Universities Minister Chris Skidmore was urged to lobby the Government to invest more in the North East as he visited Durham University.

The MP praised the research and innovation taking place at the university during a visit on Friday.

During a two-hour visit, Mr Skidmore saw several examples of research, innovation and new technology being developed at Durham University.

He was shown an autonomous vehicle currently in development at the University’s Department of Computer Science and visited the Teaching and Learning Centre, a new £40m complex opened in September which houses state-of-the-art educational facilities.

Mr Skidmore tried out some of the digital learning tools being trialled in the University’s Education Laboratory, including virtual reality headsets which allow multi-location teaching, and Learning Glass, a technology which allows lecturers to write notes onto a screen while maintaining face-to-face contact with their students.

The Minister also held talks with the University’s Vice-Chancellor and leaders of the TechUp project, co-founded by technology evangelist Professor Sue Black, which is offering women in the North and Midlands the opportunity to retrain for employment in the technology sector.

Mr Skidmore said it had been a “fantastic opportunity” to visit the university and that talking with TechUp representatives was “really inspiring”.

He added: “I always relish the opportunity to speak directly to the students to see how inspiring some of the learning opportunities are for them and how it can transform their lives.

“Universities have been established their local communities for decades, if not centuries when it comes to Durham, and we need to build upon that.”

Finally, he made a speech to over 100 staff, students and leaders from business, industry and the public sector, in which he emphasised the importance of investment in research and development in the North East.

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Mr Skidmore spoke about “levelling up” research and development so that it benefits every corner of the UK and challenged universities: “Just how far does your imagination stretch?”

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We were pleased to welcome the Universities Minister to Durham show him just a few of examples of how innovations that began here are supporting the regional economy and, as a result, benefitting our local communities.

“We agree with the Minister that investment in research and development in the North East is crucial and we look forward to working with him and colleagues in Government to ensure that this is encouraged and innovation is supported.”

Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, was also present.

Coun Henig said: “We are committed to creating an environment in County Durham where innovation is nurtured, businesses prosper, and people at all stages of their careers can excel.

"This would not be possible without forward-thinking organisations like Durham University.

“I hope what the Universities Minister has seen in Durham will encourage him to lobby the Government for further investment in our region.”