Durham University is key to bright future
(9 January 2017)
Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, explores how the University is key to the economic success of County Durham and North East England.
The importance of having one of the world’s top 100 universities is central to Durham’s position as a first-class business destination – and there are dynamic plans in place to accelerate the momentum of recent years.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge passionately believes that Durham University is at the heart of the county’s success in attracting and retaining high-calibre employees, and developing successful businesses.
He is determined that the university will continue to build on the varied and successful partnerships, forged within the business community, which are driving the county forward in terms of research and development and inward investment.
“We have a tremendous supply of really smart people here – students and lecturers – and the more of them we can keep, the better that ultimately has to be for business,” he said.
“The fact that we have such a deep talent pool of high-quality scientists is a very strong starting point when it comes to attracting businesses.”
Students coming to Durham make more instinctive entrepreneurs than their parents’ generation and it is capturing that entrepreneurial spirit that the university sees as a key focus.
Durham University has two main student enterprise societies – Entrepreneurs Durham and Enactus Durham – with more than 3,000 members between them. The strength of that membership underlines the strategic importance the university places on business creation, with students being given invaluable opportunities to develop new skills and commercial acumen by engaging with external organisations.
Professor Corbridge wants the university to work even more closely with Durham County Council to provide more incubator space in which to nurture new businesses, with students being directly involved.
The university is building relationships with leading players such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and DONG energy, and has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).
“We are committed to building more industrial partnerships and supporting research and development capacity,” said Professor Corbridge.
The technology cluster which has sprouted in the county is, of course, a priority, but the Vice-Chancellor also underlines the importance of the university’s role in economic development from a broader perspective.
Links with cultural industries are of growing significance and work is under way with investor and philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer, whose impact in the county has been highlighted by the success at Bishop Auckland of Kynren, Britain’s most spectacular open-air live action night show since the London Olympics in 2012.
Beyond the bright lights of Kynren there are also partnerships being forged across the cultural network, through museums and performance groups.
As someone who came to Durham University from being Deputy Director and Provost at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Corbridge is well-placed to make a judgement on the benefits of the county as a place to live.
“It is a fantastic part of the world and, of course, that is part of Durham’s message when it comes to attracting businesses and skilled people,” he said, citing the outstanding natural beauty of the coastline, the Dales, lower property prices and good schools as major plus points.
Having what he describes as a forward-facing local authority such as Durham County Council, which is so open to building positive relationships, is also a huge benefit, as is excellent access through the East Coast Main Line railway and Newcastle International Airport.
“The trick is to get people here and show them what we have to offer, so they fall in love with it and stay. That’s what we all have to work on,” said Professor Corbridge.