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The N8 Research Partnership has appointed Dr Peter Simpson as its new Director.

Dr Simpson, who is currently Director of Discovery Sciences at AstraZeneca, will take up the post on January 6, 2015.

The N8 Research Partnership is a partnership of the eight most research-intensive universities in the North of England (Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York) and works with industry to maximise the impact of this research base by identifying and coordinating research collaborations and fostering innovation.

As its new Director, Dr Simpson will be responsible for overseeing its research programmes across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including food security, industrial biotechnology, social sciences, arts and humanities and policing, as well as building and developing new research groups and collaborations.

Dr Simpson has held a number of leadership roles with AstraZeneca and has been responsible for implementing a series of successful open innovation initiatives across industry and academia. Over the last four years, he has been leading the Open Innovation partnership strategy in new drug targets for AstraZeneca, setting up partnerships with universities, translational centres and other pharmaceutical companies in seven different countries.

He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Biological Sciences and was awarded a PhD by the University of Leicester in Cell Physiology and Pharmacology. Dr Simpson has held visiting fellowships at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in the USA.

He has worked at AstraZeneca since 2006 and previously at Merck Sharp and Dohme for eight years.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds and Chair of the N8 Board of Directors said: “We are delighted that Dr Simpson is joining us at such an exciting time in the North of England, with universities committed to playing a central role in driving economic growth.

“He is an experienced line manager and science leader who has worked with research funders and policy makers in the UK, Europe and in the wider international community. He has an enviable track record in pre-clinical drug discovery and is committed to building effective partnerships that deliver real change across the wide range of disciplines represented in the N8.”

Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at Newcastle University and Chair of the N8 Executive Management Group, which comprises of Pro-Vice-Chancellors from the N8 universities, added: “The N8’s Pro-Vice-Chancellors welcome Peter’s appointment and look forward to working closely with him to advance the N8’s research ambitions, its commitment to asset sharing and its strong working relationships with industry partners, BIS, Innovate UK, HEFCE and the research councils.”

Commenting on the post, Dr Simpson said: “I’m delighted to be taking up the role of Director of the N8 Research Partnership in January 2015. Working alongside Vice-Chancellors, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, academic experts, innovative businesses and partner organisations, to make a real difference to the UK economy, represents an exciting opportunity for me.

“I look forward to beginning my new role and building on the great success the N8 has had to date. I will seek opportunities to establish innovative collaborations across the excellent research centres, universities and companies throughout the North of England, to create new, step-changing partnerships and to strengthen higher education’s links to industry.”

Examples of the N8’s success include the establishment of the N8 Industry Innovation Forum (N8IIF), the first English example of a group of universities making a single, continuous offer to business, run in partnership with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Innovate UK and Regener8, which enables the translation of university and industry research in regenerative medicine into commercial products and clinical benefits.

Dr Simpson replaces Sarah Jackson, who has recently taken up post as the Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Liverpool.

About the N8 Research Partnership:  www.n8research.org.uk