Universities’ place in North West economic plan highlighted

David Cameron and George Osborne have trumpeted universities’ involvement in plans to boost the economy of the North West

January 8, 2015

Source: The University of Manchester

National Graphene Institute, Manchester

Speaking in Manchester, the prime minister and the chancellor said they planned to make the region a “global centre of outstanding scientific innovation”, partly through investing in the area’s higher education institutions.

The National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester will open in March 2015, with the £60 million Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre also based in the city.

Construction of the £15 million University Enterprise Zone in Liverpool will also begin this year. The facility will house and support new businesses focused on “sensor technologies”.

The former Shell site at Thornton Science Park at the University of Chester will meanwhile provide a base for research on a range of energy technologies including shale gas and carbon capture and storage.

Mr Osborne meanwhile announced that Ian Greer, provost of health and life sciences at the University of Liverpool, will develop “Health North”, a new programme aimed at pumping new investment in health research in the north of England.

These moves follow major investment in the North West announced in the Autumn Statement, with the £250 million Sir Henry Royce Institute for Materials Research and Innovation, a centre for the study of advanced materials, set to open in 2019.

Investment in research is being backed up by money in other areas as part of a “six-point plan” that the government hopes will boost the region’s economy.

Investment in transport is central to the plans with £42.6 billion already set aside for new high speed rail links between the north and south of England. While money will also be made available for housing and projects in science and supercomputing, the Treasury says.

The Treasury estimates that the plan to establish a Northern powerhouse could generate as much as £18 billion for the region’s economy by 2030.

Mr Cameron argued that it was essential to rebalance the UK economy and invest in the country’s major cities.

“We can only have a strong British economy if no part of the country is left behind. In the USA they’ve got major centres of industry not just in New York but in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta,” he said.

However, responding to the speech, Labour’s Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, said Mr Cameron “had a cheek” coming to the city at a time when the local council was facing drastic cuts.

“People will not be fooled by the prime minister’s weasel words when the city has paid a heavy price for his failed economic plan,” she said.

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