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Universities combine in £3.9m scheme to connect businesses with research

(3 May 2018)

Engineering students at Durham University

The North East’s universities are joining forces under a £3.9m scheme to connect the region’s businesses with research to encourage growth and job creation.

The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme (IIIP) will see Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities work directly with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop new services and products for the market.

The three-year programme is being led by Durham University. It has been funded by £2.2m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with additional funding coming from the four partner universities.

Up to 48 SMEs will each be supported by a dedicated PhD research student, as well as access to senior academic researchers and university research facilities.

The project is targeted at priority sectors identified in the economic plans of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Sectors include creative, digital, software and technology-based services; healthcare and health innovation; energy; manufacturing and logistics.

Eligible SMEs will be chosen via a selection process and can apply until midday on Monday 4 June by contacting, or calling Jennifer Taylor, Economic Development Funding Manager, Durham University, on +44 (0)191 334 4657. Details can also be found at

Greater export opportunities

The ultimate aim of the IIIP is to encourage a culture of innovation that benefits business, leading to greater export opportunities and increased graduate employment, particularly in science and engineering.

Professor Patrick Hussey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Science), Durham University, said: “The North East has a proud track record in industry and innovation which continues today through the leading research of our universities and the entrepreneurial flair of our small and medium sized businesses.

“The IIIP will bring this creative talent together, allowing businesses who are best placed to identify new opportunities for growth to directly benefit from the research expertise and facilities of the region’s universities.

“Encouraging a culture of innovation has broad benefits to a business as innovators are more likely to export, employ science and engineering graduates and employ other graduates.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to work together to enhance business growth and develop new market opportunities with the aim of encouraging longer-term job creation in the SME sector.”

Intensive innovation

The IIIP supports the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy which aims to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs through investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

The project also links into the UK’s National Science and Innovation Strategy and the National Productivity Plan, designed to create a programme of intensive innovation involving Higher Education and regional businesses.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University, said: “Durham University is proud to be leading this innovative project which will directly connect small and medium size enterprises with the considerable research and innovation strengths of the region’s universities.

“Universities have an important role to play in the region’s economic development and the Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme will provide companies with access to the very best research and facilities to enable them to grow their businesses.”

Economic boost

The IIIP announcement follows the recent launch of the Northern Accelerator project, a partnership of Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland universities, working with the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Supported by £4.9m from the UK Government’s Connecting Capability Fund, the Northern Accelerator aims to commercialise research to boost the region’s economy.

* The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme is targeted at the priority sectors as identified in the regional strategic economic plans of the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority. These sectors are:

North East LEP: Passenger vehicle manufacturing;subsea and offshore technology;life sciences and healthcare; creative, digital, software and technology based services;surface science; ageing;energy; systems satellite applicationsenergy networks; materials integration; water.

Tees Valley Combined Authority: Chemicals;health innovation;energy;advanced manufacturing; logistics;digital and creative;the Circular Economy.