery of this country."

Professor Keith Burnett, current Chair of the N8 Research Partnership said: "The N8 Industry Innovation Forum is focussed on providing large and small companies with easy and quick access to the critical mass of the N8 universities knowledge base.

"We have listened to our industry partners and have designed the Forum so that businesses can talk to us about their key needs and challenges in a particular area.

"We can match these with science solutions and possibilities from the research base, across a range of disciplines from eight leading universities."

The N8 Research Partnership is a collaboration between the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, which utilises the combined expertise and capabilities of these research intensive universities.

To find out more about the Industry Innovation Forum visit