Teesside University’s contribution to levelling up in the Tees Valley has been praised by a senior government minister.
As part of his first official visit since being appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP toured Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre at Central Park in Darlington.
The £22.3m centre of excellence for the biosciences industries has played a vital role throughout the Covid-19 pandemic working with regional and national business to help train and upskill the vaccine manufacturing workforce.
The National Horizons Centre brings together industry, academia, talent and world-class facilities to create real-world impact in the life sciences sector.
Through key industry partnerships, the National Horizons Centre is also developing and growing Darlington’s Central Park and the wider region as a global hub for the biomanufacturing sector.
Working with organisations such as local NHS partnerships, the centre translates academic knowledge into interventions which deliver real world impact in areas such as addressing healthcare inequality.
At the same time, it is collaborating with industry and local further education providers to develop a pipeline of skilled employees for Tees Valley life science industries, helping keep businesses sustainable and retaining well-paid, skilled jobs in the region.
The work of the National Horizons Centre forms part of Teesside University’s wider commitment to transforming lives and economies through providing industry-relevant expertise, work-ready graduates, civic transformation and social impact.
The university’s work in this regard saw it being named University of the Year for Social Inclusion in this year’s Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide earlier this month.
During his visit, the Secretary of State was introduced to key staff and researchers at the National Horizons Centre who are working on cutting-edge life sciences projects such as new approaches to cancer therapy and utilising microbes to create biogas energy.
In addition, he was given a demonstration of the National Horizons Centre’s new virtual reality training facility, which simulates the operation of a bioproduction plant allowing users to actively engage with virtual scenarios to improve productivity.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove MP said: “It was great to visit the National Horizons Centre and see how more than £17m of government investment from our Local Growth Fund is helping this state-of-the-art facility undertake crucial work in bioscience and healthcare.
“This centre enables scientists and academics to discover diseases earlier, develop novel treatments and deliver life changing medicines to those in need. This centre plays a crucial role in boosting opportunities and skills for the people of Darlington and across the region, and is a great example of levelling up in action.”
Teesside University vice-chancellor and chief executive, Professor Paul Croney, said: “I was delighted to welcome the Secretary of State to Teesside University and pleased that our region had the honour of hosting his first official visit in this critical role.
“As an anchor institution, Teesside University believes in the transformative power of education and takes an uncompromising approach to levelling-up opportunity. Our commitment to this work was recently recognised with the award of The Times and Sunday Times University of the Year for Social Inclusion.
“Universities are critical in realising the ambition to ‘level-up’. It is only through collaborative and long-term action that we can address the deep-rooted issues this agenda seeks to resolve.
“Through applied research, high quality partnerships and delivery of outstanding learning opportunities, Teesside University is a catalyst for positive change, driving economic prosperity and social mobility.
“We are fully supportive of the Government’s focus on levelling-up and look forward to future fruitful discussion about the pivotal role of Teesside University in providing solutions at pace.”
Dr Jen Vanderhoven, director of the National Horizons Centre, added: “As we have seen in recent months, the biosciences industries play a vital role in the UK economy,
“We were delighted to be able to demonstrate to the Secretary of State how the National Horizons Centre is working to discover diseases earlier, develop novel treatments, and deliver life changing medicines to those in need, quicker, safer and more affordably.
“Addressing these grand societal challenges through applied research is a vital element of levelling-up.”
• Pictured above (left to right): Professor Tim Thompson, Dean of Teesside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences; Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP; Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington; Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Director of the National Horizons Centre.