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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) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“This release provides official data to the end of 2020 and enables us to see the full picture about the impact COVID-19 had on the region’s labour market in 2020.

“Looking at the figures for the last quarter of 2020, the number of unemployed people seeking work in the North East region, including the North East LEP and the Tees Valley LEP areas, was 18 per cent higher than in the first quarter of the year. The North East employment rate is the lowest in England at 71.2 per cent and 29,000 people were made redundant in the region during 2020, the highest total since 2012.

“In the later months of 2020, the labour market was less volatile than earlier in the year, but the statistics do not yet include the full impact of the restrictions since Christmas.

“In the North East LEP area, the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has increased by over 30,000 since March 2020.

“It is important to look at the detail to understand where the biggest impact has been felt and to identify key future policy challenges. Overall, the impact has been highest in younger age groups and one in ten people are claiming unemployment-related benefits in some areas.

“Another striking feature is the different impact on men and women. Compared with the first quarter of the year, the number of unemployed women in the region has increased by 10,000 or 47 per cent, while male unemployment has grown by 2,000 (just over 4 per cent).

“Yesterday’s announcement from government gives a clear pathway out of lockdown and will offer hope for many people after a very difficult year. However, it remains an uncertain time for businesses as we move to cautiously lift the COVID-19 controls and continue to adapt to new processes following the Trade Deal with the European Union.

“Support for those businesses remaining under restrictions due to the pandemic needs to continue and strategic leadership and a strong partnership with government will be critical as we look to drive forward our regional economy and address some of the key challenges which COVID-19 has created in our region.”


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Future proofing the North East economy

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a period of accelerated change across the world that has left many businesses thinking long and hard about what the future holds.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) and its partners have been supporting the region’s business community to manage the impact of the pandemic and also plan for our economic recovery. Our work continues to be guided by the North East Strategic Economic Plan, which sets out our ambition to create more and better jobs by growing four specific areas of industry – digital, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy.

To complement and run alongside the North East Strategic Economic Plan, we want to delve even deeper into the emerging markets and future trends that will dominate the UK and global economies. What are the sectors and areas of industry that will provide the greatest economic growth opportunities in the future? And how can the North East capitalise on them?

To help us answer those questions, we’re seeking to appoint a specialist contractor that can undertake an independent markets foresight analysis on behalf of the North East. We want to identify the short, medium and long-term opportunities our region should focus on to support our immediate economic recovery, and those that will help grow our economy in the future too; creating jobs for local people, attracting investment in the region, and improving our economic activity rates and productivity.

Some of the potential areas of opportunity are in response to our current situation. Active and sustainable travel, for example, has rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic and there is more demand for environmentally friendly transport solutions. How can the North East use its world-renowned expertise and skills in the automotive sector to drive forward this green revolution?

Renewable energy made up almost half of Britain’s electricity generation in the first three months 2020, further bolstering the green energy sector. What does that mean for the North East? How can we grow our share of the market?

How well positioned are we in the region to respond to future technology developments that will affect trends in key sectors; for example autonomous vehicles, the ageing population, and the rollout of 5G – or even 6G capability?

This project is about future proofing the North East economy and making sure we’re ready to respond to global economic opportunities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The North East LEP would like to undertake the economic markets foresight analysis this year, and we invite interested suppliers to join us at a online supplier briefing event on Monday 05 October from 10:00-13:00.

Find out more about this exciting opportunity to help the North East shape its future competitiveness, and sign up to attend, by visiting the eventbrite page.

By Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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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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Our Economy 2020 paints a mixed picture of the North East economy’s performance  

Today, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has published the latest edition of Our Economy, an annual publication which examines the performance of the North East economy and how it is changing over time.

This year’s report has also looked in more depth at how the economy varies across different geographic areas within the region.

Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East LEP, explains: “This year, Our Economy is being published at a time of immense change and it provides a baseline showing the performance of the North East economy before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year’s report provides data and evidence that we and our partners can use to position the North East for recovery, as we work to bring more and better jobs to our region.”

Each year, Our Economy reviews the North East’s performance across a range of indicators. This is the third year that Our Economy has been published and this year’s report paints a mixed picture of the region’s economic performance.

Our Economy shows that the gap between the North East and the rest of England, excluding London, has widened on a number of indicators, including the value of the goods and services produced per head, employment rate and productivity rate.

In contrast, areas of progress include increasing expenditure on R&D by businesses, increasing proportion of our population qualified to degree-level and above, increased employment in science, research, engineering and technology roles, improved access to superfast broadband and 4G, and increased public expenditure on transport.

The evidence provided by Our Economy is used to inform the work of the North East LEP and partners across the region in delivering the North East Strategic Economic Plan – the roadmap for increasing economic growth in the North East.

Victoria Sutherland added: “What we can see in the report suggests that, even before COVID-19 began to impact the North East, there was a need to do more to grow and develop our economy. 

“Going forward, the focus of our efforts must be to ensure that every part of our region is able to contribute to and benefit from efforts to improve the performance of our economy.”

Our Economy is available to download on the North East Data Hub website and a short video summarising the findings can be viewed here.


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In conversation with Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University

Education employs 85,000 people in the North East and offers significant opportunities for more and better jobs in the region, directly and indirectly. Durham University is a world leader and has a ten-year strategy to invest £1 billion in people, and digital and physical infrastructures. Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge explores how universities can make a major contribution locally and globally, support a diverse and vibrant economy, and help tackle the country’s productivity challenge.

Education has long been a North East success story. But it’s not just part of our heritage, it’s a key sector for our future too: both in nurturing the highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow, and as a major employer, innovator, and exporter today.

Here at Durham, we’re not just England’s third oldest university; we’re making significant investments to ensure we remain a world-class university: investment that is absolutely necessary as we face increasing competition from universities in Asia, North America, Europe and elsewhere.

Universities already make a sizeable contribution to the economy: over £50 billion GVA in 2014/15, according to Universities UK. Our own figures suggest we were responsible for around £1.1 billion of that total.

At Durham, we employ 4,300 staff and have 18,400 students – considerable numbers in a City with a population of around 65,000.

But we believe there is also great potential for growth: the average student head count across Russell Group universities is 27,000; and the average staff roll is 7,700. So we’re in a period of carefully planned expansion: to recruit an extra 360 academic staff and grow our student numbers to 21,500 by 2027.

We believe we can achieve these targets because we continue to attract high calibre staff and students from around the world. We are also consistently ranked among the world’s top 100 universities (most recently 78th in the QS World University Rankings 2020).

But this isn’t just about us: the North East stands to benefit hugely from our success and from that of all the universities in the region: Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland.

It’s estimated that international students contribute around £700 million a year to the North East economy. As we and others look to attract more students from overseas (our target is 35% by 2027) this income will grow significantly.

Education and training is another valuable export industry. We continue to benefit from English being the international language of choice and the long-standing reputation of UK education. Many of our alumni hold senior roles in government and industry worldwide.

The value of education exports to the UK was almost £20 billion in 2016, and the value of transnational education within that, though still relatively small (£1.8 billion), was up 73% on 2010, showing the growing attractiveness of this option to overseas students.

We also need to tackle the big challenges facing our home economy – not least the productivity gap. Universities are well-placed on this front as we collaborate with industry to develop new technologies, research new ways of working and deliver high-level skills for the workforce of the future.

The Northern Accelerator programme, which brings together Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland Universities, is helping researchers to spin out and commercialise ideas, leading to the formation of potentially high-growth, research-intensive businesses linked to the research expertise here in the North East.

The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme, which involves Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities, is helping SMEs access academics, PhD students and research facilities to address their research challenges, leading in turn to the development of new products and services.

And the Durham City Incubator, a partnership between ourselves, Durham County Council and New College Durham, is supporting and encouraging graduate and student enterprise: helping our graduates stay in the North East and creating new and better jobs.

We’re all aware of the challenges facing us, but working together as a region we can drive success. Universities aren’t businesses in a conventional sense. We don’t have shareholders, nor do we seek to maximise profits. But we do deliver jobs, value and innovation. We are major enterprises in the modern economy. We are anchors for the future of the North East.

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North East LEP publishes second, annual Our Economy report

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) publishes its second annual Our Economy report today (Friday 10 May) at an event at Crowne Plaza Newcastle.

Providing an update on the current performance of the North East economy and how it is changing over time, Our Economy 2019 also looks at what makes the North East a competitive place for businesses and residents.

Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our Economy 2019 uses a range of indicators to give us a clearer picture of how our region is performing.

“We’ve been able to look at important factors like how many businesses there are in the North East and whether they are growing, innovating and exporting. We’ve also looked at how many jobs there are in the North East, how many of our residents are in work and the levels of investment into the region.

“By understanding what the statistics tell us about our economy, we can focus our efforts on the most important issues and identify the activities that will help achieve the ambition set out in the Strategic Economic Plan to create 100,000 more and better jobs.”

Each year, the Our Economy report takes a more detailed look at a particular topic. This year it focuses on what makes the North East a competitive place. Being competitive is about providing the right environment for the region’s existing and potential businesses to invest and grow and somewhere individuals can realise their ambitions, building and nurturing confidence.

The evidence in Our Economy shows that innovation, business structure and technological readiness, and efforts to build the skills and capabilities of residents are all key factors underpinning the North East’s competitiveness. It also highlights the assets in the region that contribute to a high quality of life.

The event in Newcastle features keynote speakers including Richie Ramsden, Head of Data Science – Innovation Incubator at AkzoNobel, who considers the North East to be the best place in the UK to undertake data science. Professor Jane Robinson, Dean of Engagement and Place at Newcastle University will speak on how the North East’s universities contribute to the region’s success.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP said: “Given the political and economic uncertainty we’ve experienced in the last few months, it’s more important than ever we continue to review the performance of the North East economy.

“The data in Our Economy 2019 shows we can have confidence in our approach, but it also identifies the areas, as a region, we need to address, for example, low levels of innovation. This kind of detailed analysis is vital as we continue to develop the North East Local Industrial Strategy in partnership with government.

“Our Economy continues to be an important resource for the region and I’d like to thank everyone that contributed to this year’s report.”

To read the North East LEP’s Our Economy report in full, click here. It provides detail on progress against the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) targets, including the region’s ambition to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024. To read the Strategic Economic Plan, click here.

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A statement from the North East Brexit Group

The North East LEP recognises that Brexit is a complex debate and that economic output is only one aspect of it, however the North East LEP has a responsibility to provide information on the economic outcomes in the most balanced and responsible way we can. We were therefore instrumental in forming the North East Brexit Group within the region following the decision to leave the EU.

The Group provides a collective, single voice to contribute to and influence the on-going national dialogue around the UK leaving the European Union. It is made up of members from business representative organisations, the education sector, trade unions, local authorities, the North East LEP and voluntary organisations.

The Group has monitored and prepared evidence about the potential impact of Brexit scenarios and related economic issues, incorporating evidence, views, experiences and responses of business, education and other organisations in the North East region, aiming to ensure that a clear and co-ordinated North East voice is heard.

In this work, the group has:

  • Published a response to the Migration Advisory Committee Call for Evidence in October 2017, which can be viewed here
  • Published a ‘key messages’ statement on what our regional priorities are to inform Brexit negotiations, available here
  • Published a meta-analysis of reports and studies examining the impact of Brexit on the North East economy and its key sectors, available here. The accompanying press release is available here
  • Responded to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry into post-Brexit funding, specifically the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, available here
  • Supported the development of the Brexit Toolkit which is now live on the North East Growth Hub, available here.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan, which will inform the Local Industrial Strategy, aims to create 100,000 ‘more and better’ jobs between 2014-2024. To date there are 62,500 ‘more’ jobs of which 78% are ‘better’ jobs.

The reports and evidence detailed above are available to inform the practical arrangements for Brexit and the potential impacts on the North East economy, and therefore on our residents and businesses.

If you have any further questions about this article, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

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Thinking global to grow the North East economy

By Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

As an economist working at the North East LEP, one of the questions I’m asked the most is ‘how is the North East economy performing?’

On Tuesday 6 March I had the opportunity to answer that question at the launch of the ‘Our Economy 2018’ report.

More than 200 people joined me, Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP, and our panel of speakers to learn more about the current state of the North East economy and to consider how we build our global linkages.

It was a pleasure to see colleagues from across the business community, as well as government departments, local authorities and education at the launch.

We were able to share positive news about the North East economy and update on the good progress that has been made against the Strategic Economic Plan targets. A key highlight is that the number of jobs in the North East has increased by 55,200 since 2014, putting us on track to meet our target of 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

We are also particularly pleased that the employment rate and economic activity rate have increased – meaning residents are benefiting from the additional job opportunities – and that the gap with England excluding London on these measures has reduced.

The event focused on the North East’s role in the global economy and the importance of international connections. We had the pleasure of hearing from guest speaker Jason Knights, managing director of brand creative agency Blue Kangaroo, about his organisation’s international links and how thinking global has seen his company flourish.

Blue Kangaroo now work with some of the biggest brands in the world, including The Walt Disney Company and Mattel, all from its base in Gateshead.

Our panel discussion saw contributions from Marian Sudbury, Director, Global Operations for the Northern Powerhouse at the Department for International Trade and Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Business at Newcastle University.

We learnt more about the support and advice on offer to North East businesses looking to export and how our region’s universities have built their global connections and welcomed over 17,000 international students to the North East last year.

The North East’s excellent air and sea connectivity was highlighted as being critical for supporting our global connections. In 2016, the North East’s ports handled 5.7m tonnes of freight and Newcastle Airport handled 4.8 million passengers, 76% travelling between Newcastle and international destinations.

A questions and answer session followed with some fantastic debate around the findings in the report and a call to action by Andrew Hodgson for North East businesses to be proud of their achievements and to champion the region on the international stage.

To coincide with the publication of the ‘Our Economy’ report, the North East LEP, in partnership with the North East Combined Authority, has launched the North East Data Hub. This is a digital platform that gathers data from across the region on the economy and transport and allows users to download and compare data in a simple, user-friendly way.

To find out more information about the North East Data Hub, visit www.northeastdatahub.co.uk and for more information about ‘Our Economy 2018’ and to read the report in full, visit www.nelep.co.uk/oureconomy.

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North East region launches its own data hub

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North East Combined Authority have joined forces to launch a brand new website that provides live data on the performance of the North East economy and transport infrastructure.

The North East Data Hub – www.northeastdatahub.co.uk – is a one-stop-shop for the latest statistics on the regional economy and North East transport trends.

Launched to coincide with the publication of the North East LEP’s first, annual, ‘Our Economy’ report, The North East Data Hub uses live data from the North East transport and economic authorities to give a real-time picture of how the region is performing.

Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East LEP said: “We, along with many of our partners, collect a lot of data about the North East region. By sharing this detailed information we can support residents, businesses, policy makers and other regional bodies to use the data to help grow our economy. 

“The North East Combined Authority, Traffic and Accident Data Unit (TADU), Urban Traffic Management and Control (UTMC) and Nexus are all partners of the project and have helped create the most comprehensive data resource in the North East; one that’s open to all and free to use.”

In addition to providing live data about regional transport and the economy, The North East Data Hub also has a comparison tool, allowing users to analyse data further against a range of different metrics.

Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council and North East Combined Authority Thematic Lead for Economic Development and Regeneration, said: “It’s important we track our progress as a region and the The North East Data Hub allows us to do that.

“We collect a host of data, everything from bus and metro usage to traffic flow and average vehicle speed. This helps us paint a picture of the regional transport system and how it must adapt over time. Combining that with economic data from the North East LEP, we have created a valuable resource for the region.”

The North East Data Hub has been designed to make all regional data available for public view and analysis. It launches on the same day the North East LEP publishes its ‘Our Economy’ report, which tells the story of the North East economy.

As new data becomes available it will be uploaded to the website providing an up-to-date picture of the North East economy and transport activity.

For more information, visit www.northeastdatahub.co.uk.