Durham is looking at the brightest of futures for its residents, businesses and the thousands of students that attend its universities and colleges each year.
It is vital to channel that enormous potential in the right direction – towards the skills needed by businesses in the region – securing success, jobs and a great quality of life for those who are new to the workplace.
It is important to retain as many of the brightest and the best in the region after they finish their education and Business Durham, Durham County Council’s business support service, works closely with further and higher education institutions to ensure that happens.
This joined up approach is even more essential in challenging times when companies have to be dynamic and flexible to adapt to changing circumstances – from the global pandemic to Brexit and supply chain issues to the ongoing energy crisis.
Regions universities key to economic success
Durham University has a global reputation and its work with business is key to the economic success of the area now and in the future.
Durham, together with its neighbours in the county – Sunderland, Northumbria, Newcastle and Teesside Universities, add £2.2bn to the economy and support 34,000 jobs annually.
The value universities bring in terms of helping to attract international investment cannot be understated says the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEIP).
A new report shows that when universities and government work together they create a huge levelling-up potential to bring jobs, skills and opportunities, along with improvements to health and wellbeing – essential to the North East of England.
Universities have a unique role to play by providing the research ecosystem that attracts investment, and by offering an army of skilled graduates for established businesses, industry collaboration and spinouts.
Capitalising on the potential of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is vital. Channelling it to the innovation clusters that spring up near to university campuses creates and undeniable long-term boost for local economies.
County Durham proves a perfect example in terms of the innovation economy with university spinouts from all five universities starting their business journeys on specialist sites across the area – many going on to become global successes and major employers.
George Freeman MP, Minister for Innovation at the Department of Science Innovation and Technology, said: “The UK ranks fourth in the world rankings for innovation.
“Research universities are the jewels in the crown of our R&D economy, laying the foundations for a new era of UK innovation and prosperity in all parts of the UK.
“From training world-class researchers to breakthrough science in world-class labs, high growth spinouts and industry collaborations, UK universities are key to the UK Innovation Economy and our global role as a ‘science superpower’.”
Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University said: “The Orbit University Enterprise Zone brings science and technology companies together to network, share knowledge and make the most of opportunities for growth by connecting them with Durham University’s world-class facilities, equipment and research expertise.
The University operates Orbit at NETPark in Sedgefield and secured £2.3m in funding from Research England and the European Development Fund.
Connecting education providers with business
Based at New College Durham, the North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT) is one of the first 12 Institutes of Technology which are collaborations between further education colleges, universities and businesses.
NEIoT exists to develop high-level technical skills and qualifications to meet the needs of the region both now and in the future. Focusing on advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction and digital NEIoT, also works to build strong partnerships with employers.
It designs, develops and delivers technical training that reflects the needs of industry and inspires learners in order to help grow the local economy, raise aspiration and improve inclusivity and accessibility.
NEIoT has a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities across a number of locations with significant investments being made at all campuses to provide purpose built IoT centres and learning environments equipped with the latest technologies in engineering, built environment, advanced manufacturing, motor vehicle and digital sectors.
One of the hundreds of firms that have benefited from the work of the Institute of Technology is Tridonic, based in Spennymoor.
A global driver of innovation in the field of lighting technology, Tridonic offers top quality and reliability combined with crucial energy savings to cut costs and help the region work towards its Net Zero targets.
Ben Kennard, manufacturing and supply chain manager at Tridonic, said: “Business Durham has provided excellent support, including helping us to access a grant.
“They have also assisted our workforce development plans by identifying training opportunities with local providers who we didn’t even know were on our doorstep. We’ve now been able to hire two apprentices as a result of Business Durham’s help.
“It has been a testing couple of years due to the pandemic and this support has been invaluable. Going forwards, we intend to invest further in technology and skills to strengthen our position in this competitive marketplace.”
Hazel Sykes, skills lead for Business Durham, said: “The skills needed for today’s modern world are ever-changing, and businesses need to evolve quickly to adapt to, and incorporate, new technologies and new working methods.
“It is said that 85 per cent of the jobs of tomorrow may not yet even exist – which will make for an exciting and challenging future.
“It’s a case of being proactive rather than reactive, so these changes don’t come as a surprise. We work with businesses and education providers to ensure the next generation gets the training they need and is prepared to meet the emerging needs of tomorrow’s workforce.
“We help businesses connect to the right talent for their business through our range of partners and are dedicated to developing the next generation of talent.”
To find out more about visit www.businessdurham.co.uk