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Strong UK economic and job growth opportunities identified in new Science and Innovation Audit

North of England and Scotland at the heart of globally important offshore renewable energy sector

A new audit of the offshore renewable energy industry in the North of England and Scotland (published today, 21st September 2017) demonstrates the strong contribution the region makes to the UK’s position as a global leader in innovation in offshore renewable energy.
The report highlights the area’s world-class research in the field of offshore renewable energy, the strong supply chain, and the many innovation programmes and strong collaborations between industry and academia.

It was noted that the number of people directly employed in offshore wind in the UK could double between 2017 and 2032, meaning there is an immediate need to join up education and training providers with the future industry demand for a higher-skilled workforce with key skills in areas including engineering and manufacturing.

The Offshore Renewable Energy Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) was one of eight audits commissioned by Government to set out the UK’s strengths in key areas. The audits help regions to map their research and innovation strengths and identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.

This SIA focused on the international competitiveness of the research and innovation activities in Northern England and Scotland in offshore renewable energy, the future needs in innovation and the skilled workforce in the sector.

The audit looked at the offshore renewable energy sector at major ports in the North East, Tees Valley, Humber and Liverpool local enterprise partnership areas and Scotland.

Led by Newcastle University, the project saw collaboration between Scottish Enterprise, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, four Local Enterprise Partnerships and Durham, Liverpool and Hull Universities.

The audits are sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Business Minister Lord Prior said,

The Science and Innovation Audits we are publishing today highlight the innovative strengths in regions across the UK and the significant growth and investment opportunities they present. Together with our record investment of an additional £4.7 billion for research and development to 2020/21, we are working closely with regional businesses and partners to ensure the ambitions set out in these reports are delivered to maintain our status as a science powerhouse.

Professor Nick Wright, PVC Innovation and Business, Newcastle University, said,

The SIA on offshore energy has confirmed that the North of England and Scotland together constitute a world-class cluster of activities in this crucial field. It was a great pleasure to see the wonderful progress being made across the board from offshore wind to wave and tidal energies and also see the future potential for this region. The report highlights some major opportunities for the cluster in terms of new technologies and we look forward to working with the Government to drive those forward.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was among those involved in the project. The subsea and offshore sector has been identified as one of four key areas of opportunity in its Strategic Economic Plan.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP chair, said,

The SIA was a fantastic collaboration between the organisations that came together to produce this important report. The North East is a world-leader in offshore and subsea technology. The region is one of six nationally designated Centres for Offshore Renewables Engineering. We’re delighted to have been a part of the audit, which has highlighted the globally-significant contribution the North and Scotland make to the UK through our strong offshore sector.

Dr Stephen Wyatt, Research & Innovation Director for ORE Catapult, said: “A strong science and research base in offshore renewable energy provides the support framework needed to allow UK businesses to flourish, creating jobs and economic benefit and attracting inward investment.

Our ambition is for the UK to become world-leaders in innovation in key technology areas. Our strengths in robotics, artificial intelligence and composite materials, as well as our subsea engineering expertise, can see us take a leading role in areas such as floating wind, and in developing wave and tidal technology. This report is vital in supporting the forthcoming offshore wind sector deal to Government and proves confidence in the future of our sector.

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Building Our Industrial Strategy – a response from the North East

The  recent Green Paper, Building Our Industrial Strategy, sets out Government’s proposed approach to creating an industrial strategy that addresses long term challenges to the UK economy,  aiming to increase productivity and drive growth across the whole country.

The Green Paper aims to identify where proactive Government intervention can:

  • Build on UK economic strengths and extend excellence into the future in order to secure investment and develop markets for UK goods and services
  • Close identified performance gaps between sectors, companies and areas
  • Ensure that the UK is the most competitive place to start and build a business

During a three month consultation period, the Government invited responses to the proposed strategy The North East LEP, working together with the North East Combined Authority and in consultation with business organisations and other partners, put forward a response.

Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy at the North East LEP, introduces the key elements of our response.

The Government proposed that a UK-wide industrial strategy is required if we’re to successfully increase productivity and competitiveness in the UK economy. We welcomed the opportunity to have an input to the proposed strategy

We drew on the extensive consultation and discussions the North East LEP has had with economic partners across the North East region. Much of this discussion has taken place as we’ve worked to refresh the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), which sets out the strategic direction for the regional economy. The timing is important given the decision to leave the European Union, and it is important that we prepare for the opportunities and challenges”

Indeed, the anticipation that a national industrial strategy would be developed was one of the elements which informed the development of the SEP, which sets out clearly evidence of the region’s industrial strengths, innovation and business growth opportunities.

In our response to Government we identified 10 key issues and set out recommendations focused on the following areas:

  1. The importance of the North East SEP in setting a direction for our economy
  2. Measuring success of the industrial strategy
  3. Preparing for leaving the European Union
  4. Sector deals
  5. Promoting and resourcing innovation in the North East
  6. Supporting our business growth ecosystem
  7. Improving skills to drive growth
  8. A long term framework for public investment
  9. Improved infrastructure for enhanced productivity and investment
  10. Robust, collaborative and multi-level governance

We’re making good progress towards the North East LEP’s aim of creating more and better jobs in the North East, driving forward the region’s economy and building on our strengths as a region. It’s our belief that, as the North East SEP is implemented, it will make  a strong contribution to the UK’s overall industrial development and will continue to cement the North East’s position as one of the UK’s fastest growing regional economies. The Industrial Strategy provides a significant opportunity for ensuring it is delivered

Read the full, detailed list of recommendation

Download the North East LEP and North East Combined Authority’s full response to the Green Paper

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North East LEP seeking Government assurances on EU structural funding

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking reassurance that European (EU) funded projects already signed off by Government will continue to be delivered.

To date, the North East LEP area has £89.5million of its £437million EU structural funding committed to projects for the 2014-2020 period.

A further £104.5million worth of projects were put forward to Government for approval in advance of the Referendum.

Collectively these projects will support over 7,400 businesses across the North East LEP area, which covers Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, driving growth and job creation.

The funding will also support almost 30,000 local people into employment and provide those in employment with the skills they need to progress in work.

Chair of the North East LEP Andrew Hodgson said: “We are hopeful that these projects will be honoured by Government and deliver important support to businesses and local people before Brexit happens.

“It is important to realise we will not be immediately losing the opportunities that EU funding has historically brought to the North East.

“Millions of pounds of projects are still likely to go ahead, bringing new jobs and closing the skills gap in the North East. The truth is that we just don’t know yet if or when we will see changes.

“EU funding has hugely benefitted the North East over the last few decades and we are lobbying Government for clarity and seeking assurances that any potential future funding gap will be filled. We urge the Government to provide this guidance quickly to ensure opportunities to create jobs and growth are not lost.”

There is no formal Government guidance available currently following the EU Referendum result on the amount of European funding that will be available in the future for North East businesses and organisations beyond the projects already approved.