Areas of ExcellenceMolecular Engineering

Molecular engineering represents a revolution in science because it deals with the ability to manipulate matter at the most fundamental level: the atom or molecule. Bringing together physics, chemical and electronic engineering, chemistry and material sciences, including nanotechnology, it is opening up new opportunities.

For the North East, those opportunities lie in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, chemicals, petrochemicals, semiconductors and electronics. Newcastle Science City has three key strands that offer the opportunity for truly groundbreaking research and potential business developments:

  • Emerging electronics and sensors: a team of more than 80 researchers is being assembled to exploit the commercial opportunities that exist in this field, for example in creating novel electronic devices
  • Drug discovery and development: Newcastle Science City is seeking to build a world-beating team which can help take research into business settings through the discovery of new types and classes of drugs
  • Bio-processing: by building on the region’s existing expertise in this field and the extensive links with industry, the aim is to develop a world class biopharmaceutical cluster in the North of England.

Each strands offers the potential needed to encourage new businesses to start and grow and to place the region on the global map.

Key Facts

  • In the recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), 75 per cent of the research undertaken at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, based at Newcastle University was classed as internationally excellent and a further 15 per cent as world leading.
  • The Northern Institute of Cancer Research puts Newcastle at the cutting edge of cancer research at an international level, collaborating with many world-renowned bioscience and pharmaceutical companies including; GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol Myers, AstraZeneca, Janssen, SmithKline Beecham and Roche.
  • Professor Hilary Calvert of the Northern Institute of Cancer Research was awarded the Pfizer Innovation Award, given annually for Innovative Science to a researcher in Europe, for his role in developing new drugs for the treatment of cancer.
  • Newcastle Universities plans for a £20m Biopharmaceutical Process Development Centre that will be dedicated to drug development and ensuring that new drugs are able to get to patient safely, more quickly and more efficiently, will build upon North East England’s current reputation as a UK leader in bio-processing.
  • In The Times 2007 Good University Guide on research quality, Newcastle University’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, is ranked amongst the top 5 schools in the UK.
  • The region is home to global pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi-Aventis, GSK and Merck Sharp & Dohme, as well as world leaders in biologics such as Avecia Life Sciences.

Case Studies

Making breakthroughs in medical testing


Orla Protein Technologies, based in Newcastle, one of the most successful spin-outs from work carried out at Newcastle University, specialises in the way proteins can be used.

That work, in the field of nano-biotechnology, includes developing hand-held sensor devices that can be used to diagnose the likes of heart disease and infections through the analysis of drops of blood.

Find out more at

Northumbria University and Procter & Gamble join forces to revolutionise new product development


Pioneering research which could help transform some of the world’s most commonly used products is being carried out by Northumbria University and Procter & Gamble.

Research by a team at Northumbria University’s School of Applied Sciences, led by computational chemist Dr Marcus Durrant, has developed a radical approach to the development of new catalysts, the vital component found in the manufacture of many of the world’s products.

Dr Durrant recognised as a world leader in his field, and his team have joined forces with Procter & Gamble to trial their new approach which could help revolutionise drug production and the production of plastics. Their new found approach is seen as critical in tackling problems where traditional experimental chemistry has struggled to find an answer.