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Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O’Brien, has told the UK Parliament how university research is driving the UK’s economy and helping businesses thrive.

Professor O’Brien was speaking at a recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary University Group (APPUG).

She was invited to speak about the experience of Durham University in supporting spinouts. 

She also discussed the approach of the Northern Accelerator programme, a collaboration between North East England’s universities, established in 2018, which aims to strengthen the business base of the region through spinouts. 

The meeting, at the House of Lords, was called to discuss a recent independent report on spinout companies commissioned by the UK Government.

Spinout companies are start-up businesses that are based on intellectual property generated through university research.

The report, ‘Independent Review of University Spin-out Companies’, examines the most successful university spinout systems across the world and in the UK.

It makes recommendations to ensure the right incentives are in place for the UK to be a global leader in turning university research into commercial success.

Spinout success stories

Professor O’Brien highlighted commercialisation successes from Durham including Kromek, which manufactures equipment and components for energy-sensitive X-ray imaging machines.

Kromek’s founding CEO is Dr Arnab Basu, who holds a PhD in Physics from Durham.

The company now employs 150 people, with its headquarters and main production facilities at the North East Technology Park (NET Park) in County Durham, North East England, as well as other facilities in the USA. 

Stronger together

Professor O’Brien also highlighted how the work of Northern Accelerator, which brings together Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside and York universities and is aimed at strengthening commercialisation activity, has quadrupled the spinout rate since 2018.

It has created 39 spinouts that have added £120 million Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy in North East England.

Professor O’Brien praised the quantity and quality of Durham’s student and graduate startups, some of which have won awards for helping tackle global challenges such as climate change and sustainable consumption.  

She also highlighted that distinctive regional challenges exist in North East England, in particular the lack of availability of early-stage investment being below the rest of the UK.  

She said that continuing to invest in effective training for future company founders, bringing business leaders together with academics to help marry knowledge and great business practice, and post-spinout support could all contribute to the ongoing success of the spinout ecosystem in North East England.

Find out more

  • Read the full independent review here
  • Professor O’Brien welcomed the review when it was published in November 2023, read more about her response here
  • Discover more about the Northern Accelerator
  • Feeling inspired? Lean more about studying at our international triple accredited business school here.