Leeds has a history of world-changing ideas. The city’s innovations have had positive economic and societal impact across the world.
Today the work continues at the University of Leeds and Nexus.
Nexus sits at the heart of a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and start-ups, industry leaders, academia and university talent, who collaborate over the business of innovation.
This community is making hugely significant changes to the modern world. But this is nothing new. Leeds has been a city of innovation for over 100 years, so we’ve decided to celebrate some of its greatest achievements.
Starting as far back as 1866 with the creation of the first compact medical thermometer, and running right through to today’s innovations, we look at how the city has helped shape the modern world in our timeline video.
See some of the fantastic innovations below from our region, that have had the greatest impact on our lives today…
First installed on Park Row, Leeds was the first city to adopt a fully automated traffic light system. An essential technology that has helped driver safety and road congestion continually since its invention.
Paving the way for Crick and Watson, William T Astbury’s work at the University of Leeds in the 1930s included the first studies of the structure of DNA.
Recognising the massive potential for mobile communications, David Rhodes used his world-leading expertise to manufacture microwave filters essential to the success of millions of mobile phones.
An international group led by Professor Phillips at the University of Leeds published a paper in 1998 showing that 75% of plots sampled from mature forests in Amazonia had actually absorbed additional carbon from the atmosphere over recent decades, reducing the rate at which carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere and helping to slow global climate change.
Scientists at the University of Leeds have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick – the thinnest unsupported gold ever created. It could have wide-scale applications in the medical device and electronics industries, and also as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions in a range of industrial processes.
Leeds’ tradition of innovation continues at the University of Leeds and Nexus
New technologies and new thinking are creating the businesses of tomorrow. Looking back though, it’s clear that innovation has always been something of a tradition in the city of Leeds and at the University.
Adding to Leeds’ Innovation Timeline
History is being made in Leeds, today. But not for the first time. Looking back across at the city’s past, there’s a thread of breakthrough ideas reaching back across the decades – a timeline of innovations which have impacted on the city itself and in many cases, influenced the world beyond.
If you’re looking to innovate, get in touch with our team.
To find out more about the University’s innovations, visit the
Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine