New director's vision for Science City success

Businesswoman Fiona Standfield has spoken of her ambitions to lead the future development of Newcastle Science City

Fiona Standfield, new director of Science City
Fiona Standfield, new director of Science City

Businesswoman Fiona Standfield has spoken of her ambitions to lead the future development of Newcastle Science City.

More than seven years have passed since former Prime Minister Gordon Brown designated Newcastle as one of six Science Cities to lead the development of deeper links between business and the science base and ensure that science, technology and innovation succeed in becoming the engine of economic growth.

The six cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and York – will play a crucial role as the government tries to ensure that the UK can compete in an increasingly competitive global market.

Standfield was last week appointed as director of Science City for a three-year term. The current acting chair of the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of Northern Stage, she brings with her more than 20 years’ experience in high profile and board level roles across the public and private sectors, and says can’t wait to start.

She said: “I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was offered the role, I was absolutely thrilled. It’s a huge opportunity to contribute the region which is my home, my region.

“For Newcastle to be a Science City is so important because of the opportunities it presents. It builds up the expertise up the expertise of Newcastle University, particularly around the three core themes – ageing and health, sustainability and bio medicine – and it is a fantastic partnership that the university is making with Newcastle City Council, as two of the largest employers in the area.”

“The recent Science Festival was a fantastic opportunity to really showcase the best in the university and in the region and it says everything about what we can deliver.”

Working in partnership, Standfield will encourage the council and university to pool their resources and expertise to seek out opportunities to grow awareness of the two brands, which can only increase opportunities across the city and wider region.

Moving into her city centre office next month, she will oversee a team of 20 key staff, but pivotal to the role will be leading Science Central. The site is expected to open its first building, The Core, Science Central, in Autumn 2014.

Science Central aims to aid Newcastle’s ability to compete as a smart future city while also encouraging business and jobs to the city, by providing specialist business support hub and state-of-the-art facilities for small start-up science and technology businesses. The site is also aimed to attract inward investors to the city – and Standfield said she aims to look outside the area in her quest to make the project a success.

She said: “Part of my job is leading the team of 20, delivering our key aims to advance the city and the wider region as a driving force for science excellence and industry, within the three core areas, and integral to my role in Science Central, the UK’s biggest development centre – and it’s open for business.

“It’s going through the construction phrase at the moment and you can see the progress they are making on site, and I will be working with partners across the region to ensure science and technology are enabled to grow and build.

She added: “Just to have been selected to be one of the Science Cities recognised our expertise and some fantastic work has already been done since, so I see my role as being to build upon that. A lot of the work is about attracting others to the region, and in order to do that I will be looking outside of the region.”

Newcastle University’s vice-chancellor Professor Chris Brink welcomed the new appointment.

He said: “Fiona’s considerable experience and leadership in various different organisations will be invaluable in driving forward the vision for Newcastle Science City, and in particular Science Central.

“This is an exciting time for the project, and we are delighted that Fiona has accepted the post. as director.”

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes added: “Fiona brings with her a wealth of knowledge which coupled with her energy and enthusiasm, will be integral to the continued development of Newcastle Science City.

“She combines a strong business background with a passion for science, and an understanding about how this could transform Newcastle’s future.”

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