Newcastle’s global hub for urban innovation enters next phase in development

An image of how the Newcastle Helix site could look, subject to planning approval.
Image: Render 3D. How the site could eventually look, subject to planning approval.

Rise of the Helix

Newcastle’s global hub for urban innovation enters next phase in development

A new round of construction and investment is underway for Science Central, the UK’s biggest urban development site outside London and an internationally-renowned innovation centre for sustainable engineering, ageing and data sciences

The site is a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, and Legal & General, and is already home to Newcastle University’s award-winning Urban Sciences Building and The Core, a seven-storey home for knowledge based science and technology SMEs.

The third building on the site – the ‘Newcastle Laboratory’ – will open later this year, providing laboratories and offices for a wide range of scientific based companies, primarily life science and healthcare.

Both The Core and Newcastle Laboratory have secured significant funding through the previous and current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes, which help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

The next two years will see the opening of the National Innovation Centres for Data and Ageing and Newcastle University’s £29m Learning and Teaching Centre.

And Legal & General are poised to announce their plans for the site’s first private sector building, The Lumen, a 100,000 sq ft Grade A office development. The development is bringing high quality jobs to Newcastle and the North East: around 4,000 people will work on site when it is complete, from academics to entrepreneurs.

In recognition of the move to a new phase of development, research, and collaboration which will firmly launch it as a leading international innovation quarter, the site is being re-named Newcastle Helix.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Councillor Nick Forbes said:

"Our ambitious plans for this site continue to progress and as work on the site moves to the next phase we feel it is the right time to rename the site Newcastle Helix.

"The ground-breaking developments that are taking place will firmly position our city as a major national and international hub for scientific research and technology businesses, creating knowledge based jobs for future generations in Newcastle. 

"Not only will we be creating more office and research space for businesses and academics in the new, state-of-the-art buildings, but work will also start on the residential element of the site, which will result in 450 homes right at the heart of the city for both families and those looking for apartment living. "

International hub for urban innovation

Newcastle Helix is a £350million flagship project bringing together academia, communities, business, industry and the public sector.

Being transformed into an exemplar of urban sustainability, this unique site is a testbed for innovative technologies and solutions that will tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing cities around the world, such as flooding, resilient infrastructure and energy.

Drawing on the expertise of key industry partners such as Siemens, Microsoft and Northumbrian Water, the aim is for Newcastle Helix to improve the lives of people not just in Newcastle, but all over the world.

Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Chris Day, explains:

“The North East of England has been at the forefront of innovation for more than 200 years from Stephenson’s Rocket and Charles Parsons’ invention of the steam turbine, to being granted the world’s first ever licence to offer fertility treatment to mothers affected by mitochondrial diseases.

“Now, Newcastle Helix is set to be a site of world-leading research and technological advances alongside global businesses that will enable us to write the next chapter in our region’s enviable story of invention and innovation.”

Central to the ongoing success of Newcastle Helix is the unique public/private sector partnership between Legal & General, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University. The investment this has secured has driven forward the ambitions for the site and the city.

“Newcastle is thriving,” says Rachel Dickie, Head of Urban Regeneration at ‎Legal & General.

“There’s so much investment happening, so many big projects in the pipeline. We’re delighted to be one of three partners leading this flagship development that will bring more great jobs, homes and retail and leisure venues to the city centre.”

Newcastle Helix

First announced in 2004 by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, the 24-acre former brewery site has been transformed through a period of demolition, urban coal mining, groundworks and construction to take shape as the UK's biggest urban development site outside London.

Explaining the new name, the partners said the aim was to ‘really hone our vision for the site, and the vision of our partners’.

“Our shared purpose is to help us all live better lives, whether you’re living, working, studying or visiting here. The new name represents the coming together of academic, business, industrial, public sector, social and residential ventures in pursuit of living better.

“We want to use the early successes on the site, together with a reinvigorated marketing campaign, to attract investment, collaborations and partnerships from all over the world.”

The development plans for Newcastle Helix will feature as part of the Great Exhibition of the North. The country’s biggest event in 2018, the exhibition has a packed programme of exhibits, live performances and new artworks. The exhibition’s Get North Innovation Trail includes the Helix site and visitors will be able to learn more about the future of Newcastle Helix as they walk along the trail.