FOUR North-East universities are joining forces to support new businesses aimed at commercialising cutting edge research.

The Northern Accelerator project, a collaboration between Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland, has been given £4.9m of Government funding.

It builds on an existing partnership between Durham and Newcastle and is aimed at getting the universities to work together to deliver research to the market place and to develop entrepreneurship among academics.

Roy Sandbach, chair of the Northern Accelerator Strategic Advisory Board, said: “Our North-East universities do world-class research not just for knowledge creation but to deliver national and regional economic prosperity and employment.

“This award supports a leading-edge approach to the engagement of academia with business expertise, providing start-up advice, development and long-term funding.

“It will be a game-changer for the North-East’s economy and a vital contribution to the delivery of the regional strategic economic plans.”

It is hoped the project will build upon the current success of university spin-out companies, encouraging more start-ups and enhancing the region’s economy.

Existing spin-outs include Kromek plc and Atelerix, while Sunderland researchers are establishing a company to develop new drugs, including one to treat the rare genetic condition Cystinosis.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “The North East has some of the most innovative people, businesses and organisations and I am determined to build on its success.

“Improving our ability to bring new innovations and products to market is crucial to the success of the UK economy and the new set of projects will further strengthen the link between our world leading universities and businesses.”

The project, which runs until March 2021, will focus on four key areas of regional strength – advanced manufacturing, the chemicals and process sector, life sciences and healthcare and digital.