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Northern Powerhouse: Chancellor announces £20 million science investment in Newcastle

Chancellor visits Newcastle University, following his announcement of £20 million funding for a new innovation centre for ageing.

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This boost for Newcastle is part of the government’s £7 billion Northern Powerhouse pledge made at last week’s Autumn Statement. The Chancellor has previously highlighted the importance of science and innovation in developing a Northern Powerhouse across the north, the cradle of the industrial revolution.

The Chancellor was particularly impressed by Newcastle University’s proposal for the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation (NASI), which the university are match-funding.

The centre will cement the north’s position as a science and technology hub as part of the Chancellor’s aim to develop an industrial and economic Northern Powerhouse across the region. NASI alone will support around 1,300 jobs across the city, providing an economic boost of up to £22 million for the region.

The ground-breaking centre will bring together academics, the NHS and public and private sector experts for the first time to develop technologies to respond to the challenges of an ageing population, improving the quality of life for the elderly whilst reducing reliance on healthcare services.

It will also have strong commercial applications in developing products and services aimed at supporting older people and meeting the needs of the older consumer. These could include technologies that can support people to age better, such as exercise and diet products and services, as well as more user-friendly designs of safety alarms and assisted living equipment to allow older people to live more independently.

During his visit, the Chancellor met university researchers, partners from the NHS and Newcastle City Council. These groups work collectively as part of Newcastle’s ‘age-friendly city’ initiative. He also saw some of the technology being used by researchers, including a visit to the biomarker laboratory which is identifying new ways of recognising those at risk of accelerated ageing. By giving researchers a much broader understanding of the biology of ageing, the lab is helping the Newcastle team to deliver the innovation needed to support healthy ageing.

The government’s £20 million funding was announced by the Chancellor at last week’s Autumn Statement, as part of a programme of science capital investment worth £5.9 billion. This includes £2.9 billion for scientific grand challenges, such as the £235 million Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials Research and Innovation, and £3 billion towards ensuring our existing infrastructure at universities and research institutes remains at the cutting edge. The Chancellor also provided an additional £61 million for the high value manufacturing catapult, many of whose centres are in the north, and £28 million for a new centre in Sedgefield, County Durham, specialising in formulation.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

I said I wanted science to be at the heart of delivering a Northern Powerhouse as part of this government’s long-term economic plan. That’s why I’ve earmarked £20 million to support Newcastle’s brilliant cutting-edge research, right here in the north-east.

This research will not only help boost the regional and national economy, bringing jobs and investment, but will improve people’s lives by developing technologies to support our ageing population. It’s part of a £7 billion Northern Powerhouse investment in this year’s Autumn Statement.

Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University, added:

Increased longevity has been one of mankind’s greatest successes with average life expectancy for a man now almost 80 years in the UK and for a woman 82. However, the challenge is how we enable people to live a healthier longer life, free from disability, and able to enjoy those extra years.

For more than a decade, Newcastle University has been at the forefront of addressing this challenge. By building one of Europe’s largest research teams we have pioneered work in understanding why we age, tackling the diseases associated with ageing, and designing environments, technologies and public policy that supports healthy ageing.

Together with our partner, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, we have created a dedicated Campus for Ageing and Vitality to provide a focus for our work and have been successful in securing support from a range of funding partners over the years. This includes: the NIHR which has funded a Biomedical Research Centre, the MRC which has supported a Centre for Ageing & Vitality, and the Wellcome/Wolfson funded Clinical Ageing Research Unit.

The government’s support to establish a National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation will complement this investment and allow our researchers to work with other academic centres across the country to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the global drive to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of an ageing population.

Published 11 December 2014