The North East’s universities are joining forces under a £3.9m scheme to connect the region’s businesses with research to encourage growth and job creation.
The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme (IIIP) will see Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities work directly with SMEs to develop new services and products for the market.
The three-year programme has been funded by £2.2m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with additional funding coming from the four partner universities.
Up to 48 SMEs will each be supported by a dedicated PhD research student, as well as access to senior academic researchers and university research facilities.
The project is targeted at priority sectors identified in the economic plans of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Tees Valley Combined Authority.
Sectors include creative, digital, software and technology-based services; healthcare and health innovation; energy; manufacturing and logistics.
The IIIP aims to encourage a culture of innovation that benefits business, leading to greater export opportunities and increased graduate employment, particularly in science and engineering.
The project is being led by Durham University.
Professor Patrick Hussey, pro-vice-chancellor (science), Durham University, said: “The North East has a proud track record in industry and innovation which continues today through the leading research of our universities and the entrepreneurial flair of our small and medium sized businesses.
“The IIIP will bring this creative talent together, allowing businesses who are best placed to identify new opportunities for growth to directly benefit from the research expertise and facilities of the region’s universities.
“Encouraging a culture of innovation has broad benefits to a business as innovators are more likely to export, employ science and engineering graduates and employ other graduates.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to work together to enhance business growth and develop new market opportunities with the aim of encouraging longer-term job creation in the SME sector.”
The project also links into the UK’s National Science and Innovation Strategy and the National Productivity Plan, designed to create a programme of intensive innovation involving Higher Education and regional businesses.
The IIIP announcement follows the recent launch of the Northern Accelerator project, a partnership of Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland universities, working with the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority.
Supported by £4.9m from the UK Government’s Connecting Capability Fund, the Northern Accelerator aims to commercialise research to boost the region’s economy.
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