THE region's bid to be regarded as a global hotbed for industrial innovation has been boosted by a new multi million pounds centre of excellence at Durham University.  

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has given the go ahead to a £10m investment from its North East Investment Fund, including £8m from the Regional Growth Fund, to help fund the first phase of the Centre for Innovation and Growth (CIG).

The early phases of the project will support research arising from the long-standing relationship between Durham University and the consumer goods company Procter and Gamble (P&G).

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David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister said: "Innovation is a key driver for economic growth in the UK. This investment will help to create a world class innovation centre in the North-East and provide exciting new job opportunities. Collaborative working between universities and industry is vital if we are to remain ahead in the global race for innovation and growth."

Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East LEP, said: "The CIG further cements the commercial relationship between Durham University and Procter & Gamble and fits very strongly with the open innovation brand that we want to ensure the North-East, its universities and institutions, are known for.

“P&G is one of the world’s leaders in open innovation and the centre provides an opportunity for the company and non-competitive partners to bring problems to the North-East and the North-East to provide solutions. It will strengthen our reputation and branding as a problem-solving region and help to create more and better jobs.”

Professor Roy Sandbach, who leads the strategic innovation strand for the North East LEP said: “The CIG is exactly what we need for the region, a strategic collaboration between a prestigious university and a innovation-centric corporate business partner with global reach. Our regional profile as a destination for inward innovation investment will be greatly enhanced by this initiative.

He added: “Innovation delivery needs great dialogue leading to focussed programmes with shared action and clear metrics. Durham and P&G have shown everyone the way in this. I’m hoping that the new Centre will catalyse even more creative innovation, managed with efficiency and momentum and with broader collaborations.

"It will generate more jobs and build the open innovation brand for the region. The rest of the world will sit up and seriously consider the North-East for innovation investment."

Future expansion of the centre is anticipated to provide an open innovation hub in which Durham University can work with a range of industrial partners. 

The centre will house data handling and laboratory space and act as a catalyst to revolutionise business engagement on a local, national and international scale, the developers said. 

Dr Tim Hammond, the director of Durham Business and Innovation Services at the University, said: “The centre will foster an environment of strong innovation and growth which builds on Durham’s multi-disciplines, its ability to build teams that deliver business partners’ needs, and its proven track record of extensive open innovation over broad domains with leading open innovation exponent, Procter& Gamble.

“It will leverage Durham’s international reputation and use its very strong international business and academic partnerships to realise stronger business growth and boost the world class status of Durham science.”

Work currently being undertaken between P&G and Durham University, such as developing products to wash clothes at lower temperatures, will be applicable to many other industries worldwide.