On 6th February, Leven Brown, one of the worlds most experienced and highly regarded ocean rowing skippers, and Phil Kite, a North East businessman and ocean rower based in Newcastle, took part in an innovation sprint at Northumbria University’s, School of Design, organised by Simon Scott-Harden, Senior Lecturer Design for Industry.

The aim of the event was to give the 40 students the experience of how innovative ideas can be generated at pace in a relatively short period by brain-storming as a team in a fluid working environment.

Students were set the task of generating ideas that could improve the performance, comfort, safety and aesthetics of high-performance ocean rowing boats.

Leven’s first ocean row was solo and unsupported from mainland Spain to Trinidad & Tobago and to date he has rowed some 30,000 nautical miles, including the North Atlantic from New York to the Scilly Isles and across the Indian Ocean from Western Australia to the to the Seychelles. Leven was therefore able to outline the challenges ocean rowers face and the demand on the 10 metre craft that he designs and builds at his business in Jedburgh.

Leven Brown said “Phil and myself were delight to visit Northumbria, and take part in the sprint, that generated so many creative ideas, from which we hope a number can be taken forward and incorporated in the ocean rowing boats of the future. The student’s enthusiasm for the challenge created real energy in the room and it’s easy to see why the School of Design has such a high reputation for innovation and creativity”.

Leven is leading an expedition to row the Northwest Passage, the infamous arctic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in 2021 and Phil, who rowed the Atlantic Ocean in 2019, will be part of the crew. Phil briefed the students on this 2,000 mile challenge, known as the Ultimate Ocean Row, which if successful will be a world first.

Phil said “we had a fantastic day at the School of Design and we are grateful to Simon for giving us the opportunity to tap into the resources at Northumbria. Looking ahead to our Northwest Passage expedition, we hope we will be able to work with the university and carry out research in the arctic on their behalf. The environment in the region is changing and collecting data on weather, wildlife and sea pollutants such as plastics is a great opportunity for the advancement of our knowledge base”

On behalf of the University Simon said “it was great to have Leven and Phil on campus, sharing their experiences of both business and ocean rowing. Having our students working on real live industry projects is one of our core goals. We look forward to following these two amazing adventurers on their arctic challenge over the coming year”.