US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson, a member of the Johnson & Johnson dynasty and owner of the New York Jets, met with key business leaders, including Jonathan Blair, Co-Chair of Womble Bond Dickinson and UK Managing Partner in Newcastle on Monday 15th January.
The event was organised by Newcastle NE1, the city’s Business Improvement District, as part of its work to strengthen the relationship between Newcastle and the United States. This was the American Ambassador's first official visit to the NE since taking office .
Prominent local businesses with trade links with the United States, including Womble Bond Dickinson, had the opportunity to meet with Mr Johnson at a networking lunch hosted by NE1 and the North East England Chamber of Commerce. The Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University, Andrew Wathey CBE, Bruce Shepherd OBE, and Louise Robson the Business and Development Director at NHS Newcastle, were also among the attendees.
At the lunch, a range of opportunities intended to strengthen links between the US and Newcastle were discussed, including ways to help create opportunities for business, investment and trade, knowledge transfer and learning.
Newcastle NE1 Chief Executive, Sean Bullick, said: “In this post-Brexit world, a time when the UK is looking to build relationships with countries outside the EU, we are trying to get ahead of the curve by further developing trade and investment links with countries including the United States.”
As part of his visit Mr Johnson also visited The Reece Group, which manufactures for the defence, oil and gas, power generation, construction and subsea sectors, at its Armstrong Works in Newcastle. The group includes Pearson Engineering, which develops and supplies defence equipment to armed forces in the United States.
With his particular interest in medical research, the Ambassador also toured Newcastle University’s Institute of Genetic Medicine based at the Life Science Centre. Here he met researchers who work alongside NHS staff, with the latest genetic and developmental techniques to understand and treat human diseases such as Muscular Dystrophy, mitochondrial diseases and cancer by developing and implementing new therapies.
The trip, arranged to coincide with Martin Luther King Day in the US, involved Mr Johnson visiting Newcastle University earlier in the day to see a statue of the American civil rights leader. The statue was unveiled in November 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s visit to the University to accept an honorary degree.
While at the University, the Ambassador also met Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Day and a number of senior academics to hear about how the University is forging strong links with business, as well as universities in the United States.
Professor Day said: “It is fitting that Ambassador Johnson has chosen to visit the statue of Dr King on the day that the US remembers him and the values he stood for. The statue is a lasting tribute to him and a unique record of one of the most significant moments in the University’s history.
“One of our key priorities is to deliver teaching and research projects that address the needs and challenges of a global society, and our collaborations with partners in the US and elsewhere around the world are a huge part of that.”