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Business Partnerships

Northumbria University is committed to working in partnership and sees this as essential to support its ambition as a business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic quality.

Northumbria’s partnerships extend to public, private and cultural sector organisations in the North East of England and beyond. They support investment in skills, innovation, enterprise, entrepreneurship and economic growth, as well as improving the employment opportunities available to graduates.


Unilever: Improving the sustainable use of packaging, water and energy

  • Arts, Design and Social Sciences, Design led innovation

Northumbria University, Newcastle, has recently announced a formal partnership with Unilever, one of the world’s largest fast-moving consumer goods companies.

The move follows a decade of collaboration between Unilever and Northumbria School of Design and corresponds with the launch of the University’s design-led open innovation centre INNOVATE, based in Gateshead’s Northern Design Centre. Under the partnership, academics and students from Northumbria School of Design are working at INNOVATE to help Unilever establish new and exciting ways of meeting their sustainability targets around packaging, water-use and energy.

Key projects will focus on areas including new packaging technology and innovation, with much of the new work centred on ground-breaking research by Professor Raymond Oliver, from Northumbria School of Design. With more than 2 billion customers around the world using a Unilever product every day designing for behavioural change will also make a significant difference.

Lucy Winskell OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business & Engagement) at Northumbria University, said: “We have a strong track record of collaboration with Unilever and we are delighted to be strengthening the relationship through INNOVATE. It is an incredibly exciting opportunity to help Unilever hit its sustainability targets and make a genuine difference on a global scale, for our pioneering research to have positive impact and for our students to gain real world experience at the highest level.

“The success of our partnership model developed with Unilever is an approach we can replicate with other businesses. At a regional level INNOVATE also supports the North East LEP Strategic Economic Plan. It works because it is extremely easy for partners to access a unique cross-faculty resource of research-engaged academics and talented students to solve problems and deliver solutions. With INNOVATE multidisciplinary knowledge is available through one door and under one roof.”

Paul Howells, Unilever’s Vice President R&D for Packaging, added: “For a business like Unilever, tapping into the latest academic thinking and research is clearly invaluable. We are working with Northumbria because we believe they bring something unique and special which can help us to achieve our long-term goals, particularly associated with sustainability. The university already has extremely strong design, technology and business capabilities – bringing this together under one roof, as INNOVATE has done, makes for a very attractive proposition.

"The partnership also gives us the opportunity to work with very capable young people who may decide that Unilever is the sort of organisation they would like to work with, and vice versa. An organisation like Unilever is only as good as the talent it attracts, so this is a nice additional benefit.”

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts

Caption: Godfrey Worsdale with Professor Andrew WatheyPartnerships

  • MA Fine Art
  • Charity

The MA Fine Art and Education is delivered jointly by Northumbria and BALTIC and is open to artist teachers wanting to develop their artistic and teaching practice. It aims to support and promote continuing professional development, and bring teachers up-to-date in terms of contemporary art production.

The long-standing partnership between Northumbria and BALTIC has recently been taken to a new level with the agreement to establish an Institute of Contemporary Art, directed by a BALTIC Professor, to provide world class learning and mentorship in Contemporary Art PhD research.

"The support of the University makes BALTIC’s research capabilities stronger, helping us to work more closely with students at all levels, broaden our audience and strengthen BALTIC’s learning and curatorial research."

Godfrey Worsdale, Director, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

"The announcement of this initiative will continue to raise the national and international reputation of BALTIC, Northumbria University and NewcastleGateshead as a whole."

Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive, NewcastleGateshead Initiative

"This is an important, innovative new partnership between two outstanding institutions which will significantly increase the creative and learning opportunities open to students, and to staff in both organisations."

Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University

Newcastle City Council Youth Offending Team: Evidenced based Practice

  • Arts, Design and Social Sciences, Department of Social Sciences
Developing excellence and innovation in evidenced based practice whilst offering a unique work experience opportunity for undergraduate students 

What we did
Through reviewing work already undertaken by Northumbria University and Newcastle Youth Offending Team we brought together a number of key academic staff and aligned criminal justice agencies and developed a steering group with representation from the Police, Probation, Safe Newcastle, Local Authority as well as the academic staff from across the University. The aim of the steering group was identified as:

  • Promoting wider collaboration with criminal justice and third sector partners
  • Fostering innovation and creative problem solving
  • Integrating local evidence based perspective to service development
  • Improving student opportunities in the practice arena, and further support research informed teaching.

As a result of the partnership formally launched in 2012 the Newcastle Youth Offending team commissioned the Department of Social Sciences to evaluate a number of critical areas of work whose recommendations have significantly shaped practice, regionally and nationally and supported further applications. In total the Youth Offending Team estimate the net funding gain exceeds £500,000 over the last four years with further funding applications in train. Additionally the model developed by this partnership has been identified by the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers & the Research and Effective Practice teams of the Youth Justice Board as a model of good practice which is feeding into a national stocktake of youth justice. The partnership has also led to support for the Manchester Metropolitan University and Greater Manchester Youth Offending Teams’ partnership and internationally with Tallinn University (Estonia).

Activity undertaken by the partnership is diverse and extensive and includes for example:

  • Research projects looking into first time entrants to the Criminal Justice System, health inequalities, education programmes, legal highs, youth transition and probation, graffiti art projects
  • The development of a social enterprise company which has already won two national awards
  • Performance arts students and staff developing new media training packages
  • A student work experience module
  • Design students (MDI) developing an ‘app’ to support reducing re-offending in young people
  • International research teams developed and bids submitted
  • Held and participated in conferences and research symposiums.

Newcastle Youth Offending Team staff have also had a direct impact on the student experience; delivering sessions on contemporary youth justice to undergraduate and postgraduate students to enhance the vibrant and contemporary curriculum.

The scope and reach of this partnership are boundless. Direct benefit to the operational activity of the YOT and the University can clearly be demonstrated. Within the University academics from Criminology, Design, Performance Arts, Geography, Social work, and Law have been involved. The student opportunities offered are extensive; from work experience, volunteering, support with projects and dissertations guest sessions and research informed teaching. Most important however are the young people who work with the Youth Offending Team and enhancing their experience and quality of life issues is the key driver.

Tharsus Group: Original Engineering Design and Manufacture (OEDM)

  • Newcastle Business School

Northumbria University, Newcastle, has collaborated with advanced manufacturing specialist, Tharsus Group, to highlight a new 'knowledge-based' production concept, Original Engineering Design and Manufacture (OEDM). As part of a study of UK contract manufacturing processes, the University's Newcastle Business School has identified OEDM as an evolutionary outsourcing movement within the sector that has the potential to strengthen the UK’s manufacturing position in the global market. OEDM is an emerging form of outsourcing partnership and brings together supply chain management, Intellectual Property (IP), design and manufacture into one process.

To understand the benefits and challenges surrounding the development and implementation of OEDM, Newcastle Business School worked in partnership with Blyth-based Tharsus Group, which is one of the country’s first OEDM practitioners. Tharsus Group applies OEDM to its build of complex electro-mechanical and Clean-Tech products for market leaders and emerging businesses bringing new products to market. It has developed and manufactured products in partnership with its customers ranging from vehicle parts washers and electric car charging points to glass bottle crushers.

Newcastle Business School's research surmises that OEDM can enable British companies with product concepts and designs, but no in-house production capabilities, to retain manufacturing in the UK with the support of experienced design engineers and production specialists. This is especially pertinent to IP-based companies, which are more focused on sales, marketing and product support.

Professor Fraser McLeay, from Newcastle Business School, said: “The UK has an exceptional ability for invention, but has often had to rely on outsourcing manufacturing to foreign countries to bring products to market. While this can offer cost advantages, this form of traditional contract manufacturing is not always suitable for more complex, engineering-based products and, therefore, can lead to the loss of jobs and revenue generation to foreign competitors.

“OEDM is based on collaboration and an effective practitioner will not only produce a customer’s product, but help with new product development, manage its supply chain and oversee its production.

“For businesses bringing new concepts and products to the market, an effective OEDM service can both speed up product development and retain the knowledge-based manufacturing element in the UK.

“I would suggest that OEDM is a concept that will soon become increasingly prevalent among UK contract manufacturers as they look for new and innovative ways to retain manufacturing in the UK and offer customers a more comprehensive service. It provides companies with holistic solutions that they can often not find in house or by going to a contract manufacturer, designer, or supply chain partner. It therefore removes the need to engage multiple partners on a project, creating a one-stop-shop offering, which saves time and money.”

Brian Palmer, Chief Executive of Tharsus Group, said: “OEDM is ideally suited to face the challenges presented by the shorter product life-cycles found in developed economies such as the UK and Europe. Based on genuine collaboration and offering a comprehensive suite of services, when the OEDM model is fully embraced it creates win-win collaborations, with real synergies.“We were pleased to work with Newcastle Business School on its research into our sector and I hope that it helps others get a greater understanding of how OEDM can become a core element of the UK’s manufacturing offering.”

Skill Mill: Young offenders’ crime rates drop after working on practical environment based projects.

  • Department of Geography, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

A Partnership supported by an Advisory Board of representatives from The Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water Ltd. The ESH Group, Newcastle City Council, East Durham College, Tyne Rivers’ Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Northumbria University. Skill Mill 1

Research has shown that young offenders engage with practical environmental based reparation and that subsequent crime rates drop amongst this group. An innovative scheme based on these findings saw The Skill Mill set up a scheme to bring ex-young offenders back into jobs and their community via training in flood and environmental management. A Not for Profit Social Enterprise, The Skill Mill provides employment opportunities for young people aged 16-18.

Following 2 years of pilot work in the North East of England The Skill Mill was established to provide high quality cost effective outdoor work with high social impact. This self-funding scheme has seen former youth offenders benefit from the experience of tackling local environmental problems and who now find themselves benefitting from apprenticeships with Environment Agency and The Esh Group. The scheme has won two National Social Enterprise Awards and is being used as a model for roll out into three other regions in the UK.

Skill Mill 2This truly sustainable project builds on five years of collaboration between the University and Newcastle City Council’s Youth Offending Team. The Skill Mill offered opportunities for Northumbria University staff research, consultancy, and work placements for student and graduate jobs. Those to have benefited include ex-young offenders who have the opportunity to escape the cycle of crime, develop practical skills, earn money and get a job, local communities who are more resilient to flooding and have improved local facilities and of course the environment, creating new habitats, protecting rare species, and often removing the problem of invasive alien plant species.

Dr. Peter Glaves, Enterprise Fellow and academic lead for the Skill Mill at Northumbria University, said:

“The project helps former young offenders reconnect and give back to the community and help improve the flood protections and wider environment of the region. I am proud that Northumbria has been able to support this successful social enterprise that has had a real impact on lives in the region.

The scheme benefits the individuals, reduces flood risk, improves habitats and reduces reoffending and the costs society.”

Davie Parks, team manager of Newcastle YOT, and Peter Kerr from the Environment Agency had drawn up the reparation scheme for offenders. “The environmental reparation was really successful. The participants enjoyed the physical work and being outdoors and many had not had that sort of contact with nature before.

We discussed how we could make it better and convert it into something more significant, leading to training and work” said Mr. Parks.

FaulknerBrown Architects

Santander Universities

Northumbria University became a partner of Santander Universities Network in 2015. This partnership offers a range of benefits and opportunities to students, staff and alumni.

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Business Partnerships

Northumbria University is committed to working in partnership and sees this as essential to support its ambition as a business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic quality.


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