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Council and university partnership going from strength to strength

Two of County Durham’s most influential institutions have committed to strengthening their already successful partnership, by making their joint working agreement even more ambitious for the county’s economy and communities.

Durham County Council and Durham University have been working together for the good of the county for decades, and first signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2017. Through this they agreed to work together to raise the national and international profile of County Durham and Durham University with governments, businesses and others to attract talent, money and businesses and benefit local communities.

Since then, the partners have worked together on:

  1. Economic regeneration and development, including the Durham University Enterprise Zone ‘Orbit’ at NETPark, Sedgefield; the development of the Aykley Heads site in Durham City; and the Durham City Incubator business growth hub;

  2. Many cultural events and festivals, including Lumiere light festival, Durham Book Festival, the Durham City Run Festival and Durham Vocal Festival, as well as County Durham’s recently-shortlisted bid to be UK City of Culture 2025, in which both the council and the university are principal partners;

  3. Using the university’s world-leading research expertise to enhance quality of life for County Durham residents, particularly focusing on energy; poverty reduction; educational attainment; sports, wellbeing and exercise science; inclusive economic growth; using data analysis and modelling to inform policy-making and delivery; and public health and inequalities.

Now the council and university have refreshed and strengthened the MoU, to reflect current opportunities and facilitate the county’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

John Hewitt, chief executive of Durham County Council, said: “We greatly value our close working relationship with Durham University and are really pleased to be showing our commitment to that continuing by re-signing the Memorandum of Understanding for a further three years.

“Pooling the skills and areas of expertise at our two institutions behind a shared set of goals can only be to the benefit of County Durham and we very much look forward to working together to strengthen our economy and raise our profile on not only a regional but national and global stage.

“The bid both organisations are working on to make County Durham UK City of Culture 2025 is evidence of the efforts already being made in this regard, and the fact we have just made it to the shortlist of four from the initial 20 competing locations is evidence of what we can deliver when we collaborate.

“It also signals our shared ambition to make our county a focal point in this region for culture and heritage and we are very excited at what we can continue to achieve by working together.”

Professor Karen O’Brien, vice-chancellor, Durham University, said: “We share Durham County Council’s commitment to driving economic growth that benefits communities across our county.

“The partnership between the council and the university offers us the opportunity to leverage the scale, capability and capacity of our organisations and associated partnerships to make a real, positive difference in the county and on the global stage.

“We are pleased to have strengthened our Memorandum of Understanding and look forward to working with the council and others as we seek to develop shared strategies to level up opportunities in our region.


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