A quality of life

A quality of life

When Estelle Chatard left her native South of France 11 years ago, she had no idea she would play a key part in helping to regenerate her adopted home in the North East.

Estelle Chatard, business development manager of Newcastle Science City, is actively promoting our scientific expertise throughout Europe, and she believes many businesses and organisations in the region could benefit by promoting themselves likewise. “It was sheer fluke coming to Newcastle.

I had applied for a grant to study in any of 30 places in England for a year, to improve my spoken English. I was randomly allocated a place at Newcastle University, looked up where it was in my atlas, and the rest is history. “I saw the benefits of close links with Europe in my first role after graduating.

I worked for the French Business Council in Newcastle, running Club Sophia UK in partnership with Europe’s first Science and Technology park, Sophia Antipolis, in the South of France. “As a region, we can learn from it. Club Sophia was the networking arm of Sophia Antipolis. As the main Newcastle contact for the park, I helped with trade missions there, organised events and worked on international venture capital summits. I also explored European funding for science and technology.

“Club Sophia, which was far ahead of the game, had clubs networking worldwide to promote its science and attract partners for its economic development. I saw how this work paid off, especially in providing European funding for policy work, not just research. “All this has stayed with me during my various other roles in Newcastle. More than ever, I see how their example can help Newcastle Science City and other organisations and businesses here to prosper.”

Q: Is linking more closely with Europe merely a useful tool for funding? A: “This is a frequent perception, but opportunities exist for growth at many different levels. If businesses take a more strategic approach, getting involved in their sector’s European networks, they will get enhanced profile, greater influence and access to skills, people, research ideas and training opportunities - often at the cutting edge. “Newcastle University has a great reputation on the European stage and is active in shaping the international agenda. If you are serious about what you do, you will be expected to be there, within your sector’s European network, where you share experiences and learn.”

Q: Can you give an example where benefits other than funding are found? A: “With Newcastle Science City we have learnt, and still learn, a lot from our involvement with the network of European Science Cities. It has particularly helped our plans for Science Central where, with our partners One NorthEast, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University, we plan to create a science quarter on the former Newcastle Brewery site in the city. “Major research with seven European science cities, of which we are the only one from the UK, is looking at maximising the regeneration of cities through science. We are being tracked with other cities - some at slightly more advanced stage - to enable us all to benefit from each other’s experience. Magdeburg in Germany has a plan like Science Central. We shall study their progress.”

Q: Does the North East region do well for funding? A: “We are getting better as a region in attracting European funding to support our economic growth. Yet still a lot of organisations and businesses don’t bother with Europe.”

Q: Isn’t it all a bit of a hassle? A: “I understand why people can find the mere thought of engaging with Europe, let alone the European Commission, a daunting and potentially unproductive use of time. But it needs to be a two-way process. European help will not necessarily come to your door just when you need it; you do need to do some research yourself in the first place.”

Q: What goes on? A: “Anyone wishing to know more about European issues, and what various programmes can do for them, has options. They can, for example, attend open days held every year in Brussels. It is the biggest annual event on EU regional policy, expected to attract over 4,000 international participants this year. “There are presentations from all the EU regions around specific themes, with North East England promoting its successful Regional Image Strategy. “Regional partners also use the dedicated permanent North East England Office to achieve efficiency gains and a return on their investment by shaping EU policy and spending priorities. It’s first port of call for many regional organisations, giving a wealth of information and opportunities to network.”

Q: What if specific expertise is needed? A: “A team at the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), based in Gateshead, can help with funding and expertise to enable business owners to trawl a Europe-wide network for solutions to a wide variety of problems. “These range from a practical manufacturing issue to a search for a particular type of skills training.”

Q: What about for academics and others? A: “Their own institution will have resources and contacts in house, and for people’s own general interest there are websites with information at www.europa.eu and www.cordis.europa.eu

Q: How does Science City benefit from Europe? A: “There is recognition and raised profile for our own unique proposition, which will help attract private research and development investment to Newcastle. Denmark and Sweden – through the Medicon Valley - have an interesting approach we can learn from. They are specific in promoting themselves, rather than trying to be all things to all men. “We need to see the best on offer in fields of science and economic regeneration fields in Europe, linking up with best practice in research centres to learn from them. “Then, there is access to funding for our vision to create growth through scientific excellence. These benefits are listed in an order some might find odd, but there is logic to that. “The successful regions are the ones which approach Europe in this order. They warm up their audience via a positive profile, learn from the best then combine the two to pitch for their investment.”

Q: What does the North East mean to you? A: “Where I come from, in the French Alps, the lifestyle is fantastic. In the winter you can ski on your doorstep, and in the summer you can go out and find a swimming pool and lie in the sun. But I would still rather be in North East England. “My passion is regional economic development and the challenge of delivering it. In Newcastle, I feel I can help to make a real difference. It seems that people really put down roots in the North East even if, like me, they don’t come from here. “The region offers a rewarding and excellent quality of life.”