England's northern universities have recruited a big hitter from Cambridge University to head an alliance that aims to narrow the economic gap between North and South.
David Secher, Cambridge's research director, has been appointed chief executive of N8, a partnership of research-intensive northern universities that claims to rival Oxbridge, Imperial College London and University College London.
The group, which has a turnover of £1.75 billion, comprises Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York universities. It was formed in 2004 in response to The Northern Way, a government-led initiative to foster economic growth in the North.
Dr Secher, who is also the chairman of the UK's technology-transfer programme Praxis and is a Northerner by birth, plans to expand links between N8 and businesses.
He said: "The N8 universities contain some of the best research in this country. I am delighted to have this unique opportunity to lead the collaboration and continue the outstanding work already undertaken in the north of England."
Dr Secher will start his role by overseeing an N8 study into why those who live in the North have a shorter life expectancy than those in the rest of the country.
He has been director of Cambridge's research services for five years, in which time he has doubled its income from technology transfer and helped take it to the top of the research income league table. He was previously director of drug development for the Cancer Research Campaign.