North can become global leader in media, bioeconomy and quantum technology, says university chief

Koen Lamberts, pictured by Kippa Matthews
Koen Lamberts, pictured by Kippa Matthews
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THE North of England can become internationally recognised for expertise in the cutting edge fields of media, bioeconomy and quantum technology, according to one of Yorkshire’s most senior academics.

Koen Lamberts, vice chancellor of York University, singled out the three areas as the most promising for their commercial scale and ability to increase engagement between academia and business.

In an interview, he told The Yorkshire Post: “We don’t want handouts in the North.

“We want to be able to demonstrate there is real strength in the North and then the investment will follow.”

Mr Lamberts said York University can help shape the Government’s concept of the Northern Powerhouse and show ministers the most productive investment opportunities in research and education.

He said the North can become a national and international leader in media such as video game development and new film production techniques by combining state-of-the-art technology with creativity.

“Look at what Screen Yorkshire is doing and how it is developing with Church Fenton,” he added, referring to the investment fund’s new studio space at the former RAF airfield.

Mr Lamberts said bioeconomy is another field for cutting edge research at York. Bioecononomy is based on using renewable plant and animal resources to produce food, fuels and other materials.

He said: “The bioeconomy is very important internationally but also for Yorkshire because we are an agricultural region and there are lots of companies of all sizes and scale that are active around the bioeconomy.”

York University has a biorenewables development centre and is leading a £16m project to develop sustainable and secure food supplies.

Mr Lamberts added: “We want to contribute to our environment. It is also a great way to get our research out in the real world.

“We don’t want to do research that just stays in academia. We want to translate our basic research and science into products and processes and businesses that really benefit.”

The third field he mentioned is quantum technology. York is working with telecoms giant BT on the “technology of the future”, said Mr Lamberts.

He added: “It is about using the principles of quantum physics to establish highly secure communication channels. It is about sharing encryption keys in ways that are entirely secure because we could tell if somebody actually intercepted the sharing process.”

Mr Lamberts, who was born in Belgium, became vice chancellor two years ago and is keen to continue expanding students numbers and in developing the campus.

York has 16,000 students, nearly a quarter of whom are international, and 3,200 employees. Annual revenues exceed £300m.

Mr Lamberts said his priorities are for the institution to be world-leading in research, teaching and student experience.

York is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive universities and is ranked 131st in the world universities league table.

The vice chancellor is also keen to work with businesses, both locally and internationally.

And he wants the institution to play a role in the Northern Powerhouse. “What we want to work towards is to demonstrate, just by showing strength, that there is a lot of potential across the entire region, not just the metropolitan areas like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, but also in the smaller cities like York, where there is a tremendous skill base, very good universities and a very strong business ethos,” he said.