The Northern Research Diamond: Where nature, innovation and research change the world!

Updated: Aug 25

Guest Post from Dace Dimza-Jones - Industry Facilitator, NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester


My concept of the Northern Research Diamond was born out of observing established links within the region, and further grounded by the history and the impact it had across the globe.


I see the dedication and enthusiasm of my colleagues, as well as the beauty of the environment they are surrounded by, as means of inspiration for world-changing research.


Firstly, what do I mean by the Northern Diamond – just think of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds – The Beatles, Oasis and, potentially, the seeds for the Lords of the Rings. Now you may ask, what do I mean specifically by the Northern Research Diamond within this blog post, and how does it form an integral part of the research undertaken across the UK?


For me, the Northern Research Diamond is the inexhaustible enthusiasm that researchers across the North of England exhibit whenever I have had the opportunity to engage with them. The deep pride and dedication from the companies that have placed their business across the North and, of course, the beautiful diversity of the population that call themselves Northerners. We cannot disregard nature. Where else does beauty and innovation synergize as it has done across the North of England? The amazing lakes, hills, cities and villages make you fall in love with the place on your very first visit.


The pride of the industrial past and The North being the epicenter of the industrial revolution has left marks on health and wellbeing. The North of England has some of the highest cancer rates, the lowest life expectancy, and the highest health inequalities when compared to the rest of England. People in the North also have some of the highest healthcare needs in the country. When I learned of this, I committed myself to working on attracting innovative and ground-breaking clinical research opportunities into the region so that my friends, neighbours, and colleagues could benefit from the fantastic opportunities clinical research offers.


I believe it is a crucial and ethical responsibility of the industry partners to bring more research to where it is needed and could be of the most benefit.


In England, the focus for clinical research should include the North. By working together and fostering collaborative research practices, there is a great opportunity to develop varied alternative treatment and care opportunities for the population. I have also witnessed better recruitment rates to research studies in the North as many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory and chronic kidney disease are more prevalent in this area compared to the rest of the country. And of course, the diversity of the population provides an enormous support and enables the reach of a wide range of community groups, speaking over 250 languages.


I have had the unbelievable opportunity to work with hundreds of passionate, dedicated, and highly driven colleagues from a research, clinical and medical background, to commit and extend their engagement with the life science industry team and to work collaboratively in order to attract and facilitate opportunities that would improve the health and wellbeing of their patients and the population they look after. For colleagues working on commercial clinical trials, we are here to open doors to engage with the studies you want to carry out. Yes, it attracts funding for what we do, but it also enables you to access the people and facilities we support. Through working collaboratively, we can all support more research staff, invest in their training and competency, and develop our research facilities.


Working in silos and competing with each other might work elsewhere across the globe, but it is not the approach that we, within the Northern Diamond want to follow. Emphasis on collaboration is key to support, develop and improve the health of the population but also the transfer of knowledge. Yes, competing interests exist, but did the industrial revolution happen in silos?


I’ll just finish with a word to those of you reading this blog to contemplate on… ‘graphene’…


Google graphene together with medicine, research, Manchester and see where it takes you? Graphene was first isolated in 2004 at the University of Manchester and we are the birthplace of the graphene industry. Now our clinicians and academics are researching a new generation of a graphene-based diagnostic tests that could identify patients who need antibiotics in minutes, instead of hours. I can promise that there is so much more coming in terms of graphene utilization for diagnostic and health care needs. Watch this space.


We are empowered by our intelligent health and care workforce, we are proud of our key opinion leaders, and clinicians, who never fail to amaze me with their ‘’crazy’’ innovative ideas. I believe this due to the academic legacy and strength across the region, as we have excellent universities and a large and enthusiastic student population who are keen to remain in the North of England after graduation so that they can continue contributing to the region’s intellectual capital.


We, as a region, are super proactive and open to opportunities to generate unique solutions. I am proud to say that we work tirelessly to bring research beyond the walls of the hospitals and into the community. We were one of the first areas to purchase a research van which ensures that we can literally ‘’drive’’ research closer to our patients and population.


If the Olympic Games for research set-up and delivery took place, I believe we would be the ones to win the gold medal in all disciplines. We are agile, fast, and go the extra mile to set up and deliver research as quickly as possible. For us it is important to not only bring innovative research closer to our population, but also to do it at a greater pace and efficiency.


I am proud to say that the Northern Research ‘Diamonders’ are honest. If there is something we cannot deliver, which happens rarely, we will tell you. We are enthusiastic to work with our partners, to identify alternatives and solutions, to overcome any obstacle. We are super friendly, and happy to have a chat with anyone in a professional capacity, as well as at community festivals, on local radio, exhibitions, and conferences. There is always coffee and cake nearby for an informal chat, to start great achievements. We keep our promise when we say ‘we will deliver.’ We are not just one of the best areas to deliver research to time and target, we are also one of the most efficient.


With the Northern Research Diamond rooted across a unique life science ecosystem, remember “if it can be done in the North then it should be done in the North.'' Much has been said about a certain Northern city leading the world - what we do today the world will do tomorrow. Yet it is true of the region as a whole. We are diamond, rough around the edges, yet clear and invaluable.


Dace Dimza-Jones, Industry Facilitator, NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester, has a public health background and also works as a guest lecturer at Riga Stradins University, Latvia. Dace work as an Industry Facilitator enables her to work in close collaboration with sponsors, CROs, clinicians and academics, as well as other life sciences researchers to support and facilitate opportunities for innovative and ground-breaking research across Greater Manchester.

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