- About the Reece Foundation and how it was founded to support North East engineering and manufacturing
- How its investment is synonymous with the legacy of Dr Alan Reece, whose goal was to inspire the next generation of innovators and increase the employability of those in the engineering and manufacturing sector
- That investing in The Common Room offers a way for businesses to help increase the long-term and sustainable prosperity of the North East
From honouring our unique industrial past, to inspiring the engineers of the future, The Common Room is a celebration of all that is great about innovation in the North East.
Back in 2016 when we first became involved in discussions about what we could do with the unique building that is now The Common Room, we began to think about using it as an inspiring place for people to work together to regenerate the economy, particularly in engineering and manufacturing – and thereby create more and better jobs in the North East.
At the Reece Foundation, our mission is to use funds which have all been generated from engineering in the North East through our businesses to encourage and inspire more engineering and innovation in the region. We believe that engineering can be the route to greater prosperity for the region and its people through stable, well-paid employment.
So, what really excited us was the vision of The Common Room being brought back to life in a way that celebrated its original use but reimagined it for the 21st century.
Inspiring the Next Generation
We loved the idea of having a ‘common room’ that would bring together the people and institutions that champion innovation in the North East – educational establishments, local government, the public sector but also the private sector and their employees. The region has economic challenges and the world has technical challenges; both require innovation in thinking which can only be achieved by collaboration and partnership.
The Common Room has evolved to become a place where people can get together to discuss ideas and take inspiration from the past while working towards the future. We thought that was a great idea and are proud to play our part as a sponsor.
The Common Room celebrates the region’s engineering history through education and engagement and aims to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers.
This goal aligns really closely with what my father, Dr Alan Reece, set out to do when he launched the Reece Foundation in 2007.
A passionate believer in engineering as a provider of prosperity and enjoyable employment, he felt it important to encourage students to become enthused and excited by engineering and ultimately inspired to become our engineers of the future.
Since then, the Reece Foundation has worked hard to promote and support education. We want to open the eyes of young people to the potential and opportunities available in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Our main objective is to increase the long-term and sustainable prosperity of the North East of England primarily through engineering and manufacturing.
This is an ambition that we share with The Common Room.
Commemorating the Achievement of Dr Alan Reece
In recognition of my father’s contribution to the prosperity of the North East, The Common Room will have a space named the ‘Alan Reece Reading Room’.
My father was an incredible man. His name became synonymous with engineering across the UK after he developed a subsea plough (See Fig. 12) for burying cables and pipelines in the seabed, which was widely adopted during the growth of the international telecommunications market and the exploitation of oil and gas reserves from the North Sea and elsewhere.
He graduated from Newcastle University before becoming an apprentice engineer at the Vickers-Armstrong Works. After spending some time away from the North East, he returned to become a lecturer at Newcastle University, where he worked for almost 30 years.
After inventing the subsea plough, in 1985 he went into business setting up Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) to market the product across the globe (See Fig.13). He subsequently acquired Pearson Engineering, which developed mechanically engineered products for the defence market, including mine ploughs. This formed the basis of Reece Group, now housed in the original Armstrong Works.
The companies really stimulated the Tyneside economy, leading to well over 3,000 jobs in over 20 years in a variety of new businesses. It is this model that we believe in. If there is continuing innovation in the North East, that will increase employment and create prosperity.
We are delighted to see the legacy of Dr Alan Reece recognised in this very fitting way.
An Epicentre of Innovation
Just as the mining of the 19th century powered the industrial revolution, we now know the world must have new carbon free sources of clean energy and there is a massive need for the engineering and manufacturing that provides that. We are really well placed in the North East to be world-leader in this area.
The next few years are going to be such a challenge for us all. We need to pick ourselves up from what has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, think afresh and build a better, more sustainable future.
It is fitting that in this time of great change, The Common Room will once again become an epicentre of innovation where people can come together and share their visions for the future.
The Common Room offers a wonderful place for discussion, debate and enjoyment, as well as a unique venue for weddings and events. It is a place to reflect on our rich industrial heritage and work together towards the future regeneration of the North East economy.
Anne Reece has been Chair of The Reece Foundation since 2013. She is also a Non-Executive Director of the Reece Group of engineering companies based at Armstrong Works, Newcastle.
Prior to this Anne was Finance Director of SMD and of the Bywell Engineering group of companies for 15 years.
Having been born in the centre of Newcastle and lived and worked in the North East for the majority of her life, Anne believes that the North East has everything needed to be a leader in the development of the new future – a future which restores nature, protects the planet and gives people a more rounded, enjoyable and healthier life. Through the Foundation – and alongside other partners – she is working to assist in that development.