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North East LEP bolsters Supply Chain North East to rise to PPE challenge

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has bolstered the North East Growth Hub’s Supply Chain North East programme to help regional businesses rise to the ongoing UK-wide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) challenge.

A flagship North East LEP business growth scheme, Supply Chain North East is delivered by RTC North in partnership with NEAA, NEPIC and Generator/Digital Union.

Capital grants programme enhancements have been made in recognition of the constraints faced by many businesses at present.

They include the ability for the Supply Chain North East scheme to make payments at the start of a project. SMEs can also access up to 60% in grants (increased from a cap of 40%) towards stalled pipeline projects due to COVID-19 or activities aimed at developing the supply chain.

Critically, grants up to 80% are available for organisations which can potentially support supply chain needs relating to the health and social care sectors, for example in the provision of PPE, respirators and other products. The funding has been made available from Government’s Local Growth Fund via the North East LEP.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “The changes to the Supply Chain North East programme are significant because they provide the ability to speed up the supply of PPE and other products and services needed in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are determined to give businesses the support they need to unlock projects that will allow them to thrive in the future and this is big step towards that goal.”

Jamie Ollivere, Managing Director at RTC North, said: “In response to COVID-19, it’s vital businesses know that through the Supply Chain North East programme they can get immediate support. Our team is poised to help businesses respond directly to supply chain demands in healthcare and to support other projects that will help them build resilience and put them on a path back to growth.”

Supply Chain North East is a multi-million pound programme aimed at revolutionising the way SMEs diversify their offering and embrace new markets. The programme is receiving £3,148,513 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. Funding of £800,000 has been made available for the grants from the North East LEP’s Local Growth Fund from Government.

For more information, please visit Supply Chain North East.

 

Ends.

About the Local Growth Fund:

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

The data includes both the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas and covers the period from December 2019 to February 2020.

“Today’s release relates to the quarter before the coronavirus restrictions were put in place which have started to significantly affect the North East economy. It provides useful insights into how our labour market was performing at the end of February

“Overall, the data for this quarter was encouraging, with employment having increased by 15,000 compared to the previous three months and unemployment having fallen by 7,000.  There was also a decline in the number of people that were economically inactive – a broad group that includes those who are not actively seeking work for a wide range of reasons, including full-time study, looking after family and home, disability and ill-health, and retirement – of 6,000.

“Over the last quarter, the North East was the English region that had the largest fall in the unemployment rate of those aged 16 and over of any English region.  It also had the joint highest increase in the employment rate for those aged 16 to 64.

“However, despite these gains, going into the current scenario the North East was the English region with the lowest employment rate and highest unemployment rate.

“Whilst today’s statistics are important, we recognise that the measures being taken in response to COVID-19 are having a significant impact on our economy with these numbers now representing the benchmark for our future recovery.

“The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities have come together, with the support of industry, to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group to provide maximum support for businesses in the immediate term and to plan for long-term economic recovery following the coronavirus outbreak and to ensure the region has strong and collaborative economic leadership as we work through the impacts of COVID-19.

“The immediate focus is on supporting businesses to remain operational, to keep people in employment and to work with partners to solve industry challenges.

“By co-ordinating one response to the current economic crisis, we will use one voice and our collective influence to reassure the North East public, deliver crucial interventions and lobby Government.

The North East Growth Hub is working hard to ensure businesses have access to all of the latest information, guidance and support regarding Covid_19. This can be viewed here: https://www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk/toolkits/covid-19-coronavirus-toolkit

Business are also being asked to complete this short survey to help us understand what support is needed and feed this back to government: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/COVID19_Business_Survey

ENDS

Notes to editors

About the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP)

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is a public, private, education and voluntary sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.

 

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The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group: Solving challenges together

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

It has a five point plan in place. Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), is leading the response in terms of mobilising partners to help problem solve.

Right now the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is working hard to marshal resources and bring our collective organisations together to support businesses and partners in the heat of a really challenging time for the nation and economy.

There are three ways in which we aim to particularly add value:

  • By helping organisations address their immediate challenges
  • By supporting frontline delivery and mobilising the incredible power of businesses to aid with that
  • By looking into the future and preparing for an economy that will be substantially different when we get back to a kind of normal

Getting the right information out to businesses is absolutely critical so they know what measures they can access and are able to navigate through a very turbulent time. We’re signposting to support on different business models, distance working and a variety of issues that COVID-19 is throwing up.

Particularly important is that we help companies do the right thing and look after staff, customers and suppliers in a really challenging environment.

Working together at scale

It’s an extremely stressful time for many business owners out there so we are trying to listen closely to people’s worries and fears and respond accordingly. Cascading national information down on a regional and local level is an important role in this and gives reassurance that everyone is working together at scale for the common good.

A lot of the activity I’ve been leading on has related to working with businesses to provide rapid solutions to some of the specific challenges faced by Government due to COVID-19. These include the provision of ventilators and PPE equipment as well as many other examples. We are trying to match make both nationally and regionally as equally the North East has issues specific to this geographical patch.

Part of this work involves mobilising various communities, such as those in digital and logistics, to build tools to help people communicate better and move equipment around more efficiently.

 

Published on the North East Growth Hub

Those wanting to know more and get involved can access the latest opportunities by visiting the Call Directory on the North East Growth Hub. There are over twenty published at the minute and there will no doubt be more to come. If you can help, please do as there are some big strategic issues that need to be addressed as early as possible.

Finally, as part of our ongoing dialogue with Government we continue to gather data to inform its work and interventions, and ours, which is why we continue to ask all businesses owners to complete this survey. Finding out what businesses need right now and sharing that intelligence is very important as you’d expect, so we welcome people engaging with us and encouraging others to do so too.

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

 

ENDS

 

 

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Adapting to the new normal and readying for the recovery: In conversation with Councillor Iain Malcolm

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Chair of the North East Combined Authority, explains the importance of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group and his aspirations for its work now and in the future.

There has never been a more important time for a strategic approach to economic leadership as the North East business community strives to overcome the challenges created by COVID-19.

That’s why here at the North East Combined Authority, we have joined forces with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, CBI and North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), to ensure one coherent and consistent approach that will make the greatest impact in the shortest possible timeframe.

We recognise that everyone is having to adapt to a new normal and that it’s hard. In light of this, our immediate focus is on supporting businesses to remain operational, to keep people in employment and to work with partners to solve industry challenges.

Right now, the Group is working at pace to understand the challenges faced by the business community, which is why all partners have been circulating this survey. Please do complete it if you haven’t already as it will help us implement the right solutions and ensure we can signpost those in need to appropriate assistance.

We are also keen to gather data on any particular skills that may be in short supply, such as front line retail staff and drivers. Where this is the case, our goal is to connect organisations in need with available workforce so please do feed this information back.

Of course, there will come a time when restrictions start to ease and life starts to look more like the world we knew. We’re aware that the self-employed, business owners and management teams will face difficult decisions about precisely when and how to restart operations. Our intention is to have plenty of appropriate advice and support ready at that point. The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group webpage is a good place to check for regular updates.

Finally, we know that the impact of Coronavirus extends way beyond the business world and is impacting people on a very human level. On behalf of the Group, I’d like to pass on condolences to all those who have been recently bereaved, as well as our best wishes to those who have family, friends or colleagues who are ill.

I’d also like to express our huge appreciation of the NHS and other front line workers. My personal thanks go to everyone living and working here in the North East for your solidarity, community spirit and forbearance.

 

ENDS

 

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In conversation with Colin Bell about how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is helping to keep businesses moving

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It has a five point plan in place.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is leading the response in terms of business continuity. 

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has come together to mitigate the shock created by Coronavirus, think about what the recovery looks like, and harness the collective energy and ability of the business community to make that upturn happen.

Now is an extremely challenging time and the biggest issue facing everyone is cash flow. Most self-employed and business owners are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water until they can access some of the support Government has made available. 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are the most significant measures that have been put in place but there is a period of time before people will be able to access these so it’s about buying time.

A partnership approach

Being able to draw upon the knowledge and expertise of the CBI, which is part of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, along with the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, is crucial right now as we look at the issues facing large organisations.

These companies have similar issues to smaller companies but on a much larger scale, for example they may be furloughing staff and / or have seen a big drop in demand. Wider challenges for some management teams who continue to operate include trying to manage a reduced workforce where perhaps people are having to take time off to self-isolate, along with the need to reassure those who are still in work and their families about their safety. Where products and services are being supplied to the NHS there is a particular need for business as usual. 

It’s important to recognise that in terms of safety, North East businesses have really stepped up to the plate here. Many could technically still be trading right now but have taken the moral decision to furlough staff and place people before profits and that is to be commended. 

Government is listening

For the self-employed, it was a big win when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a vital lifeline we had been lobbying on and it reinforces that Government continues to listen and respond. The big challenge is we won’t really understand how people can access this until June, however on the plus side, it seems this group should still be able to generate income in the interim.

Another welcome step forward is the extension of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to smaller businesses who would previously have met the requirements for a commercial facility but not have been eligible to apply. Equally, the removal of personal guarantees for facilities under £250k, and capped recoveries for loans over this figure, is a big game changer and will help big and small companies alike.

As a Group, one of our biggest priorities is ensuring businesses exist in three months’ time. As before the crucial factor in that is the need for working capital so we are signposting hard. 

Diversification can help

Where businesses can trade, for example online and in distribution, we are working flat out to support them as much as possible. Alongside this we are trying to point those in industries where demand may have flattened to those where it has spiked, in case they can capitalise by putting core competencies to use in a way perhaps outside the norm. 

It’s a complex arena but we are trying to identify and share opportunities wherever we can and facilitate that diversification. Similarly we are putting lots of effort into rerouting skilled labour where it can be best utilised during this time of crisis.

There is one area in which people can help us. We’re gathering as much data as we can right now to ensure we’re providing the right support and so we can share this intelligence with Government to help inform what next. This is why we’re asking all businesses owners to complete this survey. If you haven’t done this yet, please do so now. 

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

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The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group: Keeping people in employment

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It has a five point plan in place.

In our latest blog, Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), outlines the response in terms of keeping people in employment. 

The impact of Coronavirus on the North East marketplace has been hard and fast. As such, it won’t surprise anyone that one of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group’s immediate priorities is to ensure that businesses keep people in employment and avoid shedding jobs.

In the first instance we are working hard to signpost employers to relevant information and financial support so they have options. Similarly, we are directing employees to advice so they are fully aware of their rights. 

Alongside this, we are coordinating a region-wide response to the more medium-term impact on jobs. This includes trying to capitalise on opportunities for redeployment; thinking about where there may be new and emerging roles; and supporting those who find themselves out of work both now and in the future.

Things are moving rapidly

This is a rapidly developing situation and it is hard to get a real reading on the current level of unemployment in the North East but we continue to gather intelligence and data, such as redundancy figures, and monitor the situation so we can provide appropriate interventions in a timely fashion. It’s likely we won’t have a true reflection until we are well past the other side of the lockdown. 

It’s really important that anyone affected can make sense of the regular updates coming from central Government so we have coordinated a response via the North East Growth Hub. This provides an up to date resource that simplifies things and people can trust. It features frequently asked questions and there is an opportunity to speak to experts if there is something specific visitors to the Hub need help with.

Help at the right time

The recent Government interventions came at a very timely moment. The opportunity to furlough workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a lifeline for a lot of companies and it has been very positive to see take up of this. 

It’s also been good to see many organisations move their workforces to home working so they can keep trading. There is definitely a pattern emerging where staff are being moved to shorter hours to keep them on the payroll while business is quiet. Everything like this helps right now.

Redeployment will be crucial to keeping people in jobs. Some sectors such as retail and tourism have been severely impacted so it’s crucial we look at how the transferable skills available can be used elsewhere, particularly where resource might be tight, for example in the health and social care sector. With the right training and background checks this is achievable and something I believe businesses will quickly get their heads round.

We’re on your side

Everyone is anxious right now, even those with jobs who are wondering what the new world will look like post Coronavirus. My advice is to check out the wealth of excellent advice available, such as on the Government site and via organisations such as TUC, all of which can be found by visiting the North East Growth Hub website. 

Ultimately, people can feel confident that this North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is working with the North East Skills Advisory Panel and other partners to do absolutely everything it can to help the North East community weather this crisis and to make sure regional businesses remain well represented to Government.

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

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In conversation with Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director, North East, CBI, about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership, CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities and other partner agencies have established an Economic and Business Response and Recovery Group to try and help businesses through this tough time and work for the best possible outcome on the other side.

The group will form the basis for the organisations to work together in efforts to coordinate appropriate support to local businesses in light of the immediate and long-term economic impacts of COVID-19.

This is an incredibly challenging time for the whole of the region, with immediate impact for our local businesses and employees.

The scale of these matters is immense and will require concentrated effort of our local organisations to seek to coordinate the promised national level support to address the immediate and long-term challenges arising from this crisis. Our focus this week has been on receiving and communicating the flow of national information out to the community.

We have done this through communications issued through our websites and social media. At this stage it is essential that we sequence our approach with the National Government responses to minimise confusion where possible. However, this is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to keep track of the national schemes as details emerge and consider what actions are then appropriate locally to ensure effective support for our local businesses.

The rapidly changing situation for many is a real concern, but we are here to offer any support and advice we can, and it is critical that the national level support, which will be forthcoming, is effectively targeted and accessed by local businesses.

We would suggest that people follow our social media or get in touch directly through the North East Growth Hub. We would like to thank businesses for their patience at this very challenging time and assure them we are here to help and will pass on any national guidance as soon as we are informed.

For more information about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, please see here.

For the latest advice and guidance for businesses and employers on COVID-19, please visit www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk. For one to one support on the latest support and funding available for businesses, please book an appointment with the Growth Hub Connect team.

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An introduction to the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Here Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains what it is and what it aims to do.

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is a partnership between the North East LEP, business organisations represented through the CBI and both of the Combined Authorities in the region. While we already work together around the economy, now it’s crucial that we show that collaborative strategic leadership so that everyone knows we’re doing everything we can to make a difference.

Our first priority has been to put together a five-point plan. We need to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and also look to the future so we are primed for an upturn. In a nutshell, all our activity hinges around supporting the local economy, building business resilience and getting the region ready for recovery.

Ultimately our longer-term aim is to return the North East to pre-COVID-19 GDP and employment levels.

The five-point plan, in its simplest form, looks at how we can:

  • Keep businesses operational and stop them from shedding jobs
  • Maintain people in employment and economic activity
  • Mobilise partners in the region to solve new problems and challenges
  • Prepare for the longer-term with a plan for recovery in the future
  • Co-ordinate the economic voice and influence of the region to best effect

Working in this way helps avoid duplication of activity. Many different organisations have mobilised very quickly and it’s critical that help is deployed most efficiently to achieve the greatest impact. Our job is therefore to help coordinate all that.

One strong consistent voice

Another part of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group’s work relates to establishing one strong voice, maintaining this and ensuring this is heard by Government, using the mechanisms we have in place to keep the North East in clear view.

It is also important to have one consistent message and hub for regional businesses so they know where to turn for appropriate information. At the moment we are advocating people use the North East Growth Hub which is an online resource, but there are also people available at the end of the phone, should that be needed.

On the Growth Hub we’ve tried to simplify the information out there and signpost clearly to the latest Government measures designed to keep organisations and the self-employed open for business.

A coordinated response with industry

One further area of work I’m keen for everyone to know about is the matching service we are implementing here in the region, connecting people, skills and goods with those in need. Every day we are approached by people offering help on a local and regional level, showing just how generous and community-oriented we are in the North East. It’s quite complex to do this as you’d imagine so this is taking a bit of time.

In addition to this, Government has put out a number of ‘Challenges’. This means that they are asking us to work with them to solve a problem together. As one example, there is a call out right now for manufacturers who can help with the production of ventilators. We are working hard to identify regional businesses who may be able to help with these. If you’d like to find out more, there is an up to date list on the North East Growth Hub Call Directory.

Ultimately the North East is resilient, is rising to the challenge and everything we are doing right now is with a firm view to a successful future.

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page.

ENDS

 

 

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Opportunities for North East businesses to help respond to COVID-19

During this hugely difficult and unpredictable time for everyone, we’re seeing large numbers of businesses, nationally and here in the North East, stepping forward to help front line services.

This ranges from manufacturing products like ventilators and hand sanitiser, to the creation of new consortia which are working together to develop and test medical equipment.

To help support the response to COVID-19 across the North East, there is now an online directory which you can find on the North East Growth Hub. This lists current calls for support – from requests to provide rapid sanitising technology for ambulances, to an open call for creatives to use their skills to help spread public health messages.

Visit the Rapid Response Requests Directory here.

There are opportunities for organisations in a wide range of sectors to help.

We’ve seen manufacturing businesses move quickly to re-align their activity to manufacture PPE, sanitiser and ventilators. Here in the North East, firms have offered the use of their transport and logistics facilities, and laboratory spaces. Newcastle University has also worked with the Royal Navy to transport seven of its qPCR machines to the NHS in Milton Keynes, which will be used to help process thousands of samples from people suspected of having the virus.

All parts of the economy are affected by this crisis and businesses of all shapes and sizes are being forced to do things differently. Our usual ways of working are being challenged on a daily basis and as a result we are seeing new ways of collaborating and new solutions to the challenges that COVID-19 is bringing.

Innovation is about coping with change, and this situation is forcing us all to change and adapt. Innovation is more important than ever and it will continue to be important in the post-COVID environment – we won’t be doing things in the same way anymore and innovation will be at the centre of future-proofing our economy.

Right now, sitting back and waiting isn’t an option. We need to unleash the capabilities of people and businesses here in the North East who can help support the response to COVID-19. We need to pull together to find solutions as quickly as possible, and the best way to do this is through collaboration and innovation.

Alan Welby, Innovation Director.