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Durham University works for regeneration and enrichment in the North East

(3 June 2005)


Durham University’s significant contribution to the quality of life and work in the North East goes on show to business leaders, health professionals, regeneration officials and local politicians on Tuesday 7 June.

As the North East’s leading higher education institution, Durham University is a key player in the continuing move for regeneration and enrichment in the region. More than 40 examples of its activities are on display at the Excellence Working for the Region event in the Newcastle Gateshead Hilton, to an invited audience of more than 120 key regional representatives.

This is the first exhibition and presentation of its kind by Durham University, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2007.

The University is a major employer and a partner in research, analysis, business, tourism, sport, heritage and cultural activities, in the region. It has:

  • More than 3,000 staff and a current turnover of more than £140m.
  • International quality research that has produced 15 spin-off companies.
  • Extensive links with industry and the professions in the region from cell biology, electronics, renewable energy and the care of the environment to teaching, child development, management, medicine and healthcare.
  • A rising number – now about 19 per cent – of undergraduates recruited from North East schools.
  • Educational and cultural activities with schools and the wider public – including science projects, museum collections and Durham Castle, plus concerts, exhibitions and plays.
  • Colleges running residential, conference and other business activity outside the student term that bring an estimated £10m into the regional economy.
  • Shared activities with sports clubs, schools, local interest groups and student volunteer work with organisations in and around Durham and Stockton.

University Vice Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman, who hosts the event, said: “Durham is the region’s original university, and we want to celebrate the diversity and extent of our partnerships. Hundreds of organisations are involved individually with one or another part of our operations, but that means they may be aware of only a fraction of what we do. We have invited people along today to show more of what we have to offer. We are an international university, and provide valuable links from the North East via more than 100 universities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and America.

“As the University gears up for its 175th anniversary, we are better placed than ever before in our history to highlight the immense importance of the contribution of higher education to the economic well-being of the North East.”

In an introduction to the exhibition Sir Kenneth is joined by Professor Phil Jones, Deputy Vice Chancellor who is responsible for regional affairs, and also Professor Ray Hudson, Director of the Wolfson Research Institute at Durham’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton, highlighting the expanded levels of health research and engagement with the health services.

The Regional Development Agency One NorthEast put universities at the heart of the regional economic strategy, and successive government initiatives have been geared to improving the facilities for the best scientific strengths to grow in the region, involving more universities in partnerships with one another and with industry, commerce and public bodies. Durham has a team dedicated to maximising the benefits of research and regional links in its Research and Economic Development Support Service (REDSS).

The displays illustrate Durham’s position as a leading UK research-intensive University of international standing with an acknowledged reputation for consistently achieving high standards of excellence in teaching and top-class research results. It also shows examples of the cultural diversity of student life and involvement with local communities.

A unique solar car will be circling the hotel forecourt during the exhibition to highlight research in renewable energy which also includes the development of wave power generation. Other science on display includes photonics, cell biology, molecular electronics and microsystems. Students will demonstrate their sporting prowess and Durham Business School has a stand that celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Through its Technology Transfer Office the University fosters more entrepreneurial activity among academic research staff, and in the student community. With the Queen’s Campus, Stockton, the University is part of a key strand of sub-regional redevelopment in the Tees Valley.

In March 2005 a major new initiative to bring greater focus and attention to the quality and importance of world-class research in health and medicine at Durham University was launched with the creation of a Health Strategy Board.

Durham currently has 15 spin-out companies in operation and several more in preparation. It has also negotiated licences for work by other companies using the intellectual property developed in the University in several fields such as digital enterprise technology, cell biology and plasma chemistry. This is an additional source of income for the research work. Some of the licensees are major international companies, and the expansion of such overseas links is also an asset which has the potential to bear fruit in the region.

The University has created a new regional centre of excellence for science with the opening of a unique, integrated centre for Bioactive Chemistry at a cost of £4.4m. Durham University and Framwellgate School are a key regional link in a £51m national network of Science Learning Centres. The £2m North East regional centre is being built at the school with labs and advanced IT facilities. Partners for the North East centre are the Universities of Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Teesside, Framwellgate School, Durham County Council, Life Knowledge Park, Northumbrian Water plc and Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK).

Another prime contribution to the region’s economy is the development of NetPark, the Durham County Council technology business complex at Sedgefield where the University has become the first tenant with two business-facing research operations. One is concerned with the application of Digital Enterprise Technology to modelling improved performance in manufacturing and other business systems, and another is developing instrumentation to improve imaging from ground-based astronomical telescopes, using materials and techniques that could have much wider applications in medicine and industry.

As well as ideas, the universities are producers of skilled graduates. In a reversal of national trends, there has been a marked increase in students taking up sciences at the University of Durham. The 2004 intake excelled in chemistry, physics, biological sciences and engineering making it a record year for science admissions.

Sir Kenneth said: “This provides encouraging indicators for the future - that academic strengths will flourish, and the regenerating flow of knowledge and people into the economy both regionally and nationally will continue to grow. We are delighted with this event to demonstrate our commitment at the heart of the region.”

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