Newcastle University gets green light for £7m offshore research centre

The Neptune Energy Park will be the site of Newcastle University's new research centre into the potential of the oceans as a source of food and energy

Andrew Hodgson, vice chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and chair of the Subsea NE
Andrew Hodgson, vice chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and chair of the Subsea NE

Newcastle University has been given the go-ahead for a new £7m research centre on the site of a former shipyard.

Unveiled last year by Business Secretary Vince Cable the Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering will put the region at the forefront of Britain’s efforts to harness the ocean’s potential as a source of food, energy and more.

And now Newcastle City Council’s planning committee has given the scheme, on the north bank of the Tyne next door to the former Swan Hunter yard, the green light.

“The concept of establishing the Neptune National Research and Development Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering stemmed from Newcastle University’s long tradition of applied engineering research linked to the needs of businesses in the marine, subsea and offshore sectors, so this is great news for the University and for the North East region,” said the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Nick Wright.

“Our hope is that it will create jobs and attract investment from the UK and abroad.

“The North -East is a world leader in the subsea industry, and getting the go-ahead for the Centre sends a clear message that we have the expertise and commitment needed to develop things even further.”

The new centre will sit on a 0.4 hectare plateau at the north end of the new Neptune Energy Park, where in recent months the land, which once housed a fuel tank and fuel storage facilities, was decontaminated as part of a £2.2m clean up by Shepherd Offshore.

The front of the building will contain offices while the back will have a unique hyperbaric chamber and environmental test facilities - capable of testing technologies and materials at temperatures and pressures equivalent to those found at the very deepest ocean depths.

The project will be part-funded through the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) from the Catalyst Fund and matched with funding from Newcastle University and the private sector. It is also supported by Newcastle City Council.

The Neptune Centre already has the backing of leading UK companies through the Subsea North-East Consortium including Shepherd Offshore, BEL Valves and SMD.

Richard Dodd, Director of BEL Valves which is part of the British Engines Group, said the investment would further boost the North East’s reputation as a world leader in subsea and offshore engineering.

“This partnership between Newcastle University and companies such as BEL Valves is a major opportunity for the region,” he said.

“It will allow us to grow our capabilities and skills base to keep us at the forefront of this highly specialised field of engineering.”

Andrew Hodgson, vice chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and chair of Subsea NE, said: “The subsea sector is a vital part of the economic regeneration within the North East of England.

“Our vision remains to make the North East the recognised centre for subsea technologies on an international scale.”

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