Northern research and Innovation power showcased at Lancaster University

A group of people looking at research models on table
The Lancaster University event focussed on the role of universities as regional anchor institutions translating research excellence and producing the talent pipelines required to enhance prosperity.

Leaders from the UK’s main research strategy and funding bodies came to Lancaster University this month as part of a two-day event celebrating research and innovation in our region.

The event, which brought together stakeholders from across the North West, was part of ‘UKRI Connect’, a series of engagement events showcasing the excellence of regional research and innovation strengths and opportunities outside London.

The Lancaster University event focussed on the role of universities as regional anchor institutions translating research excellence and producing the talent pipelines required to enhance prosperity.

As well as highlighting the value of UKRI investments to communities and economies, both locally and nationally, UKRI Connect: North West was also an opportunity to link communities across different sectors to discuss shared endeavours, challenges and explore opportunities for working together.

Around 60 regional leaders attended a briefing on innovation, focussing on the idea of an innovation ‘cluster of clusters’ in the North West, which together present ‘transformational opportunities’ for the region.

These clusters encompass the North West Cyber Corridor (catalysing impacts of Government regional investment in GCHQ Manchester and the National Cyber Force in Lancashire), the Nuclear Energy renaissance and an emerging SME-led ‘Electech’ cluster in the North West, with significant opportunities to support the growth of advanced manufacturing, defence, cyber, nuclear and broader regional clusters. They would also include coastal community transformation through opportunities including submarine manufacturing and net zero energy production in Barrow and Eden Morecambe.

Lancaster University Director of Research Enterprise and Innovation, Dion Williams, said: “The scale of these clusters is already significant. For example, our region is home to the second largest cyber cluster in the UK; the fourth biggest aerospace cluster globally is in Lancashire; the fastest growing digital and tech sector in Europe is in Greater Manchester.

“The National Cyber Force’s move to Lancashire has been heralded the generational opportunity for regional transformation. Our universities, as key anchor institutions sitting at the heart of this vibrant regional research and innovation ‘ecosystem’, have a key role to play in helping to realise social and economic prosperity. Working together with national and international partners, we have the potential to bring about a renaissance in the region from Manchester to Lancaster and beyond."

Lancaster University, which hosted the event, has a strong track-record of working across disciplines and in partnership with global experts in business, academia and the community to effectively tackle real world challenges. Key research developments from fields such as cyber security, quantum physics, innovation leadership, design and linguistics were showcased and their benefits to society explored.

From researchers to innovative businesses, laboratories to libraries, and manufacturers to museums, the aim of the ‘Connect’ events is to discover and understand the local connections across the research and innovation system.

Lancaster University Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor, Louise Heathwaite, said: “A year on from the creation of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in February 2023 which set out an ambition to put research and innovation at the heart of Government strategy, it was an honour to host this event at Lancaster.

“As a research-intensive University we were proud to welcome the cream of UK Research and Innovation to share and celebrate both our own work and that of the many others across the region with whom we are closely engaged in delivering research and innovation with lasting impact for our communities.

“During the event, two expert panels provided insight into the strategy for science and technology and its delivery and provided valuable insights on investing for growth to deliver lasting outcomes felt at national and global level.

“Through working together – across disciplines and boundaries – and through collaborative learning such as this event, we will address key challenges facing society.”

Speakers included Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Isobel Stephen, UKRI Executive Director of Strategy, Performance, and Engagement

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Research England Executive Chair

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair

Stian Westlake, ESRC Executive Chair

Professor Charlotte Deane MBE, EPSRC Executive Chair

Paul Vernon, STFC Executive Director for the Business and Innovation and Head of Daresbury Laboratory.

Professor Jonathan Dawes, EPSRC Deputy Executive Chair

Dean Cook, Innovate UK Director for Place and Levelling-up

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