Spinning Out: North East spinout community at the Catalyst

It was a day of networking, showcasing, visiting, seeing and believing, when almost 100 representatives from the North East’s vibrant research commercialisation community came together at Newcastle Helix’s Catalyst Building.

In an impressive and appropriate venue, with many spinout businesses now based at Newcastle’s Helix site, the invite-only gathering included academic spinout founders, business leaders, funders, investors, university colleagues and those from the wider innovation support network.

Seeing is believing

Gathered together to celebrate the impact of research commercialisation on the North East’s economy, guests were able to get hands-on with some of the prototype products that have been funded by Northern Accelerator pre-incorporation funding, such as the Solar2Water project from Northumbria University.

They also joined guided tours of the labs and facilities of some of the spinout businesses based at The Biosphere – with visitors learning about Lightox, NunaBio, CellRev, 3D Bio-Tissues and Atelerix. The short walk to the neighbouring and equally impressive building allowed guests to appreciate the innovation-hub, getting a valuable insight into the ecosystem that has developed around research-commercialisation over the last few years.

The commercialisation journey

In the Catalyst’s intimate lecture theatre, guests heard the stories of academics and business leaders at varying stages on their commercialisation journey. Dr Jamie Bojko, a Teesside academic developing tests to stop the spread of disease from animals to humans, gave his winning-pitch from his participation in Northern Accelerator’s Future Founders development course. Dr Muhammad Wakil Shahzad, founder of Northumbria University’s EcoTech Solutions, took the room on a journey from lab-life to beginning to realise the true impact of his life’s work. Guests also heard from Durham University’s Respiratone Limited, and prolific academic founder Professor Che Connon – founder of not one but three spinouts from Newcastle University.

Host Jeni Smith of NetKno, chaired a panel discussion with Sarah Slaven, Managing Director of Business Durham; Professor Louise Bracken, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research & Knowledge Exchange at Northumbria University; Martin Cox, Director of Business Development & Enterprise at Newcastle University; and Dr Sterghios Moschos, Associate Professor at Northumbria University and founder and CSO at PulmoBioMed Ltd. The panel discussed the importance of research commercialisation, the impact of spinouts and job creation, and the need for further development in the funding landscape for innovative businesses in the North East.

Roy Sandbach OBE, Chair of Northern Accelerator (pictured at top of article), closed the formal part of the day, reflecting on how far Northern Accelerator has developed since the seed of an idea to revolutionise innovation in the North East. Now a partnership of six universities, having spun out almost 50 businesses, the programme continues to grow, develop and support academics to commercialise their research – creating high potential businesses that create more and better jobs in the region.