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Placing the Northern Powerhouse at the heart of the future

Annette Bramley of the N8 Research Partnership and Jake Berry the Northern Powerhouse Minister, say that Northern universities are vital to future growth.
This article is more than 5 years old

Annette Bramley is Director of the N8 Research Partnership

Jake Berry is Minister for the Northern Powerhouse

It’s clear that the key to the North’s future success in rebalancing the UK economy and improving its economic performance is through deep collaboration – both pan-Northern and international.

And some of the best collaborators are found in our universities.

Through the generation of new ideas and the transfer of know-how to business, and through engagement in specific initiatives, the North’s knowledge assets support the creation and growth of indigenous businesses as well as attracting inward investment. In short, they create the conditions in which innovation and entrepreneurialism can thrive.

Eight North stars

The world-leading educational institutions in the Northern Powerhouse are so much greater than the sum of their parts. Through working hand-in-hand with industry and collaborating with each other they are creating the economy of tomorrow with advanced manufacturing, scientific and digital innovation, and a highly skilled new generation of graduates at its heart.

The “N8” research-intensive universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York collectively deliver 119,000 jobs and £12bn to the regional economy, provide help to more than 31,000 businesses, and create more than £6.6 billion gross value added (GVA) to the region. That’s a larger contribution to Northern Powerhouse GVA than the Northern media industry, agriculture, and motor vehicle manufacturing sectors combined.

They also bring an international reputation and world-class research, including the excellent work – happening here and through overseas partnerships – of N8’s Urban and Community Transformation and AgriFood programmes.

A Northern constellation

N8 also collaborates closely with other stakeholders whose goal is also Northern growth – Business North, IPPR North, Northern Health Science Alliance, the 11 Northern LEPs, Transport for the North, and Northern PowerWomen, to name but a few.

Working with universities, industry and society, N8 is leading the way in tackling the grand challenges of our time. With 80 per cent of the UK population now living in cities, it’s important that we find novel solutions to solving the problems of urban living; housing, food security, transportation, poverty and inequality, crime, and climate change. Meanwhile, its agri-resilience programme is also addressing the importance of the rural economy.


Building on our science and innovation capacity and capability is therefore essential to this. That’s why, alongside major new commitments to increase R&D funding nationally, the government has invested more than £859 million in universities, research institutions, and business-led research across the Northern Powerhouse.

Last year, through Innovate UK, the government also provided £46.5 million in grant funding to more than 500 innovative organisations across the North. These investments are starting to pay off, with the Northern Powerhouse economy now worth in excess of £329 billion – larger than the economies of Norway and Austria.

Thirty North stars

There are around 30 universities in the North of England and each is an anchor institution of its community. They believe that their role includes delivering deep, transformational impact on society. From grass-roots programmes helping young people discover a passion for learning, to running initiatives which help local SMEs, Northern universities are helping to rejuvenate local areas where there has been historic industrial decline.

Teesside University’s DigitalCity initiative is a great example of this. Through connecting local businesses with the knowledge, skills and expertise they need to flourish in the digital age, the university has helped create 286 businesses and more than 700 new jobs while boosting the thriving tech economy of the North East.

Similarly, the University of Central Lancashire in Preston is working with the city council in adopting a pioneering grassroots approach from America to tackling inequality and keeping profits local. By doing so, UCLan is enhancing its presence and contribution to the community it serves – for example through projects that increase undergraduate co-operative education which lead to business plans for graduates, who will hopefully discover new opportunities and reasons to remain in Preston.

With our combined strength, there are new opportunities for the Northern Powerhouse to position itself at the heart of future growth as a resilient and modern Northern economy, one that is ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with Britain exiting the European Union. Through working together, we believe that the world-leading universities of the Northern Powerhouse will be instrumental in forging the global Britain of tomorrow.

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