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

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.”

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

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

Proposed recovery and renewal deal for post-COVID North East published

North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group outlines proposals to transform and reimagine the North East economy

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has published its Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, which outlines how a thriving post-pandemic economy could potentially be created.

The group is made up of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities with the support of industry, to ensure the North East has strong economic leadership that acts quickly and collaboratively to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

Its proposal reflects on COVID-19 as a catalyst for change and details how the North East is ready and prepared to harness this catalyst to reinvigorate the North East economy.

The document sets out how, with the necessary support from the government, the North East could maximise opportunities to reach a goal of rapidly creating 100,000 good quality and secure jobs.

In the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, the Group is asking the government for £2.8bn to directly unlock half of required 100,000 additional jobs quickly. It also wants accelerated confirmation of existing business cases, including Transforming Cities funding; a commitment to joint working in areas where the North East can lead the national recovery, specifically low carbon energy; and flexibility within national programmes to allow for maximum leverage of local and national resources.

It is envisioned that this would keep people in jobs and training, support businesses and sectors to restart and recover, and support the transition of our communities and places as they adapt to living with COVID-19.

In the long-term, the deal sets out how our future economy can be built by maximising the potential of our existing assets and exploring new opportunities and by investing in digital and transport connectivity.

Opportunities identified in the document include a series of new projects to empower our rural and coastal areas and reinvigorate our town and city centres; achieving zero carbon emissions targets; utilising new digital construction and advanced manufacturing techniques; leading the national offshore wind revolution; and delivering the first digitally-connected Freeport for the UK.

The proposals give particular focus to jobs in the key areas of data ageing, low carbon, life sciences and pharma. This will help the transition to a stronger, higher-productivity and higher-wage economy, with people primed to adapt to challenges and new opportunities.

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “The Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East is an ambitious proposal that is designed to create a fair playing field for everyone.

“Through our Strategic Economic Plan, it was our goal to create 100,000 new and better jobs and we were doing well – with 68,000 more jobs in March 2020. But the impact of COVID-19 will reset that, which is why our Recovery and Renewal Deal is so important.

“We have presented a proposal that puts sustainability and decarbonisation at the core. The Recovery and Renewal Deal ensures communities continue to improve and provide a strong offer for people to live, work, study and visit.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director for the CBI North East, said: “Now more than ever we need to be imaginative in our thinking, brave in our approach and robust in our delivery in order to recover and thrive.

“In the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East, we have suggested the way to a new North East. Now is the time to come together to think bigger, greener, more inclusively and with innovation to reimagine our economy.”

Mayor Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority said: “The pandemic has hit people hard. Young people need jobs. Businesses need investment. Yet we have the potential to be world leaders in offshore energy, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable transport.

“Our Recovery and Renewal deal will create 100,000 well paid jobs. It supports more affordable homes and better health. It’s what our region needs, and I want central government to back our plan and back the North East.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair, North East Combined Authority, said: “It is vital that we have a strong plan in place to help our businesses and communities to recover from this unprecedented crisis.

“The Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East builds on the work we are already doing with government and other partners nationally and regionally to unlock all available support and financial assistance and sets out a bold vision for future prosperity.”

A dedicated North East COVID-19 Response Group web page has been launched for those looking for more information and partners wanting to engage with its work.

North East businesses can also access the North East Growth Hub, where a COVID-19 (coronavirus) toolkit provides the most up to date support and advice, including partner information.

Read the Recovery and Renewal Deal for the North East here.

Home / Economic assets and infrastructure

North East LEP and regional partners submit response to government’s consultation on UK Freeports

Paul Carbert, Economic Policy Co-ordinator at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, outlines the North East’s innovative response, which would drive economic growth in the region, create jobs and regenerate coastal communities.

As the UK prepares to complete its exit from the EU and establishes new trading relationships around the world, the UK government launched a consultation earlier this year on Freeports policy.

Freeports and free zones are in place in many parts of the world. They are areas within a country’s land border where different customs rules apply, and are being considered by government as part of its future strategy to strengthen trade relationships and secure inward investment. Freeports provide benefits for exporters and importers because goods can be imported into, manufactured, and exported from inside the zone without incurring tariffs and customs duties unless they enter the domestic market. They offer the potential to promote regeneration and job creation in those areas within the zone and drive growth in the wider economy.

The government’s consultation has sought views on how they should structure their approach to Freeports. It envisages that because of their likely location close to ports or in coastal areas, the strategy offers the opportunity to stimulate the economies of often deprived areas. They are also seeking proposals which position Freeports as hubs for innovation to test new ideas and technologies. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and an active list of partners comprising of the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, Business Durham, the CBI, the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Port of Blyth, Port of Sunderland, Port of Tyne, Newcastle International Airport, University of Sunderland, Durham University, Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, submitted a response to the Government’s consultation earlier this month that outlines the region’s preferred approach to Freeports; one that focuses on new growth and jobs, the regeneration of key coastal areas and the development of other parts of the regional economy. It also reinforces the need for the UK’s existing labour market, security and environmental standards to be maintained.

After conducting research and gathering the views of local partners, the North East response has proposed that a multi-site, digitally enabled Free Trade Zone – linking key manufacturing sites in the North East with ports – would provide the greatest benefit for the North East. It would add value to our current economy, provide an opportunity to deploy and test a range of new digital approaches, and guard against the risk of local displacement of economic activity. It would complement a free trade deal with the European Union.

The innovative approach put forward for the North East takes into account the region’s industrial and logistics structure and would build on its wide-ranging assets. It would allow the region’s digital sector to develop innovation that would improve the operation and efficiency of Freeports, and provide an opportunity to stimulate job growth in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, energy, digital, and transport, particularly at a time when the region’s economy will be continuing to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst the region agrees Freeports are not a substitute for a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU – the preference in the North East is for both a deal and a Free Trade Zone – should the UK leave the transition period without a new trade deal, Freeports would mitigate some of the impact and provide opportunities to build on existing supply chains and clusters, and attract inward investment.

Following the submission of the region’s response to the Government’s consultation, the North East LEP and its partners will now work on preparing a collaborative bid to a government sponsored competition which is expected in the Autumn, to establish a North East Free Trade Zone.

To receive further updates about the North East LEP’s bid for a North East Free Trade Zone, please sign up to receive Insights North East, the newsletter from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.