Happy New Year. It’s a good time to look forward and also to reflect.
Last year was particularly memorable for me both professionally and personally. At my university, I was fortunate enough to attend many graduation ceremonies across the world, celebrating the success of those who studied at Sunderland, or our London campus, or with one of our many international partners.
It is amazing to witness the positive role that UK higher education plays in driving economic development in all corners of the globe. Similarly, we should celebrate the increasing part that all of our local universities play in regional economic growth, performing a pivotal role in propelling economic recovery and new confidence in the North East.
The most important thing that happened for me personally in 2013 was on 24th December. That was the day I became a granddad for the first time, when my daughter Frances and her husband Ben presented Edie Rose to the world. A new birth is a joyful event for everyone within a family, and to celebrate the birth of my grand-daughter at Christmas time brought these strong relationships into even sharper focus.
Working together well through partnerships is equally important professionally. Collaboration between universities, businesses and the public sector is at the heart of regional growth. This New Year could bring a step change to the region’s prospects through solid, lasting collaborations and innovative ways of working together.
It was good to see how the region strengthened its key sectors in 2013 - particularly automotive and offshore - through new investment in resources, manufacturing and components companies.
Partnerships define the past decade for universities, and their importance is set to grow.
The way in which university and business sectors have unlocked to allow new partnerships to blossom has been remarkable. We still have some way to go before innovation drives the agenda as it does in parts of Asia and the US, but the collaborative environment is truly exciting.
Now the big idea within the Witty Review, published last year, is for a £1 billion fund for “Arrow Projects,” which would bring together LEPs, universities, businesses and supply-chain partners to develop “new technologies through mobilising national clusters in fields offering significant international markets.”
By playing to its sectoral strengths the North East would be a strong Arrow Project partner, not only boosting global trade but also creating new demands for skilled employees which the region’s five universities are very well-equipped to provide. I hope that 2014 is a great, memorable year, not only for Edie Rose and my family, but also for everyone across the North East.
:: Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland