- The North East has one of the healthiest science and technology sectors in the UK. Statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that the more than 21% of people in the North East workforce are employed in science and technology industries, with the region’s life sciences and healthcare sector the largest in England in terms of the proportion of the population working in it.
- The science and technology sector has 221,300 people working for more than 14,000 people in the North East, meaning it is behind only the South East and East of England — where figures are skewed by Oxford and Cambridge – in terms of the proportion of people working in the sector.
- The North East has historically had strength in the life sciences sector, thanks to the top medical school at Newcastle University and long-established health companies like Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), MSD and Piramal Pharma Solutions.
- The North East life science sector is a significant jobs contributor, employing 7,928 people in 167 businesses with a combined turnover of around £1,151million.
- The North East accounts for 3.9% of the UK’s total life science employment; 2.48% of the UK’s total life science companies; and 2.92% of the UK’s total life science sector turnover.
- According to the ONS business register and employment survey, there are 7,070 persons employed in the North East’s life science sector. This is approximately 3.3% of Britain’s life science industry.
- The largest life science subsector in the North East is manufacture of pharmaceutical preparations, accounting for 42% of the region’s total life science employment. Other research and experimental development on natural sciences and engineering accounts for over one-third (35%) of total life science employment, while the manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products subsector employs an estimated 800 persons.
- North East LEP recently launched its Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Steering Group and Strategy, which aims to double the number of jobs in the North East’s health and life sciences sector, and double the number of businesses active in the region’s health and life sciences community. Demonstrates the importance of this particular sector in the region.
- Strong track history of universities and regional healthcare system working together to transform academic research and ideas into healthcare solutions and commercialising products and services.
- Also has strong, collaborative leadership from industry, the public sector, as well as the healthcare sector itself
- Particular strengths in ageing and health, precision medicine, pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical trials.
- The North East’s health and life sciences community played a central role in the UK’s COVID-19 response.
- Newcastle-based QuantuMDx invested over £11 million to accelerate development, scale-up and manufacture of its rapid point-of-care testing system – Q-POC.
- Atelerix, which is based at The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix, developed a ground-breaking solution for cell preservation by using existing technology to extend the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits.
- The CPI, based at NETPark in County Durham, was part of the national taskforce to develop, scale-up, manufacture and supply effective COVID-19 vaccines.
- AIM-listed Kromek PLC, which normally supplies radiation detectors for a range of sectors, switched its manufacturing efforts to ventilators from its site on NETPark to the meet the NHS’s pressing need. The company worked in partnership with Japan’s Metran who provided their established design for the ventilator. Kromek also received a £1.25m investment from Innovate UK to adapt one of their machines which was initially developed to detect pathogens, toxic gasses and other security threats, to look for airborne Covid-19 particles. The company is now trialling the devices at Teesside International Airport as well as at a school in Darlington
- Newton Aycliffe INEOS Hygenics installed 6 new plans in the UK, Germany, France and the USA to manufacture and distribute large volumes of hand sanitiser during the pandemic in order to meet the shortfall, firstly to health authorities, and then more broadly to all
- GSK provided ‘fill and finish’ manufacturing for up to 60 million doses of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine from its Barnard Castle facility for use in the UK. The company collaborated with several organisations around the world on COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic by providing access to its adjuvant technology. Using an adjuvant was particularly important when producing the Covid-19 vaccine since it can reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and contributing to protecting more people.
- North East England has five world class universities offer a high density of STEM-based subjects and the growth in health and life sciences sector will generate even more opportunities for graduates to access really interesting jobs and pursue their careers in the region. Companies can also tap into that expertise and talent through industrial placements and knowledge transfer partnerships
- 50% of the region’s student population is studying STEM-based subjects and one quarter studying study life science-related subjects
- RTC North delivers the STEM Ambassador Hub North, inspiring and empowering students with STEM skills
- Newcastle University is internationally renowned for its work in this field – Ranked in the global top 100 life science and medicine universities [QS world university rankings, 2021]
- Companies based in the region also have access to extensive knowledge and expertise through industrial placements and knowledge transfer partnerships
- The North East also ranks highly in terms of cost competitiveness with lower property costs compared to other parts of the country
- There’s also the unrivalled quality of life on offer in the North East and cheaper cost of living which also makes the region an attractive destination for employees making it easier to attract and retain staff
- North East is home to www.ahsnnetwork.com/map-region/nenc which are at the centre of innovation in health and life sciences
Investors locating to County Durham can benefit from the expertise and support of a number of centres of excellence, particularly focusing on the region’s key strengths of ageing and age-related diseases, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, clinical trials and precision medicine.
Ageing and Health
The North East is home to the world class Campus for Ageing and Vitality, which is a partnership between Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University and is widely recognised as having the highest number of academics in this particular area and being the prime centre of excellence in Europe. The National Innovation Centre for Ageing is also based in the region. This £40m government-backed institute provides state-of-the-art facilities to help develop, build, test and market a broad range of new products designed to make our lives easier as we age.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) based at Newcastle’s Biomedical Research Centre (BCR) is the only BCR in the country to focus on the conversion of lab-based research in ageing and long-term conditions, into practical and meaningful benefits for patients, the public and the health care system.
Enhancing the region’s renowned track history in research and clinical care, Newcastle University and Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) have collaborated to launch the Newcastle Centre for Rare Disease which has been successful in actively shaping and implementing policies to govern diagnostics, treatment, care, research and holistic support for rare diseases on the European and global levels.
In addition, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is also one of only 3 sites in the UK to be awarded INSPIRE (Investor Networks, Site Partnerships and Infrastructure for Research Excellence) site status by Pfizer. This enables both partners to share expert knowledge and experience of medicines research to help bring innovative new medicines to patients in the UK and around the world and patients treated in the North East could have access to the latest advances in treatments through clinical trial programmes.
The North East provides the ideal base for manufacturers due to its stable, skilled, loyal and relatively low-cost workforce as well as available land and financial incentives. Large pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are supported by an established supply chain covering the full product life-cycle from preclinical research and development, clinical research and development including full-scale drug testing trials, pilot-scale manufacturing and full-scale manufacturing.
Businesses also benefit from access to academic research strengths and centres of excellence including the National Formulation Centre based in NETPark in Country Durham, which focuses on radical formulated products and processes and the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Darlington which is run by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), boasting 14 laboratories- including analytical suite, cytotoxic and viral vector labs as well as two GMP standard labs. The Centre for Innovation in Formulation also provides specialist support by focusing on newly formulated products and processes as well as the advanced chemical synthesis and biotransformation activities taking place in Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria universities.
The North East has significant clinical trials platforms across different disease/therapeutic areas and very active NIHR Clinical Research Networks. One of the UK’s first virtual clinical trials, recruiting patients from the comfort of their own homes as well as hospital settings, is being run by the NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre (NIHR PRC), which is part of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The move marks a significant step-change in the way patients participate in clinical trials – and how they are run – which has been particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) is home of VOICE, a unique organisation made up of citizens who work with universities and other bodies to improve the focus, quality, relevance and impact of research and innovation and help make a positive difference to the lives of older people across the globe.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also ranks highly in the clinical research and clinical trials league tables by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
This is an emerging practice of medicine that uses an individual’s genetic profile to guide decisions made regarding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. The North East can provide networks and expertise in this area through the Durham Biophysical Sciences Institute which funds new interdisciplinary projects; connects innovative tools to new applications and supports individuals to develop their interdisciplinary leaderships skills.
The NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostic Co-operative (MIC) seeks to develop a vibrant centre of excellence for evaluation of diagnostic tests, making the North East one of the UK’s four leading centres in this area.
Personalised medicine tailored to the biological characteristics of each individual patient’s disease has become a key focus for researchers at the Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre which brings together world-renowned experts from Newcastle University and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The region is also home to the Cancer Research UK Newcastle Centre, delivering world-leading research that accelerates the transition of lab-based discovery to the clinic for the benefit of people affected by cancer. £5m was spent on research last year, and by collaborating and sharing its expertise, scientists, doctors and nurses improving the care of patients across Newcastle and beyond.
Reason to Invest in County Durham
- 7,929 people employed in the North East health and life science sector through 167 businesses with a combined turnover of around £1,151million
- Overall employment in the sector rose by 1,400 between 2010 and 2019
- £3.75 million per annum cost saving for a typical 50-person life science R&D operation in the North East compared to Greater London and £0.5 million per annum compared to Scotland
- £868 million generated for the regional economy from the North East’s significant cluster of the global pharmaceutical industries
- 1.7bn turnover created in 2019 through health and life sciences in the region
- During the last full five-year period (2015-2019), life sciences FDI accounted for 7.97% of the North East’s total inward FDI (in terms of greenfield projects).
- 96% of Durham University’s Chemistry-related research has been deemed world leading or internationally excellent, above the UK average of 91%.
- Top 100 – Newcastle University’s ranking for science and medicine universities [QS world university rankings, 2021]
- 4th highest number of students in life science subjects per 100,000 of the population, of all UK regions, behind only to Scotland, Wales and Greater London.
County Durham Businesses
GlaxoSmithKline – www.gsk.com
Bristol Laboratories – https://bristol-labs.co.uk/
Technimark Ltd – https://www.technimark.com/
Kromek – https://www.kromek.com/
High Force Research – https://highforceresearch.com/
Honeyman Group – https://www.honeymangroup.com/
Lexon UK – https://www.lexonuk.com/
Quantum Pharmaceutical – https://www.quantumpharmaceutical.co.uk/
Immuno Diagnostic Systems – https://www.idsplc.com/
PolyPhotonix – https://polyphotonix.com/
Knights Pharmacy – https://www.knightspharmacy.co.uk/
Northumbria Pharma – https://northumbriapharma.com/
Dodd-Heres Ltd – https://dodd-heres.com/
Mould Systems Europe – https://www.moldsystems.com/
North East Businesses
Recipharm – www.recipharm.com
Leica Biosystems – https://www.leicabiosystems.com/
Nolato Jaycare – www.nolato.com
Immunodiagnostic Systems (IDS) – www.idsplc.com
Onyx Scientific Ltd – https://onyxipca.com/
Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) – www.msd-uk.com
QuantuMDx – www.quantumdx.com/
Sterling Pharma Solution – www.sterlingpharmasolutions.com/
Shield Therapeutics – https://www.shieldtherapeutics.com/
The Specials Laboratory – http://www.specialslab.co.uk/
Regional Skills and Talent
- There are an estimated 7,070 persons employed in the North East’s life science cluster and the region also has the fourth highest number of students in life science subjects per 100,000 of the population, of all UK regions, behind only to Scotland, Wales and Greater London.
- Over 52,000 STEM students at North East universities (50% of the region’s student population)
- Just under half of the 28,135 students (over one-quarter) studying life science related subjects in the North East are studying subjects allied to medicine. A further 35% study biological sciences, while just over one in ten study medicine and dentistry. The remaining life science students (5%) study chemistry.
- More than 125 regional university undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to the life science sector.
- The STEM Ambassador Hub North East is managed by business support agency, RTC North. The Ambassadors from a wide range of STEM backgrounds, volunteer their time and support to promote STEM subjects and inspire young learners using a vast range of original, creative, practical and engaging methods. With a network of over a thousand dedicated and inspiring volunteers in the North East, the STEM Hub works hard to support the STEM curriculum, raise awareness of STEM careers as well as motivate and bring learning to life. https://stem.rtcnorth.co.uk/
- RTC North also delivers The Big Bang Near Me, a UK-wide programme of regional events to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It brings together regional partners, industry, a 1200 strong ambassador network and a mix of organisations delivering the STEM agenda. The team deliver a programme of activity to raise the aspirations and awareness of young people in the region about STEM-based subjects. The showpiece event is a large celebration of regional engineering spread over two days called ‘Bring It On’, at which thousands of pupils from regional schools get to interact with regional employers and see engineering brought to life.
- The business support agency has a long affiliation with science and technology, currently holding the STEM Ambassador Hub North East contract. It also delivers a regionwide mentoring programme in partnership with The Careers and Enterprise Company, both of which have a significant focus on STEM engagement.
North East Universities have expertise in the following areas:
Areas of expertise
University of Durham
University of Northumbria at Newcastle
The University of Sunderland
The North East is one of the least expensive locations in the country to hire life sciences staff. The typical cost saving is over 31% compared to Greater London, 19% compared to the South East of the UK, and over 14% compared to the East of England for a laboratory specialist. It is also around 25% cheaper compared to Cambridge. The cost savings are significant considering Durham is only 260 miles from London or less than 3 hours by train
The region has some of the most cost-effective Grade A office space available in the UK. Compared to Scotland, North East office costs are over one-third less expensive, while they are less than one-quarter the cost of those in London.
The North East’s office costs are also highly competitive against other life science locations including Cambridge with cost savings of between 53% compared to Cambridge.
The region is also one of the least expensive locations in the UK to establish a life science R&D centre based on annual operating costs of a 50-person facility with grade A office space. It offers over £3.76 million annual cost savings compared to Greater London, almost £0.5 million savings compared to Scotland and £0.25 million saving compared to the East of England. It also offers cost savings of over £1 million per annum compared to Cambridge.
Business Incentives and Support for the Sector
Durham Future Innovation Building (DFIB)
A Business Durham innovation programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), supporting businesses in the County who are investing in research and innovation. Healthcare is one of the key sectors for the programme including businesses providing medical services, manufacturers of medical equipment or drugs, providers of medical insurance and those who facilitate the provision of healthcare to patients. Support includes:
- Masterclasses and workshops designed to enable a business to transform and innovate
- One to one support with specialist expertise to take innovation to commercialisation
- Signposting to industry experts
- The opportunity to apply for grant funding to support research and development
- Access to sector-based ecosystems with opportunities for networking with business, academia and enablers
Finance Durham Fund is a £20 million investment fund established by Durham County Council in 2017 with an aim to support business growth & job creation in County Durham. The fund has an economic development focus with emphasis on developing high growth SMEs. Delivered by Maven Capital
Digital Drive Durham
A fully funded programme of business support, which also includes grant funding to help SME’s to improve & grow digitally. Grants of up to 40% are available for digital projects. Delivered by UMi (on behalf of Business Durham).
County Durham Growth Fund
A £8.9 million programme of investment. The fund offers capital grant funding to support SME’s looking to expand or establish new operations in County Durham. Delivered by UMi (on behalf of Business Durham).
Additional sources of funding
Available through various organisations and support programmes like NBSL, RTC North, BEEP, NE BIC, Business Boost.
Research and Innovation
A broad spectrum of institutions, innovation centres and networks that support the functioning growth and development of the sector.
The Biophysical Sciences Institute (BSI) – works to solve major biological challenges by developing new scientific methods and technologies, and to improve instrumentation and data understanding. Key research themes include: Biological Interfaces, Biomolecular Interactions and Visual and Visual Perception
Institute for Medical Humanities – coordinates and supports research on the lived experience of health and illness, with a focus on ‘hidden experiences’ to help improve health policy and practice and benefits of the lives of communities and individuals. Through interdisciplinary investigations spanning across all three university facilities, the institute is developing and expanding research projects on topics including trauma, post-natal depression, addiction, deafness, hallucinations, touch, memory, menopause and anxiety.
Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre (DISC) – provides research across a broad range of topics including infant and child sleep ecology, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), parental sleep, postnatal ward environments and maternal-infant sleep, and cross-cultural infant care practices.
The Wolfson Research Institute – based in a purpose-built building on Durham University’s Queen’s Campus. The Institute conducts and facilitates interdisciplinary research on human health and well-being across all 3 University Faculties:
- Arts and Humanities
- Social Sciences and Health
Durham Centre for Bioimaging Technology (DCBT) – aims to become an International Centre of Excellence, drawing together technological developments such as instrumentation, chemical probes and visualisation; demonstrating the strength of applying these to real biological challenges. The centre is a truly multidiscipline “one-stop shop” for Bioimaging research, bringing together expertise from across Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Computing sciences.
Newcastle University Research Institutes
Newcastle Clinical Research Facility (CRF) – delivers high-quality, cutting-edge experimental medical research in a partnership between Newcastle University and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Expertise is offered in a variety of areas with five main facilities delivering high-quality, cutting-edge experimental medical research:
- Newcastle CRF which focusses on a number on different clinical specialities,
- Clinical Ageing Research Unit (CARU) with a focus on Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Newcastle Dental CRF with a focus on trials in dentistry.
- Paediatric Research Unit
- Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust with a focus on Mental Health
The Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research – built on a long standing clinical and scientific expertise in mitochondrial disease. Research is split into four categories:
- Gene Expression
- Clinical Mitochondrial Disease
- Preventing Mitochondrial Disease
- Microchondria in Common Disease
Biopharmaceutical Bioprocessing Technology Centre – aims to transform process design, and especially bioprocess design, through novel application of analytical tools and techniques. Research projects span the traditionally distinct scientific disciplines of biology, chemistry and engineering. Over the last years students have delivered significant technological advances to the UK biopharmaceutical and processing industry.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative – a member of the NIHR MedTech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operative (MIC) network. It offers expertise in generating high quality evidence that demonstrates the potential value of a new medical test. The Centre has a particular focus on in vitro diagnostic tests and aims to ensure that better diagnostics are delivered more quickly for the benefit of patients and their health.
Teesside University Research Institutes and Centres
The Centre for Applied Psychological Science (CAPS) – bridges the gap between theoretical research and applied practice by providing evidence-based solutions to societal challenges. Research is organised around four themes in which members of CAPS have achieved national and international prominence:
- Health and wellbeing
- Vulnerability and communication in the criminal justice system
- Pain and long-term conditions
- Cognition and decision-making
Centre for Rehabilitation – signification research covers complex topics including elite athletes’ responses to training loads, treatment for broken shoulder fractures and guidelines for physical activity levels. Key research themes are; managing long term conditions, exercise and sports science; and applied health psychology. Its team works closely with public health organisations, practitioners and communities to ensure all its research has a real-world impact.
Health Innovation Centre – aims to carry out world-leading research that makes a significant impact on people’s lives and wellbeing. The centre undertakes interdisciplinary research to develop new interventions, tools and therapies for health and social care. Research core areas:
- physical interventions
- optimising treatment
- future therapies
- digital health
The National Horizons Centre (NHC) – a £22.3m centre of excellence for the bioscience industries. With research, partnerships and training at its core, the NHC brings together industry, academia, talent and world-class facilities to create real-world impact. The centre is focussed around three core specialism:
- Disease-specific research
- Digital analytics and machine learning
Through fundamental and applied research, the NHC prides itself on discovering diseases earlier, developing novel treatments and delivering life-saving medicines quicker, safer and more affordably.
Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) – with 15 AHSNs across England connecting NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry. The North East and North Cumbria AHSN is a catalysts for creating the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients. This means they are uniquely placed to identify and spread health innovation at pace and scale; driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations.
CPI – a leading independent technology innovation centre based on NETPark in County Durham and a founding member of the UK Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The Centre acts as a catalyst bringing together academia, businesses, government and investors to translate bright ideas and research into the marketplace. It does this by giving customers access to the right experts, equipment, networks, funding and more – connecting the dots for effective innovation.
Bionow – a not for profit membership organisation supporting the biomedical, pharma and life sciences sectors across the North of England. The organisation does this by bringing people together through conferences and events across region, being an advocate for the North, and providing comprehensive procurement member benefits that strengthen the competitiveness of the North East’s innovative life science sector. Its mission is to provide the tools and support to enable organisations to become amongst the most competitive in the industry through a range of specialist products and services.
Nepic – a not-for-profit organisation that supports the needs and interests of the chemical-processing sector in the North East of England. It aims to ensure industry in the region thrives through investments, innovations and a network that will create jobs and opportunities long into the future. By working closely with member companies, Nepic forges business relationships that allow it to identify opportunities, facilitate connections, promote collaboration and enable growth. It also works with a range of stakeholders including universities, research institutes and public bodies to leverage additional value for the sector.
Diagnostic North East (DxNE) – a network of organisations supporting the development, evaluation and adoption of diagnostics for better patient outcomes. This innovative initiative brings together a wide range of research infrastructures, capabilities and resources across the North East of England. As a connected network, it can help diagnostic developers with every stage of the development pathway including research, evaluation and adoption of their technologies into healthcare systems and represents an effective collaboration between organisations.
STEM Ambassador Hub North East England – one of 19 STEM Ambassador Hubs coordinating volunteering opportunities of over 30,000 STEM Ambassador volunteers across the UK. The Hubs offer a range of support, opportunities and local expertise, developing links between groups and individuals working to enhance young people’s STEM education.
Key Sites and Premises
North East Technology Park (NETPark), Sedgefield, County Durham
NETPark of the UK’s premier science, engineering and technology parks and home to some of the world’s fastest-growing companies. It provides the right mix of infrastructure, collaborative opportunities and support for science, engineering and technology companies. NETPark supports innovative businesses at every stage of their journey from concept to commercialisation with a wide choice of world-class laboratory, clean room and office space from 151 sq ft to 22, 110 sq ft.
Companies located at NETPark have access to a focused and international community where talent flourishes, ideas are generated and businesses have the infrastructure, support and resources to compete with the best in the world.
Since opening in 2004, NETPark has attracted more than 70 firms and is also home to The North East Satellite Applications Catapult.
NETPark Phase 3a will be a £85m extension over 26-acres, featuring an iconic gateway building for the hub, laboratories, offices, break-out rooms, and warehousing – creating expansion opportunities for established companies and paving the way for an influx of new space sector enterprises. Phase 3a will offer bespoke business solutions from 10,000 to 50,000 square feet, designed to take the region’s capabilities to a new level.
For more information visit: https://www.northeasttechnologypark.com/
The North East Health, Life Sciences and Medicines Manufacturing Strategy has been developed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) working in partnership with the NHS, businesses, universities and leaders in the health and life sciences sector.
The vision is to position the North East as a leader in the development, testing, manufacturing and adoption of people-centred treatments, therapeutics and medicines at a time of demographic change.
By 2030 the aim is also to see the number of jobs in the sector doubled from 12,000 to 24,000 and to double the number of businesses active in the North East health and life sciences community from 150 to 300.