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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Northumbria University secures funding to support SMEs and graduate start-ups

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study from Northumbria University about the funding it has secured through the Northumbria Enterprise and Business Support 2 (NEBS2) to enhance the competitiveness and growth of SMEs, and support the creation of new graduate enterprises.

The £1.9m Northumbria Enterprise and Business Support 2 (NEBS2) offers a package of financial support and expert advice to SMEs and graduate start-ups, thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The project also includes a financial contribution to help small businesses employ up to two graduates, typically on 6-month internships programmes.

With ERDF funding, the support will run until June 2023 and is available to businesses in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

The aim is to provide a coherent package of services to enhance the competitiveness and growth of SMEs, and to support the creation of new graduate enterprises. Businesses that are looking at ways to respond more effectively to the challenges of COVID-19, or recruit highly talented student interns, are also encouraged to apply.

NEBS2 follows the success of a previous project, which ran from 2015 to 2018 and benefited more than 150 businesses in the region. Overall, this latest project is expected to support 230 new and existing SMEs and provide internship opportunities to 120 graduates.

The three strands of the project are based on part-financing internships to help SMEs grow and provide long-term employment opportunities for graduates, mentoring support for new graduate enterprises, and free expert advice and guidance for businesses provided by leading academics at Northumbria.

To find out more about please contact [email protected].

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Delivering apprenticeships during the coronavirus pandemic

Abigail Cook joined NEL Fund Managers in 2017 as a Level 2 Administration Apprentice. On completion of her Level 2, Abigail immediately progressed to Level 4, which she successfully completed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive Officer of NEL Fund Managers, and Abigail Cook, Investment Associate at NEL Fund Managers, discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on apprenticeships, and how organisations have adapted to ensure apprentices and employers continue to benefit from this important route to employment.

Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive Officer

What immediate impact did the coronavirus pandemic have on the delivery of Abigail’s apprenticeship?

At the time when the coronavirus pandemic began, Abigail was right at the end of her Level 4 apprenticeship. At that stage there’s a final completion assessment that includes observation in the workplace.

Obviously that couldn’t happen, so the main disruption was the timescale for moving Abigail onto her Level 7 apprenticeship. We couldn’t get the paperwork signed off on Level 4, so we couldn’t get her enrolled for Level 7.

We were also in the process of moving to a new specialist training provider who could deliver Level 7. The new provider was unable to enroll Abigail onto the new apprenticeship programme until they had official sign off the Level 4 NVQ, and that was on a backlog of around six-eight weeks.

It was just unlucky timing as that was in March/April 2020.

Did NEL Fund Managers benefit from continuing the apprenticeship during the coronavirus pandemic?

Abigail is currently in a developmental role and we know it’s really important that she keeps getting opportunities to learn so putting her apprenticeship on hold could have affected its momentum and her motivation. We were keen COVID-19 didn’t disrupt that and that we could keep it moving forward.

I actually spent a lot of time working with the new training provider, Kaplan, to make sure it could continue. During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic everything was temporarily disrupted and for people in a developmental role it’s important they don’t feel like they’re going to be left on the sidelines. Apprenticeships could have been something that was easily left on the shelf but we didn’t want to do that; we felt it was really important to keep pushing to make sure it continued.

Why has NEL Fund Managers chosen to invest in apprenticeships?

There are multiple reasons. NEL Fund Managers does a lot of technical work and we need technical skills. Whilst the Level 4 apprenticeship has given Abigail a good grounding we spotted an opportunity for her to move from an administration role to a technical role.

Although we do a lot of learning in the workplace, I think it’s really important people have external learning as well. People in a developmental role will bring improvements to processes as they go, so if they’re only learning in the workplace, where are they going to get that knowledge? We really want people to experience that cross-pollination from training in the workplace in addition to the external perspectives offered through an apprenticeship.

Another reason is that NEL Fund Managers focuses a lot of emphasis on staff retention; over 50% of our staff has been with us for ten years or more. You can’t just assume people will stay, you have to offer them progression and the best way to do that is through training. We’ve got a very long history of that at NEL Fund Managers; everyone in the business has done a lot of training. We’re keen to support people who want to continue to learn and develop because we want to keep those members of staff and we want to keep their skills too.

The other benefit is that apprenticeships offer a structured programme and for small businesses, it’s quite difficult to deliver a three-year structured training programme. Going onto a planned apprenticeship means someone takes on the care of that structured programme for us, and makes sure it happens.

Abigail’s apprenticeship is in accounting and we have several accountants here in the business and that have all learnt through the apprenticeship route. We know it works and there’s tradition there. Because we benefitted from it, we want the next generation to benefit from it too.

Abigail Cook, Investment Associate

What changes did you have to adapt to in order to complete your Level 4 during lockdown?

Towards the end of my Level 4 there was a series of final observations that had to be done. My assessor, Olivia, couldn’t come and visit in person so we had to think of new ways to get the observations done, and that was mainly through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We had professional discussions that were then recorded and uploaded to the portal that stores evidence of all my work.

I redid one module for my technical certificate and found I actually had more time to do research as I had fewer personal commitments because of lockdown.

Did you find it challenging to move to a home learning / working model?

It wasn’t necessarily challenging, just very different. I’m mainly office based unless I’m attending meetings, and my bedroom has turned into a home office, which is working well now. There were some challenges at the beginning with parents and younger siblings all working/studying from home, and we invested in some new WIFI.

A lot of the work we do at NEL Fund Managers, such as getting wet signatures on documents and having investment files signed off, had to be adapted to be digitised, and that took a lot of work initially. But since then it’s a case of pressing a button and sending it off via email to someone. It was challenging at first but we’ve all adapted to the new processes we’ve developed.

Doing some of the technical learning at home has been hard as normally you might want to sit with someone to go through it. When we are doing revision sharing now it’s about sharing screens on Teams. As a learner I’d prefer to do some of that in person.

The Zoom sessions we’ve been doing have been really interactive but it’s not quite the same as being sat in a classroom being able to ask your peers questions.

Yvonne Gale – We actually picked Kaplan as they were the only training provider that could offer us classroom learning in Newcastle. It’s a three-year programme so I’m hopeful we can go back to a classroom model. Abigail, and our other accounting apprentice, Mike, actually requested classroom learning when we were looking at providers so it’s a shame we’re not able to offer people their preferred method of learning at the moment.

Why did you choose to complete an apprenticeship over another route to employment?

I originally went to sixth form after doing my GCSEs to study AS levels but after my first year I questioned why I was doing them. At the time I also had a part time job and was enjoying the work ethic, as oppose to full-time study.

I saw the Level 2 apprenticeship advertised at NEL Fund Managers and even though it was a very different environment, after my interview I thought ‘yes, I’d like to work here’. Thankfully Yvonne and Suzanne took me on, which was great.

An apprenticeship allows me work and earn whilst I’m studying. Being in secure employment – as opposed to a university experience with a part time job and a lot of debt – seemed really attractive to me.

It was also encouraging to learn other people in NEL Fund Managers have been apprentices as well. That showed me there is a lot of scope for development here and NEL Fund Managers – as an employer – are very encouraging.

Yvonne Gale – Abigail has gone from working part time in hospitality to doing a postgraduate qualification in four years – and she’s skipped all the student debt.

The apprenticeship system really works for us as an employer too. The course she’s currently doing – had we been paying that ourselves – would cost £20k. For a small business that’s a huge amount of money. Because of the apprenticeship system we’ve been able to get that for 5% of the cost – so it costs us £1k for a £20k piece of training.

And Abigail is getting £20k worth of training, and she’s not having to pay for it.

What are your career aspirations moving forward?

Ideally I’d like to move into more of an investment executive role, managing my own investment opportunities and working with yet more growing local businesses. I’m definitely getting the skills I need through my apprenticeship. The amount I’ve learned is really helping me develop in my current role.

I’d like to finish the current apprenticeship in the next three years and move into a permanent investment executive role. In the long term I’d like to continue at NEL Fund Managers and see what other progression opportunities there are.

Find information and guidance for businesses on hiring an apprentice on the North East Growth Hub Apprenticeship Toolkit.

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Funding awarded to help North East businesses recover from COVID-19 impact

More than £235,000 in funding has been awarded to help North East businesses in a range of sectors recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will result in the creation of 12 different business support projects, for North East businesses operating in areas including the cultural sector, food and drink, digital and manufacturing.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explained: “The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group was created very quickly after the effect of the pandemic on our region became apparent, and it is coordinating a response which prioritises job creation and investment in our people, infrastructure and innovation.

“As part of this response, the North East LEP is providing funding that will enable business support organisations to put in place new ways of helping businesses in a variety of sectors to rebuild and move forward.”

The money is part of the Local Growth Fund which helps to create jobs, boost the economy and improve the quality of life for people living and working in North East England.

The programmes which have been awarded funding through this latest round of grants include a programme to help digital businesses promote vacancies to people in the region who have been made redundant during the pandemic; an innovation accelerator for the pharmaceutical sector in the region; and a programme to support the economic recovery of the creative and cultural sector in Durham.

Ian Pilkington, Chair of Food and Drink North East (FADNE), which has been awarded funding to support food and drink businesses in the region, said: “Targeted, sector specific and specialist business support is a fundamental part of the FADNE strategy and key to unleashing the potential of our vibrant food and drink sector and supporting its growth in a meaningful and measurable way. We are delighted to be working with partners such as the North East LEP and NBSL and look forward to launching our Speaking From Experience programme early in the New Year.”

Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, which will use its funding to develop the region’s electric vehicle cluster, EV North, said: “North East is leading the UK’s electrification agenda. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, we must continue to develop our capabilities in this area and ensure our businesses are best placed to capitalise on this global electrification mega trend. We are delighted to receive this support to enable us to move our EV North activities forward.”

“This is a critical time for many businesses in our region, which have been hit hard by the economic shock of COVID-19,” said Colin Bell. “The North East has an efficient, coordinated response which I am confident will put us on the path to a stronger post-pandemic economy and this funding will help to make sure that no one is left behind as we move towards recovery.”

Find out more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Recovery Group here.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Innovation Northumbria: Incubator

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study from Northumbria University about it’s new Innovation Northumbria: Incubator, which supports its flourishing community of student and graduate start-ups, and provides opportunities for business partners to offer mentoring and financial backing.

Opened in October 2019 next to the University’s main campus, the state-of the-art facility provides high-quality support for student and graduate entrepreneurs, giving them the best possible opportunity to establish and grow thriving businesses.

The initiative has already received financial support from Santander Universities UK, Sir James Knott Trust, North East Times Magazine, Space Group and the North East LEP.

Northumbria is looking for additional support to set up an Enterprise Club, where members can offer pro-bono advice and expertise, and an Enterprise Fund through which they can pledge financial support to help fledgling start-ups develop proof-of-concept and feasibility business plans.

The initiative reinforces Northumbria’s reputation as a university that champions enterprise and innovation through its teaching, and the support it offers start-ups through the Student and Graduate Enterprise Service. Pioneering courses such as Entrepreneurial Business Management – where students run their own businesses – and the student-led consultancy service delivered on the Business Clinic programme, have also established Northumbria as a leader in entrepreneurial education.

The University has been ranked in the top three for graduate start-ups in the UK – based on estimated turnover – since 2011, including five years in first place. Businesses developed by Northumbria graduates had an estimated turnover on £84 million in 2018/19.

Since 2009, Northumbria has supported the development of nearly 300 new businesses which have led to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs, the vast majority of which are in the North East.

To find out more about the Innovation Northumbria: Incubator visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/incubatorlaunch.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Funding on offer for North East employers to help young people into work

New funding from government is on offer to help employers in the North East create job placements for young people who might otherwise be at risk of long-term unemployment.

Applications are now open for the Kickstart Scheme, which offers employers of any size, and operating in any sector, funding to create new, six month job placements for young people who are currently receiving Universal Credit.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, explains: “The aim of this new scheme is to help young people gain the skills, confidence and experience that they need in order to go on and find work once they’ve completed their job placement.

“It’s not just a short-term measure. In the North East we really want to provide high quality job placements that will not only give young people experience of the workplace, but also give them valuable opportunities to learn and progress.”

Businesses that want to create 30 or more job placements can apply directly to the Kickstart Scheme via www.gov.uk. For businesses that plan to create fewer than 30 placements, the North East LEP will apply on their behalf, grouping applications to create clusters of high quality placements across a range of sectors in the North East.

Organisations of any size are eligible to apply, as long as the placements they are creating help young people to become more employable, for example, by helping them develop their skills in the workplace, by providing support with interview preparation and CV development, or by providing careers advice and help with goal-setting.

The funding on offer includes 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. There is also £1,500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021.

Michelle Rainbow added: “We know that young people, many of whom have finished school, college or university during the pandemic, are facing a difficult time and might have seen their plans for the future turned upside down.

“That’s why programmes like this are so important, and why we are working with North East employers to help give the next generation the best possible start in what is one of the most difficult times any of us have seen.”

For more information about the Kickstart Scheme visit www.northeastlep.co.uk/kickstart.

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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.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: TechUPWomen

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, which took 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands, and retrained them for a career in technology.

Durham University wanted to address the fact that only 17% of the tech workforce is female, and women from Black, Asian and other minority communities are under-represented in the sector.

In 2019 it launched TechUPWomen, a programme that retrained 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands for a career in technology. In spring 2020, the TechUPWomen participants graduated from the six-month programme having developed skills in data science, machine learning, and project management.

Whilst studying for the programme, participant Benedicta Banga launched her own app – Blaqbase. Fellow graduate Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir is now working for HR in One as Content Manager and has been elected Board Trustee of Being Woman UK. Winona Sharpe, who also completed the course, started a new position as Junior Release Associate with Double Eleven Ltd, a games developer based in Teesside.

Other success stories include Jennifer Calland who has a new job as a Google Certified Platform Engineer for Cloud Technology Solutions and has been awarded a place at Edge Hill University to do an MSc in Big Data Analytics. Course graduate Amy Woodget has a new job as Lead Advisor in Earth Observation for the Civil Service, and Katherine Iveson has a new job as a Data Analyst for HMRC.

Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme was named winner of the Employment & Skills category at the Digital Agenda Impact Awards, which celebrates how technology and innovation improves lives.

For more information about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, visit www.techupwomen.org.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: Ethical hackers help boost businesses’ digital resilience

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study from Northumbria University about its computing students, who recently tested how well-prepared local businesses are for potential cyber-attacks by attempting to hack into their IT systems.

Part of a group of ‘ethical hackers’, the specially-trained students from Northumbria University’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences and innovative Cyber Clinic, attempt to bypass online security systems in order to identify potential threats or weaknesses, which could be exploited by real-life malicious hackers.

The undergraduates were employed as cyber security consultants for the newly launched North East Business Resilience Centre (NEBRC), a non-profit organisation that supports and helps protect businesses across the North East from cyber-crimes.

The NEBRC is a partnership between Northumbria, Cleveland, Durham, Humberside and the North West and South Yorkshire police forces, together with Northumbria and Sheffield Hallam universities.

The Northumbria University students are matched with local businesses where they spend time carrying out vulnerability assessments of businesses’ networks and web applications to identify any weaknesses in IT systems and computers.

They then produce a report outlining the steps that need to be taken to protect the business from real-life attacks.

Local businesses interested in becoming involved in the NEBRC, and employing the skills of the Northumbria University students, can visit nebrcentre.co.uk for more information.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Regional health innovation experts help Dräger UK secure multimillion-pound PPE deal

Blyth-based Dräger is due to begin a lucrative contract supplying the government with respiratory masks following support from three key regional organisations.

The Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), the Innovation SuperNetwork and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) worked in collaboration to provide expert guidance to help strengthen Dräger’s pitch to government to supply the NHS with respiratory protection masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was announced last month that the government has now placed a multimillion-pound order with Dräger to supply respiratory protection masks (FFP3) over the course of this year and next.

The deal will bring investment and jobs into the region as the company plans to set up a mask production operation based in Blyth, Northumberland, alongside four other production sites across the globe.

Alex Duthie, UK Sales Director, Dräger, said: “The AHSN NENC were invaluable to our bid for the PPE Government contract. They were able to get our name to the right people and assisted in building our profile as an existing and trusted supplier within the NHS. Whenever an opportunity arose, the AHSN NENC, Innovation SuperNetwork and North East LEP were advocates of ours, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Innovation SuperNetwork contacted Dräger earlier this year after learning they were keen to open a PPE manufacturing plant in response to the growing demand for respiratory masks during the pandemic. The Innovation SuperNetwork then introduced the local Dräger team to the AHSN NENC, which is a key member of NHS England’s regional emergency response procurement cell.

The AHSN NENC worked closely with Dräger to develop a proposal around its manufacturing plans which was pitched to the regional and national leads involved in the NHS procurement cell.

In addition, the AHSN NENC also coordinated with NHS Trusts across the region to provide samples of Dräger’s products which received positive responses from the frontline.

Stephen Lynn, Business Manager at the AHSN NENC, said: “Gaining access to the NHS can be a difficult and daunting prospect for businesses. The AHSN NENC’s close links with the healthcare system allows us to act as a conduit to help open doors and speed up the process of innovations reaching the frontline.

“We are proud to have been able to support Dräger through this process and we’re delighted that the company is now in a position to expand its PPE manufacturing operation, which will bring vital investment and job opportunities into the region.

“This is a prime example of how by working collaboratively with partners across the region, we can quickly identify, develop and support businesses with innovations that have potential to make a real impact both within the health and care system and the regional economy.”

Steph Oxley, Innovation Manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork, initially supported Dräger and made the introduction to the AHSN NENC. She said: “The successful outcome for Dräger expanding their operation, after engaging with the NHS to understand the long term need for PPE, is a fantastic example of how collaboration across the innovation ecosystem can have immediate and long-term impact for businesses, industries and the local economy. The Innovation SuperNetwork works to embed innovation in key regional clusters, connecting industry with suppliers and enabling partnerships to further innovation and business growth. It’s great to see our intervention in this case led to such a positive result for all involved.”

Alan Welby, Director of Innovation at the North East LEP, said: “This is an excellent example of what can happen with strong leadership, a focus on collaboration and a determination to make things happen.

“It is fantastic to see Dräger secure this multimillion-pound PPE deal which will create many new jobs within the region – what a fantastic outcome from the crisis caused by COVID-19.”

Dräger’s order from the British government to deliver respiratory protection masks (FFP3) will start in 2020 and will stretch until the end of 2021. The expected net sales are roughly EUR 100 million.

A mask production facility will be set up in the UK, in the Blyth area of Northumberland. There, Dräger has had a development and production site for respiratory protection technology for firefighters and industry for over 50 years. This is in addition to the existing production network in Sweden and South Africa and the recently decided new production sites in France and the US. The investment in the expansion of production capacities across all five production sites will require a mid-double-digit million euro amount in the 2020 financial year.