The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has given the green light to a £10m investment to help fund the first phase of a world-class innovation centre to be based at Durham University
In its early stages, the Centre for Innovation and Growth (CIG) will support research arising from the long-standing relationship between the university and consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble (P&G).
Future expansion of the site, which will house data handling and laboratory space, is anticipated to provide an open innovation hub in which the university can work with a range of non-competitive industrial partners, boosting business engagement on a local, national and international scale.
The centre, which will be built in four distinct phases over the next six years, is set to reel in funding from a range of partners as its develops, the initial £10m investment coming from the LEP’s North East Investment Fund, including £8m from its Regional Growth Fund allocation.
The money will help support major IT infrastructure improvements, including a ‘private cloud’ for data management and partnership working to expand the university’s facilities for open innovation.
Ultimately, the facility is aimed at linking together corporate business partnerships, supply chain partners, national and local businesses, partnerships with leading research groups in other universities, and government laboratories. A number of jobs are expected to be created as a result.
Professor Roy Sandbach, who leads the strategic innovation strand for the North East LEP, and who retired from P&G in the role of research fellow several years ago, said: “The Centre for Innovation and Growth is exactly what we need for the region – a strategic collaboration between a prestigious university and a innovation-centric corporate business partner with global reach.
“Our regional profile as a destination for inward innovation investment will be greatly enhanced by this initiative.
“It will generate more jobs and build the open innovation brand for the region. The rest of the world will sit up and seriously consider the North East for innovation investment.”
Dr Tim Hammond, director of Durham Business and Innovation Services at the university, meanwhile, said it would “leverage Durham’s international reputation” while chairman of the North East LEP Paul Woolston spoke of strengthening the North East’s reputation as a “problem solving region”.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Innovation is a key driver for economic growth in the UK. This investment will help to create a world-class innovation centre in the North East and provide exciting new job opportunities. Collaborative working between universities and industry is vital if we are to remain ahead in the global race for innovation and growth.”