Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

Energy Minister visits projects putting North East at the forefront of Net Zero drive

As the North East is poised to become the UK’s first low carbon heat cluster, the government’s Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility, Lord Callanan, is touring the region to see some of the projects which are leading the way in the nation’s drive to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions.

The visit follows the launch of three nationally significant activities in the region:

  • The first, a report highlighting the potential of mine energy for the UK published on behalf of the BEIS Energy Hub Network – which uses natural geothermal-heated water that has gathered in the underground networks of former deep coal mines – in helping the UK to achieve its Net Zero target by 2050.
  • The second is Gateshead Council’s Zero Carbon Heat Strategy, outlining its ambition to make all Council buildings and homes net zero by 2030, though major investment in heat networks, as well as supporting clean hydrogen and heat pumps.
  • And the third, is the launch of a ‘High Potential Opportunity’ to promote the North East and Tees Valley as an inward investment location for the UK in heat networks.

Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), said: “The North East has an existing skills base, supply chain and infrastructure, plus a nationally-significant project pipeline, which means we are ideally positioned to make a huge contribution to the UK’s drive to achieve Net Zero.

“During today’s visit, we were able to showcase some of the globally-important energy projects which are taking place in our region, and demonstrate how the North East is on its way to becoming the UK’s first cluster for low carbon heat innovation, supply chain and delivery.”

Lord Callanan was able to meet beneficiaries of the Government’s Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP); two mine water heat networks in the region are among those to have been awarded funding by Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The Minister visited Seaham Garden Village district heat network in County Durham, which will supply low-carbon geothermal heat from former coal mines to a new development to the south of Seaham. It is hoped that the scheme will be a commercially viable sustainable energy demonstrator project that can be duplicated across the UK coalfields, which contain 25% of the UK population.

Energy Minister, and Heat Networks Industry Council Ministerial Champion, Lord Callanan of Low Fell said: “Heating our homes and workspaces without causing carbon emissions is going to be key to tackling climate change and heat networks are proving an effective solution as well as opening up huge potential for investors at home and abroad.“

These low-carbon technologies are allowing us to build back greener from the pandemic, and as the Heat Networks Industry Council’s Ministerial Champion, I’m excited to see the opportunities they are providing in the North-East. “As a native of this region, I’m well aware of how coal dug from under our feet powered the industrial revolution 200 years ago and it’s fitting that that legacy and heat taken from former mines is now helping drive forward a new Green Industrial Revolution.”

Councillor Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We’re delighted to be part of the drive towards achieving Net Zero carbon emissions.

“The proposed district heating system at Seaham Garden Village will use ultra-low carbon energy from the former mine workings.  

“The use of this technology could be replicated in other parts of County Durham, the North East region and elsewhere across the UK’s former coalfield sites.” 

Also on the agenda was a visit to the Gateshead District Energy Scheme, which has been awarded funding to double its heat network, using geothermal energy from a network of old mine workings 150 metres below Gateshead to supply heat to homes and businesses. 

John McElroy, cabinet member for the environment and transport at Gateshead Council, said: “Our work on heat networks and harnessing geothermal heat shows our ambition to tackle climate change and reach our zero carbon goal by 2030.

“We already have a significant track record of investment in heat networks, so this is proven technology – now we need to move across to sustainable sources of energy and roll out zero carbon heating to a much wider audience across the borough.”

Ken Hunnisett, Project Director at Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management said: “These two projects represent the first two mine energy schemes to be awarded HNIP funding and signify genuine levelling up in the North East in preparation for net zero. With mine energy ideally suited to district heating, the ability of our coalfields to provide clean, affordable and perpetually renewing heat should be a source of great national pride.” 

Richard Bond, Innovation and Engagement Director at the Coal Authority, said: “Using heat from former coal mines is an innovative way to decarbonise heating supplies, attract investment, create employment and lower energy bills. The Coal Authority is actively working with a number of partner organisations across the country, including the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, to help unlock the potential of mine water heat to make UK homes greener, warmer and more efficient.”

Also in Gateshead, Lord Callanan joined Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP, Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change who was officially opening Hydrogen House, the UK’s first house to demonstrate the use of hydrogen-fuelled appliances in a real-world setting, at Northern Gas Networks’ Low Thornley site. 

Andrew Clark added: “These projects are not just regionally significant; they’re leading the way for the entire nation and no doubt contributed to Government’s recent decision to select Heat networks in the North East and Tees Valley as part of the Department for International Trade’s High Potential Opportunities Programme (HPO). We now have a completed investment proposition to promote to foreign investors and drive investment into the region.

“We’ll continue to work with government, the energy sector in the North East, and our partners in Tees Valley, to push forward the work taking place in our region which will help the UK cut its carbon emissions and help tackle the issue of climate change.” 

On the High Potential Opportunities Programme, Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone said: “Our HPO programme is designed to showcase the best opportunities across the UK to international investors and attract investment that will help the UK build back better.

“Attracting investment into the UK’s clean growth industries like heat networks is critical, and with so many projects in the pipeline and such a fantastic ecosystem, the industry should take note of this huge opportunity. This programme along with the Global Investment Summit we are hosting in October will be a chance to show why the UK is a great place to invest in a greener future.”

Find out about the North East LEP’s work to support the North East energy sector here.

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

New report highlights potential of mine energy in achieving UK net zero target

A new white paper published by the Mine Energy Taskforce and Local Energy Hub network has called for greater support for mine energy as a key low carbon heat source in the UK that can contribute to government’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050.

The report also outlines how the introduction of large scale mine energy schemes will support government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda by bringing immediate and direct economic benefits to coalfield communities and businesses across the country.

The Mine Energy Taskforce is a national coalition of cross-sector partners co-ordinated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership that aims to share knowledge and expertise to accelerate deployment of mine energy schemes. The Local Energy Hub network brings together groups of Local Enterprise Partnerships in five different areas of the country to work together with Government to accelerate local energy schemes.  

The white paper was developed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) and funded by Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, and Midlands Energy Hubs, and the MCS Charitable Foundation.

Mine energy is the extraction of natural geothermal-heated water that has gathered in the underground networks of former deep coal mines. Over time, water is warmed to around 12-20°C.

Using heat pumps, some of the heat can be extracted and used to heat fresh water, which can then be used to provide low carbon heating and hot water for use in domestic and commercial buildings via heat networks, for example. According to the report, the heat from the water is abundant and widely distributed – and if managed correctly – can be constantly available at a self-sustaining and consistent temperature.

One quarter of the UK’s homes and businesses are sited on former coalfields. The Coal Authority estimates there is sufficient energy in the geothermal water found in former coal mines to heat all of the homes on the coalfields.

The report also highlights that the Coal Authority mine water treatment plants are the most convenient and cost-effective way of accessing mine water heat, though the heat can also be accessed via mine shafts and boreholes. If the 42 schemes currently identified in the Coal Authority’s pipeline were to be built, they would collectively generate projected carbon savings of 90,500 tonnes per annum.

Contributors to the white paper include leading academics, local authorities, the Durham Energy Institute, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, wrote the foreword for the white paper. He said: “At the heart of this Government’s agenda are three key priorities: the development of new and innovative sources of employment and economic growth, rapid decarbonisation of our society, and levelling up – reducing the inequalities between different parts of the UK.

“Mine energy, the use of the geothermally heated water in abandoned coal mines, is not a new technology, but it is one with the potential to deliver thousands of jobs and drive economic growth in some of the most disadvantaged communities in our country.

“This report demonstrates that if we only implement the 42 projects currently on the Coal Authority’s books, we will deliver almost 4,500 direct jobs and a further 9-11,000 in the supply chain, at the same time saving 90,500 tonnes of carbon.”

Andrew Clark, Energy Programme Lead at the North East LEP, who commissioned the white paper, said: “Decarbonising heat is one of the greatest challenges facing us today, particularly as economies transition to net zero.

“Some of UK’s largest mine energy projects are being developed in the North East, so it made sense for us to lead the exploratory work in this area. Building on our Energy for Growth programme, and with the support of other LEPs in the North East and Yorkshire and the Local Energy Hub network, we convened a Mine Energy Taskforce, which has grown to become a national community of interest with over 40 cross sector organisations around the UK sharing their extensive knowledge and experience.

“This white paper has been developed with extensive stakeholder engagement and we’re very grateful to everyone who has given time and expertise.

“The Government reports that our low carbon economy is predicted to grow four times faster than the rest of the economy to 2030 and we believe mine energy can be used to accelerate this further, while achieving our net zero aspirations.

“The North East has a rich mining heritage so we are well placed to tap into the potential benefits and opportunities presented by mine energy.”

In 2019 the UK Government became the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. Despite the compelling narrative of using the UK’s legacy fossil fuel infrastructure to support a local carbon future, mine energy is yet to be deployed at scale.

One of its key advantages is the potential environmental and economic benefits it provides in post-industrial mining communities, particularly those that have experienced significant economic and social decline. The white paper outlines how the 42 schemes already identified by the Coal Authority would create up to 15,227 new jobs and contribute £793m in Gross Value Added (GVA), including direct, indirect and induced economic effects.

Charlotte Adams, Commercial Manager at the Coal Authority said: “We were pleased to be invited to provide technical input to this Mine Energy White Paper. The Coal Authority owns and licenses access to the abandoned mining infrastructure. Reusing this infrastructure, which was created with huge human effort, offers a renaissance for coalfield areas through an opportunity to deliver low carbon heat and support regional economic growth.”

Adrian Ramsay, Chief Executive of MCS Charitable Foundation, said: “We were pleased to provide funding towards this report and welcome its findings.

“As a country we need to step up the drive for net zero emissions in homes and communities, and the report suggests that mine energy could play an important role in the mix of green energy sources. As with the green economy in general, there is significant potential for job creation and I hope the government engages with the report recommendations and the economic and environmental opportunities it highlights.”

Sally Gallagher, Technical Specialist for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “We all have a role to play in tackling the climate emergency, which is why as an operator and a regulator, the Environment Agency has a leading role in helping the country get to net zero by 2050.

“The decarbonisation of energy used for heating is a significant challenge for the UK and we are pleased to support the launch of the paper on mine water energy, outlining the opportunities across the country to utilise this untapped low carbon resource.

“As the environmental regulator for England our role is to ensure renewable heat technologies are sustainable and do not adversely impact the environment. We look forward to continuing to work with the Mine Energy Task Force, Local Energy Hub network and Local Enterprise Partnerships to share the knowledge and experience developed in permitting mine energy schemes over the last couple of years.”

Michael Gallagher, Regional Energy Projects Manager at Midlands Energy Hub, said: “Mining used to be a significant source of employment and energy in the Midlands, driving the industrial revolution.

“This white paper was of interest to Nottingham City Council’s Midlands Energy Hub as it is a critical step in enabling the Midlands to realise the potential of Mine Water Energy, supporting the challenge of decarbonisation heat, alongside generating clean, green employment alongside driving down carbon emissions.”

Professor Jon Gluyas, Director of Durham Energy Institute, said: “I am delighted to see the publication of the Mine Energy White Paper from the Mine Energy Task Force and Local Energy Hub network. This comprehensive analysis of the potential for using abandoned, flooded and often forgotten mines to deliver sustainable, ultra-low-carbon heat is a critical publication; building upon an idea generated, researched and developed by Dr Charlotte Adams of Durham Energy Institute.

“Development of mine heat will not only help the UK meet its greenhouse gas emission targets, but also generate a new industry and supporting supply chain. The UK built many of its towns and cities where it mined its coal in the North of England, North Midlands and Central Scotland, reusing the old mines to deliver low-carbon heat will also help deliver the government’s levelling up agenda and attract further inward investment into the North. 

“With one project operational and several more due to be delivered in the next couple of years, the White Paper will act as a template for sustainable, heat energy delivery across the UK.”

The UK has taken a lead in mine energy, but to ensure its continued growth and subsequent decarbonisation and socio-economic benefits, the sector requires further national support and intervention.

Within the white paper are recommendations to move the sector beyond the need for public subsidy, to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing across stakeholders, and see targeted investments in research and development.

Its publication comes in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, which will be hosted by Glasgow in November, and is designed to accelerate action towards the goals of The Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Read The Case for Mine Energy – unlocking deployment at scale in the UK. A mine energy white paper.

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

Investing in infrastructure key for North East’s economic recovery

By Darren Laybourn, Director and Regional Strategic Lead at Turner & Townsend, and North East LEP Business Growth Board member.

Manchester’s skyline is often used to illustrate how well the economy is performing in the North West. The sight of tower cranes and new buildings appearing across the city suggests a high level of confidence from inward investors, and a vibrant, growing business community.

The construction industry can be a good indicator of a region’s economic health, which is why there has been so much focus on infrastructure and building back better from the coronavirus pandemic.

During the first national lockdown, the construction sector was one of the few areas of industry able to fully continue working. Government further bolstered the sector by investing millions of pounds in supporting infrastructure projects across the UK, including here in the North East, through the Getting Building Fund.

A booming construction sector gives confidence to the business community, particularly startups and SMEs. It encourages businesses to continue to invest in staff, which is vital in helping retain skills and talent in the region.

The UK’s exit from the EU has brought about new labour regulations that if not managed correctly, may result in a shortage of skills in some areas of the country. At a time when we’re looking to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important we don’t develop a regional cold spot in terms of skills and labour.

The construction industry in the UK accounts for 10% of total UK employment – approximately three million jobs.* It also supports a wider ecosystem including delivery partners, supply chains – even coffee shops that serve workers on their lunch breaks. And it doesn’t stop there. The construction industry is the catalyst for creating new jobs in the longer term too, be that through new office spaces, business parks, enterprise zones, etc.

Cities like Manchester, and Leeds have gained the confidence of investors and the business community. That’s reflected in the amount of investment in new infrastructure projects across both destinations. If we’re going to compete with that we must maintain a good base of capital projects in the region and build back from the coronavirus pandemic.

There are already some fantastic examples of regeneration in North East England. Newcastle Helix has helped grow the region’s health and life science sector by creating an environment where academia and business can collaborate and drive forward innovations in data science, urban science and life science.

In Newcastle upon Tyne, work is beginning at pace on the transformation of East Pilgrim Street. The £100m project will introduce new offices, bars, restaurants, car parks, and housing in the city centre. The first phase of the project will see the creation of a new landmark, 14-storey, Grade A office building.

Across the river in Gateshead, the £290m NewcastleGateshead Quays regeneration scheme is expected to create around 2,000 new jobs in the North East and provide a £60m annual boost to the local economy.

Projects of this scale and ambition have increased confidence in the North East, resulting in more inward investment and more job creation, which maintains and, in some cases, grows those important skills.

The focus of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership on investment and infrastructure is at the heart of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan. Moving forward, we need to continue the successful delivery of funding programmes in the North East – including the Local Growth Fund. We also need to develop a regional project pipeline and support SMEs in the North East to bid for local work.

Earlier this year the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group – which comprises the North East LEP, CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities, the region’s universities, with the support of industry – submitted its North East Recovery and Renewal Deal to government, asking for a £2.8bn investment to support the North East’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

Building infrastructure to lead transformation and encourage future investment is a key theme in the deal. It is this that will help the region bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic and support future growth and investment in the North East.

Darren Laybourn is Director and Regional Strategic Lead at Turner & Townsend, and a Business Growth Board member at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

*(source: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/UK_construction_industry)

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

North East Coalition files world-class Freeport bid

North East England Freeport to create 60,000 jobs, over £3.4bn GVA and £2.7bn private sector investment.

A dynamic business and public sector partnership based in the UK’s leading export region has lodged an exciting and innovative bid for the North East England Freeport, which economic experts have predicted would generate a £2.1 billion boost to UK exports, plus many other significant benefits.

Government support for the proposal would see the North East England Freeport provide a uniquely ambitious and collaborative opportunity for the whole region to thrive, boosting the local economy by over £2.4 billion over 10 years and providing a gateway to long term global competitiveness. Through the North East England Freeport, over 30,000 new jobs are expected to be created for the region, of which 13,000 are highly paid ‘better jobs. A further 31,000 jobs will be generated in the construction industries.

The regional consortium formed to operate the North East England Freeport as a virtual free trade zone includes Nissan, the Ports of Tyne, Blyth and Sunderland, Newcastle Airport, seven local and two combined authorities, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), plus leading north east universities and innovative organisations. The sites involved will be inter-connected and secured using a state of the art, cybersecure perimeter.

Economic analysis completed by consortium members and validated by an independent economic adviser demonstrates that the North East England Freeport would deliver outstanding economic benefits to the region. These include:

  • 61,458 new jobs across the construction, manufacturing, logistics, energy, innovation and business sectors
  • £3.4 billion GVA across the local region
  • Expected GVA of £110,000 per freeport worker, with median earnings of freeport workers 40-62% higher than current regional levels across all sectors
  • Total GVA uplift of £3,000 per capita within the North East LEP area
  • £2.7 billion in new regional private sector investment
  • £2.1 billion additional UK exports over 10 years

By generating tens of thousands more and better jobs, the North East England Freeport will become a national hub for global trade and investment, a hotbed for innovation, a catalyst for sustainable economic regeneration, while minimising barriers to trade. Each site and partner in the freeport bid consortium will contribute to realising a best-in-class offering that will drive investment and deliver a high impact, economic boost that fully exploits the North East’s unique abilities in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, digital, clean energy and business services.

Crucially, the North East England Freeport will provide a bold blueprint for growth, compromising of a multi-site, digitally connected and enabled cybersecure boundary area, with robust customs zones. This will enable the North East region’s clusters to manufacture goods cost efficiently and trade internationally, benefiting from tax advantaged policy to stimulate economic development. It will contribute to levelling up in one of the areas of the country where it is needed the most.

The North East England Freeport will include three significant tax sites totalling approximately 600 hectares on which businesses will be able to receive a range of special incentives to invest and grow. They are located in some of the most deprived communities in the region and will create new jobs and supporting skills and employability programmes to ensure jobs are accessible to local people. The activity from these businesses will generate benefits across the region.

The Freeport will be led by a collaborative Governance Board which will bring together leaders from business, local government, higher education and the ports to drive forward the North East England Freeport at pace. This demonstrates the regions determination to deliver long term transformation and commitment to level up the UK economy.

Matt Beeton, CEO at the Port of Tyne and Interim Chair of the North East England Freeport, said: “Our model offers an unrivalled, ‘best of all worlds’ approach, uniting the private and public sectors to provide the region with an exceptional opportunity to benefit from the levelling up potential of digitally enabled economic zones. Developing over 60,000 new jobs in the region and £3.4bn regional GVA is incredibly important and demonstrates that ports are a catalyst for future economic growth.”

Martin Lawlor, CEO at the Port of Blyth said: “This bid consortium offers unrivalled clean growth and manufacturing expertise, and we have the vision, ambition and experience to make this a flagship freeport the UK can truly be proud of. We are excited by both the innovation within our bid and the transformative impact our freeport will have on the region if we are successful.”

Nick Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Newcastle International Airport, said: “Fast and frequent connections to growth markets are key to the success of the freeport and the advancement of the North East’s key business sectors. Air connectivity will strengthen the North East England Freeport proposition and will help to drive productivity improvements through logistics supply chains, with the ultimate aim of supporting the growth sectors in the region – from pharmaceuticals and life sciences to technology and advanced manufacturing. The Airport is delighted to play a role in the across-region partnership that will deliver this project.”

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP said: “The North East is a perfect candidate for a freeport given its trading pedigree, its capabilities in green industries and the challenges it faces.  Our model is deeply collaborative and highly innovative. Our seaports, airport, businesses, universities and political leaders are working together to deliver a cutting edge, digitally enabled freeport which brings new growth across our region and regenerates many of the communities that need it most.”

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North of Tyne said: “The North East has always been a strong manufacturing and exporting region.  We want to secure the future for our workers, our kids and our grandkids.  This means developing our low carbon industries and building a green future.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Chair of North East Combined Authority said: “This is a highly collaborative and compelling bid with the ability to transform the whole of the North East. Crucially, it provides significant opportunities for Nissan and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP).”

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

New business survey launched to assess impact of EU exit and coronavirus pandemic in the North East

The beginning of 2021 has been a challenging start to the year for many businesses. England entered another national lockdown at the end of December, and the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 December brought new rules and regulations impacting all businesses that operate in the European Union.

Because of this we have launched a brand new survey on the North East Growth Hub to find out how our region’s businesses have been impacted by the UK’s new trading agreement with the EU, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We want to find out what preparations, planning and changes organisations have been able to make during this very difficult time.

All the information shared with us will be fed back to government, ensuring North East businesses get the help and support they need.

One of the main things we want to understand is how the UK’s exit from the EU – and its new trading agreement with the bloc – has affected businesses in the North East. We know from previous surveys that many regional businesses had not prepared for the new rules, which came into force on 01 January this year. We’d like to know what the impact has been in areas such as customs procedures, paperwork relating to imports and exports, supply chain disruption, and data storage and transfer. We are also keen to know if this has opened up any new opportunities for businesses.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the main concern for most businesses in the North East. A large proportion of our region’s businesses have been forced to close because of the new national lockdown, and business owners have to – once again – look to new, innovative ways to engage with their customers.

Through this new survey we’d like to understand what measures businesses have taken to shield some of the impact of COVID-19; whether that’s been through stockpiling, furloughing staff, adopting new technologies, or introducing new products and services.

We’d also like to know if businesses plan to retain any of the changes they’ve made after we emerge from the pandemic, for example, remote working, or a greater focus on online retail.

Businesses can also let us know if they have benefitted from any of the government’s financial interventions, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loans, and grant payments. Importantly, we’d like to know from businesses if they think some of these measures should continue.

The final part of the survey focuses on business resilience. We know many North East businesses have made huge changes to adapt to our current situation, and we’d like to know the type of measures businesses have introduced. It could be a greater investment in IT and digital, more focus on crisis planning, investing in staff training, or introducing e-commerce. Whatever changes businesses have made, we’d like to know what they are and how effective they’ve been.

All the information we gather through this new survey will help us deliver the right support, to the right businesses, at the right time. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and all the information supplied will be treated confidentially.

You can access the Understanding how EU Transition and COVID-19 is impacting your business survey via this link.

Thank you in advance for sharing your feedback. If you have any questions about the survey you can contact us by emailing [email protected].

And do please remember that North East businesses looking for free, impartial, one-to-one business support and advice can book an appointment with our Growth Hub Connectors via www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk. The Growth Hub Connect team can guide you through the business support, and finance and funding available to help your business thrive in 2021.

By Emma Ward, Research and Evaluation Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

In conversation with Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, about the arrival of 5G and what it means for the North East

The North East LEP and the North East Combined Authority have long seen the opportunity for the North East offered by 5G technology. Can you explain what 5G technology is and how it works?

5G follows in the footsteps of 3G and 4G as the new generation of wireless technology. As well as being much faster, it also has greater capacity, which is why it’s so exciting. 5G has the potential to support new innovative services in all areas of our lives.

I believe there’s a real opportunity for the North East to become a regional test bed for 5G technologies, which is illustrated in the North East LEP’s innovative plan for a multi-site, digitally enabled Free Trade Zone.

The North East Automotive Alliance, of which you’re Chief Executive, along with your partners recently secured more than £2m in funding for a 5G technology pilot project. How will this be used and why is this such a coup for the region?

The continual drive for operational efficiency is a key focus for the automotive sector. This project addresses the next key innovation challenge in last mile logistics and builds on regional expertise in the deployment of automated logistic solutions such as indoor and outdoor automated guided vehicles which are used throughout the production process.

The funding we’ve secured from 5G Create, part of the wider £200 million 5G testbeds and trials programme (5GTT), is to support a 5G-enabled connected and automated logistics (CAL) pilot and proof of concept. Working with Nissan and Vantech, we plan to test an autonomous HGV, up to 40 tonnes, on a private road capable of carrying out 100 deliveries a day. 5G technology would remove the need for an in-vehicle safety driver, replacing it with a remote driver that can interact with vehicle should it come across an abnormal situation.

We anticipate this project will be a catalyst for something great for our region, a globally unique CAL test bed here in the North East. We have a unique mix of assets including a geographic concentration of manufacturing facilities, a fantastic road infrastructure and the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park, which offers the perfect environment to design, develop and manufacture the next generation of logistic solutions. When combined with our vehicle electrification strengths, this has the potential to deliver Zero Emission Automated Logistics, delivering against the UK Government’s Net Zero 2050 strategy and supporting the region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

How does this pilot project fit with the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan?

It’s about delivering operational efficiency to the automotive sector initially, but then extending it to other areas of advanced manufacturing in the region to really drive productivity and efficiency.

In addition, by attracting more R&D activities it will support the NEAA’s vision to become the location of choice for automotive investment in Europe, and a region that is recognised as a true automotive powerhouse with a very dynamic, forward looking and competitive supply chain; with strengths in research, development, and innovation in new automotive technologies and manufacturing processes.

This will undoubtedly support the key objective of the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan – to deliver 100,000 more and better jobs for the North East.

What difference will 5G technology make for businesses?

The North East automotive sector is a beacon of productivity; we have one of the most productive workforces across Europe and high levels of automation. My interest in 5G is around how it can support industry and specifically industrial digitisation.

A recent study by SMMT and KPMG stated the cumulative economic benefit of adopting digital technologies to the UK automotive sector could be £74bn by 2035. I’ve also seen a recent case study related to an overseas company that has delivered a 50% increase in productivity, a 22% increase in automation, and 27% increase in innovation over the past two years as a direct result of 5G and industrial digitalisation.

The combined opportunity of 5G and industrial digitalisation will enable businesses to realise the next significant step change in operational efficiency. As a result, North East businesses will become leaders in the adoption of digital technologies and this will make them more resilient and more competitive, securing their longer-term future.

What opportunity does this hold for the North East’s future?

The North East has ambitions to expand 5G across the region and position the region as the centre for 5G deployment in the UK. Sunderland, for example, is already committed to the expansion and rollout of 5G. The technology is currently being deployed across parts of the Nissan plant in readiness for the 5G CAL pilot and across the city centre.

I believe we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to align regional ambitions and government strategy to really capitalise on the opportunity 5G provides. This will support industry and improve regional competitiveness, attract more R&D activity, improve regional capability, and help attract more talent to the region.

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

North East LEP confirms North East Free Trade Zone bid

The North East will be submitting a Free Trade Zone bid designed to drive forward the regional economy, protect and enhance trade and investment potential and regenerate key sites in response to Government’s Free Ports bidding prospectus, announced this week.

Lucy Winskell, chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), confirmed that a collaborative bid is being prepared following months of preparatory work with a range of partners including the Port of Blyth, Port of Sunderland, Port of Tyne, Newcastle International Airport, North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, Business Durham, the CBI, the North East England Chamber of Commerce, University of Sunderland, Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, The Offshore Energy Catapult and NEXUS.

Lucy said: “Freeports offer the potential to generate new employment, revitalise our coastal areas and significantly boost the local economy. Over the past few months, we have been working very closely with a range of partners to prepare the ground for a collaborative bid which underlines the ambition and determination of the region to succeed.

“A North East Free Trade Zone bid will give us the opportunity to build on our industrial and logistics assets, support our supply chains and clusters and demonstrate our range of digital and innovation capabilities.

“The Government is committed to levelling up the UK economy with a focus on strengthening the economies of key industrial heartlands, such as the North East. This proposal will shore up some of our most disadvantaged communities. The region is working together to seize this opportunity to show why we are deserving of Freeport status and how it will strengthen our position on the national and international stage.”

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In conversation about the opportunities electrification offers the North East

In conversation with Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA); and Ryan Maughan, founder and MD of AVID Technology, about the opportunities electrification offers the North East.

What is electrification, and why is this change in energy production and usage important for the North East?

Paul Butler:

“Electrification is a key part of the government’s plan to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (18 November) announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, and hybrid vehicles from 2035, signalling the government’s commitment to its Net Zero 2050 strategy.

“Today, the North East is leading the UK’s electrification agenda and is best placed to capitalise on the global electrification mega trend driven by regulatory compliance for CO2 reduction and the UK’s Net Zero 2050 strategy. This is thanks to Nissan’s foresight to invest in the Nissan LEAF and Battery Plant production at its Sunderland Plant back in 2010, with production starting in 2013; and innovative SMEs such as AVID Technology and Hyperdrive Innovation driving the early electrification activity.”

Ryan Maughan:

“Electrification – in simple terms – is the transition of vehicle powertrains from petrol and diesel, to powertrains that use electricity.

“It represents a huge opportunity for the North East because of the established sectors we have in automotive and energy, as well as the skills and expertise we have around the tech involved in electric vehicle powertrains.”

Paul, you are the Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and Ryan, you are the founder of AVID Technology, which manufactures components for electric vehicles. Is the region well placed to capitalise on electrification? Why?

Paul Butler:

“Quite simply it’s our inherent capabilities. We are home to Europe’s most successful EV, the Nissan LEAF; to Europe’s first giga battery manufacturing facility, one of three EV battery manufacturing facilities in the North East; and we have the full power electronics, motors and drives (PEMD) capability here in the region – no other region in the UK can lay claim to that. In addition, the former Regional Development Agency, ONE NorthEast, invested in charging infrastructure and this investment has continued as Sunderland is home to the UK’s first superfast charging station, which opened in April 2019. In addition, 17 of the 21 automotive R&D sites across the region are focussed on electrification.

“We’re the only region in the country with these kinds of credentials. From this solid base we must continue to develop and build our capability and drive forward the electric agenda in the UK.”

Ryan Maughan:

“As a region we have real strengths in vehicle manufacturing, and a lot of talent and expertise in areas like motor controls, electric controls etc.

“The automotive industry is undergoing a huge transition because of electrification and we need to look at how we build capacity across the sector.

“The North East is well placed to respond because we already have one of the most established manufacturing sectors around electric vehicles in the world.

“There’s work to do to make sure we make the most of the transition to electrification and the opportunities it provides, but we already have a significant head start.”

How does electrification form part of the North East LEP’s wider decarbonisation and sustainability agenda?

Paul Butler:

“Vehicle omissions are one of the biggest contributors to CO2, so the electrification of the sector would have a huge impact. We see the automotive sector being an early adopter, with other sectors like construction, manufacturing, and rail following.

“Electrification is a huge opportunity to address decarbonisation and the climate emergency.”

Ryan Maughan:

“A big part of the North East Strategic Economic Plan is focussed on advanced manufacturing, and electrification has a major role to play in that, particularly in sectors like automotive, transport and aerospace.

“The North East used to be based around heavy industry, where as now the new industries we’re growing are focussed around renewable energy, the production of machinery for renewable power, and clean transportation. The North East is a trailblazer in that way.”

What are your plans for North East electrification and what kind of timescales are we looking at?

Paul Butler:

“It’s happening now, programmes like EV North and Driving the Electric Revolution are driving the agenda for our vibrant North East electrification community. Through EV North, our members have set out their strategy and vision for our future.

“However, electrification and the technology going into future vehicles open up the market for non-automotive companies. We need to raise awareness of these opportunities and support companies to enter the market to grow our regional capability and help businesses diversify and become more resilient.”

Ryan Maughan:

“My company, AVID Technology, has been involved in vehicle electrification for the past 15 years. Electrification has reached a tipping point in that demand from the market has really grown in recent years. It’s important that, as a company, we’re in the right place to ride that wave and meet the market demand.

“Looking wider, along with Paul and the North East LEP, I’m really passionate about growing the ecosystem in the North East for the benefit of all the businesses working in relevant sectors. I want to help build the talent pool, grow the cluster, and see our region at the forefront of the sector.

“The new legislation banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035 and the climate change crisis have had a combined impact. Things have to change and we must address air quality and CO2 emissions. The answer is electrification.

“The legislation has actually made it easier for manufacturers to invest in electrification. Before, many weren’t willing to take the risk and only a handful were focussing on R&D. What the legislation has done is level the playing field, it has de-risked electrification for OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) and there is now a lot of investment in electric powertrain development.”

How will this help with the region’s recovery post COVID-19?

Paul Butler:

“Electrification is a huge market opportunity for the North East. Forecasts just for the PEMD market suggest growth of around £5bn by 2025, largely driven by the automotive sector, but expanding to more than £80bn by 2050 as electrification becomes commonplace in other sectors.

“We do need to consider the impact of our exit from the EU, particularly around rules of origin which drives requirements for UK content. There is, however, a lot strategic focus across the UK on supply chain development from UK Government, the Automotive Council, SMMT, the North East LEP, the NEAA and others.”

Ryan Maughan:

“We need to build a robust regional economy that’s based on creating things – high value-added products that have a long-term sustainable future.

“We need to be encouraging school children to have an interest in STEM subjects and bringing the right inward investments into the region. We also need to create the right environment for start-ups, and do all of this with a long-term view.

“We have to work to the coherent, long-term vision set out in the North East Strategic Economic Plan and help transform the region to high value-added, high tech jobs in engineering and design, low carbon technologies, renewable energy and electrification.”

How can people get involved and find out more?

Paul Butler:

“If anyone would like a conversation about the electrification agenda, please contact the team at the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA). We really want to support companies to enter the market and contribute to its growth in the North East, and we have support programmes funded through ERDF to support SMEs on this too.”

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

North East Local Enterprise Partnership 2020 AGM 

Businesses will be given an update on plans to build a stronger North East post-pandemic economy at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) 2020 Annual General Meeting.

Taking place online on Tuesday 24 November, the event will include a welcome from the recently-appointed Chair of the North East LEP, Lucy Winskell.

Lucy Winskell said: “As 2020 began, we were making good progress towards our goal of creating 100,000 more and better jobs here in the North East by 2024.

“However, we know that COVID-19 has hit businesses and communities in our region hard. That’s why we acted quickly to create the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group with the CBI and the North of Tyne and North East combined authorities, which has recently published its proposal for counteracting this damage and creating a thriving post-pandemic economy.”

The AGM will also include updates on business growth, innovation, skills, transport connectivity, investment and infrastructure in the region, and how businesses are preparing for next year’s EU Exit.

Speakers at the event include Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP; Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East LEP; and Paul Woods, Chief Finance Officer at the North East LEP.

Lucy Winskell added: “It’s been a tough year but there is still positive news to share as we look to the future of our region and the opportunities we have in sectors including digital, low carbon, life sciences and pharma.”

The 2020 North East LEP AGM will take place on Tuesday 24 November from 9.30am to 10.45am. Book your place here.