Old rivals in the Northeast are sinking their differences and embarking on joint ventures in a bid to make an international impact. In our latest regional focus, THES reporters examine an outbreak of collaboration
"The ship industry on the river Tyne has not died a death. It has simply adapted to change and regenerated," says Pratyush Sen, professor of marine design and construction and head of the University of Newcastle's Marine Technology Department.
Professor Sen's 100-year-old department has made a similar transition, he says.
In 1989 when the pundits began to write off the North-east's heavy marine industry, the university's marine technology department was rationalised. Marine engineering and naval architecture provision were merged. Jobs were shed, and the department began to move in a new direction.
"The ship industry on the Tyne has moved offshore and high-tech," says Professor Sen. The basic disciplines continued to be strong, but the sort of employment our students were getting into changed. We started looking into high-speed passenger craft. We covered all our bases."
With major new streams in offshore engineering and small-craft technology, the department is now the biggest and perhaps the best in the country, rated 5-star in the Higher Education Funding Council for England's 1996 research assessment exercise, and has 264 undergraduates.
The department works closely with the regenerated business on the Tyne, such as Armstrong Technology Associates, an FPSO firm (Floating, Production , Storage and Offtake) set up by redundant workers from the famous Swan Hunter shipyard. And it also looks to the international arena to help maintain its Pounds 1 million research income.