The city has a vision to help people live well and independently for longer. It’s not just about being an age-friendly city, it’s about developing new products and services that meet changing needs and aspirations. This is strategically important and will help us to see a growth in business investment and employment, ultimately improving the quality of life for all generations.
As a city we are determined to maximise social and economic opportunities that support healthy and independent ageing, benefiting the city and its people for generations to come.
Our approach as a city has always been distinctive and has gained so much interest from other UK cities and organisations from around the world. I think what makes us stand out is how we are bringing together government, businesses, academics the NHS and the public to create new products and services that are driven by evidence.
And we’ve been doing this for some time. Our International Centre for Life opened in 2000, incorporating research facilities and housing, as well as young and established biotech companies. It is an internationally renowned institution belonging to Newcastle University, with two NHS clinics delivering cutting edge fertility and regenerative medicine therapies and an award-winning visitor attraction and educational facility.
Newcastle University is one of the leading research-intensive Russell Group Universities in the UK. Their Institute for Ageing has 20 years of research into ageing, positioning them as global leaders in this field, this led the UK Government to co-fund the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA). This national facility is a major asset to our region and to businesses who want to meet the needs and aspirations of the public.
NICA is also home to VOICE, a global organisation who work with the public who contribute ideas, experiences, ideas and insights that shape social and technological innovation. Newcastle is also home to one of only two Aging 2.0 chapters in the UK, which supports innovators taking on the biggest challenges and opportunities in ageing.
Newcastle University has also agreed to purchase the site of the former General Hospital and has proposed an ambitious vision to re-develop the 29 acre site incorporating elderly care, research facilities and a residential zone for housing and business development.
These assets make us an ideal testbed for research into healthy ageing and our city is fast becoming a ‘living lab’ where innovative products and services are created and delivered. Our city is full of talented and inspirational people and I don’t think I am being bold when I say that together we are leading the way.
As our demographic ages, research into diseases that affect an older population is becoming a priority. In the UK, the NHS and wider healthcare sector is expected to see increased demand and strain over the coming decades. Fortunately, industry is responding to this and Newcastle is poised to become a hotbed for age-related activities. With strengths life sciences we are seeing so many innovations and ideas that can improve health and the quality of life as we age.
The recently launched Ageing Accelerator Programme run by the Innovation SuperNetwork is a great example of how the city is supporting ageing innovation. Nine companies are currently based in The Biosphere for 6 months where they will receive a package of support to bring their innovations to market.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is the leading UK location for clinical trials and within an hour’s drive from Newcastle Helix life sciences businesses have access to assets that support the entire bench to bedside pathway. Newcastle has a growing reputation for research excellence in life sciences and we are seeing more and more businesses moving to the region because of the eco-system that we have.
For me it’s not just about the life science sector and health-related innovations that extend life expectancy, although this is clearly important. All businesses across all sectors need to think about how to diversify and adapt to meet the needs an ageing demographic. It’s not just about improving health it’s about meeting their needs and aspirations.
For example, the Future Homes Project is looking at how we adapt housing for an ageing society, designing homes that are fit for every life stage. From transport, infrastructure, finance and technology to products and services that we want as we age, the list is endless. Understanding this market means that we can design, develop, test and scale products and services that have the user in mind. The best thing for our region is that businesses have direct access to this world-leading ageing research and expertise.
The US continues to be the primary source market for Foreign Direct Investment into the UK and Boston has strong sector synergies with our region. That’s why we led a delegation to Boston, built around our expertise ageing, nutrition, digital, science and tech. Earlier this year, the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Age Lab, Professor Joseph F Coughlin also visited Newcastle for five days to meet our region’s innovators. Both visits enabled us to share strengths and explore academic, civic, and business opportunities for growth and collaboration.
An ageing society isn’t just something that is happening in the North East, it is a challenge that is facing cities around the world. International links and projects ensure the innovations that we create are globally relevant, they also ensure we put our city on the map globally, shouting about our expertise and why our city is a great place to locate your business. For us, we want firms to know about our assets and expertise to consider Newcastle as a testbed for new innovations. We are a competitive alternative to London, and we need to shout about it!
Newcastle Helix is one of our city’s greatest assets. Its not just the quality of the buildings that are attracting more and more businesses to the site, it’s the unique community of businesses, academics and innovators. I also have no doubt that this will facilitate and accelerate the conversion of research and ideas into commercial products and services that support healthy ageing.