Multimillion pound boost for scheme to turn university research into businesses

A programme that helps North East universities translate research into commercial products and services has received a £4.3m funding boost.

The Northern Accelerator partnership, which includes Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Teesside, Sunderland and York universities, hopes to spur the creation of more businesses. Having launched in 2016, the programme has since supported spinout companies creating 47 businesses and is set to deliver more than an estimated £123m additional gross value added to the region’s economy.

Now the North of Tyne Combined Authority and Durham County Council has awarded the partnership £2.79m of UK Shared Prosperity Funding to continue its work at Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria universities through the InTune project. Research England has also given £1.5m from the Connecting Capability Funding for all six universities in the partnership to pilot new support activity.

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So far the partnership has supported a spinouts in the North East and North Yorkshire, across a range of sectors from cancer-curing drugs to carbon-negative building materials. One such business is Northumbria University spinout EcoTech69, developed by Dr Muhammad Wakil Shahzad, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Mechanical Construction Engineering.

Dr Wakil Shahzad has been developing solutions to tackle water scarcity, including ‘Solar2Water’ which uses solar energy to extract moisture from the air and turn it into safe drinking water. Unlike other water generators the patented system can produce a constant amount of water, regardless of the air humidity.

Dr Tim Hammond, managing director of Research and Innovation Services at Durham University, and programme lead for Northern Accelerator, explains: “We have clear feedback from investors, our Technology Transfer Offices, and our nascent businesses that stronger engagement with key sectors would strengthen our business propositions. Our academic founders work tirelessly to make their spinout businesses a reality, and through Northern Accelerator we’re able to team them up with experienced business leaders to get their company off the ground. As with any start-up, our spinouts face an uphill struggle and it’s important to get that right from the beginning.

“The new funding allows us to offer several enterprise fellowships, giving academic founders dedicated time, training and support to really focus on getting their company launched. It also allows us to support new spinouts with fast start grant funding, to help accelerate their development and impact.”

Prof Karen O’Brien, vice chancellor and warden of Durham University said: “Universities in the North East of England have a strong track record of collaboration on initiatives that positively impact economic development. Northern Accelerator has contributed greatly to the ‘innovation ecosystem’ over the last five years. This significant funding ensures we can build on a successful programme that benefits our regional and national economy.”

Prof Jane Robinson, pro-vice chancellor for engagement and place at Newcastle University, said: “At Newcastle University, we’re really proud of the work we’ve done in recent years since the launch of Northern Accelerator creating new high-tech companies providing good quality jobs. This new funding will allow us to do even more to help build the future economy and the jobs and prosperity that comes with it.”

Original artice – https://business-live.co.uk/all-about/yorkshire-humber

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