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Projects shortlisted for Local Growth Fund support

Twelve projects have been shortlisted, following a call for projects seeking support from the Local Growth Fund which closed in April.

More than 50 applications were received in total, which were all appraised by the North East LEP Board. The projects which have been selected to progress to the next stage will all go through thorough due diligence before any funding is finalised.

The 12 shortlisted projects are:

• Beacon of Light – World of Work and Education (Foundation of Light)
• Eagles Arena (skills) (Eagles Community Arena Ltd)
• Northern Centre for Emerging Technologies (Gateshead Council)
• East Sleekburn Enterprise Zone site (Arch Group)
• Medicines manufacturing and medical technology innovation infrastructure (CPI)
• Explorer grow on work space – NETPark (Durham County Council)
• Auckland Castle Welcome (Durham County Council)
• Cowpen Road, Blyth (Northumberland County Council)
• Smart @ Pendower Hall (Tier One Capital)
• Durham City Incubator (Durham County Council)
• Phase II, Intersect 19, Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate (North Shields – UK Land Estates)
• Monkton South Business Park (South Tyneside – Hellens Development)

The North East LEP’s Local Growth Fund capital programme forms a key element of the North East Growth Deal negotiated and agreed with Government in July 2014. It is enabling the North East LEP and its partners to take forward ambitious growth measures to achieve the objectives set out in the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

Find out more about the Local Growth Fund.

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North East LEP seeking Government assurances on EU structural funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brexit: What are the options?

In the run up to the EU Referendum Neil Warwick, from Square One Law, the leading EU lawyer in the region, produced two guides which illustrated the legal processes that a Remain or Brexit vote would kick start. In the first week of the guides being in the public domain the Square One Law website received 158,000 hits on its news pages. Its Twitter feed was also constantly being updated with people sharing and commenting positively on the guides as far afield as the USA and Asia.

So what happens now? – Neil Warwick explains the legal process.

Absolutely nothing to start with, the Referendum has no legal force so the Government then has to act and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires the UK to serve notice on the European Council to tell them we no longer want to be a member. That will trigger a two year negotiation period where the other 27 member states work out what terms they want to offer us. We also have an unstable political situation and it will be the next Prime Minister who has to serve the Article 50 notice to start the process.

What are the existing legal options to leave the EU?

What is important to say is that the models focus on what the law currently says and I would stress that this is what is entrenched in the law at the minute. There may be several other options if we changed the law, but it’s important that we deal with the facts rather than speculation.

There are four legal options currently available for the UK to follow.

    1. Join the EEA (the so-called ‘Norway Model’):

If we follow exactly the same pattern as Norway we would still be contributing to the EU budget. It wouldn’t be at the level that we are now but equally the rebate that we get would be reduced, so there would still be quite a significant contribution to the EU budget.

At the last analysis, Norway was still bound by 93% of EU laws, including the ability of free movement of people so the huge difference for the UK would be that we would have no say in shaping these laws but may be bound by future laws that the EU introduces.

    2. Join EFTA (the so-called ‘Swiss model’):

This model is very similar to joining the EEA. Switzerland does currently contribute to the EU budget and it has agreed to be bound by the laws, although it’s interesting to note that this arrangement took about 10 years to implement through multiple treaties. Switzerland also allows for free movement of people and again, it has no say in shaping EU laws.

    3. A Bilateral Treaty (sometimes referred to as the ‘Canadian or Turkish model’):

This is an interesting case because I’ve had lots of feedback on social media stating that obviously Canada and Turkey don’t have free movement of workers. That’s not what our diagram was intended to say. The probability is that as a country we would still have to contribute to the EU budget if we decide to take this option and would have to agree to be bound by certain laws, particularly competition law.

I think that the likelihood for the UK is that under this model we would also have to have some form of freedom of workers. In my opinion I don’t think it would be possible for us to ask for three of the four freedoms and refuse the fourth one which is very, very important to the EU.

    4. The World Trade Organisation model:

This would see the UK disband its membership with the EU. We wouldn’t have to contribute to the budget and we could shape free movement of workers, but there are certain trade tariffs that could be imposed automatically. At the front end of implementation it is likely that there would probably be a lot of clarity needed in the public domain for people to understand exactly what the cost of importing and exporting goods would be.

It has been suggested by some people that the trade tariffs that would be imposed in the World Trade Organisation Model would actually be somewhat similar to the current cost of being part of the EU, but in reality this would be open to negotiation. Each member of the World Trade Organisation can adjust and negotiate tariffs but it would be done bi-laterally with treaties from individual countries. So it would be possible but is quite an extensive exercise to undertake.


The decision regarding which model to adopt will be one that isn’t made quickly and is likely to be played out in the public arena. It is highly unlikely that the UK will leave the EU before the Autumn of 2018 at the earliest. Ironically the guide, which was produced to help with the Referendum, is now being used to explain in simple terms what Brexit will actually mean for us all.

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First NEFRAN Rural Business Conference

Rural businesses and key rural representatives gathered for the first NEFRAN Rural Business Conference on the 24th June at Kirkley Hall Campus.

The event was designed to promote the work of the North East Farming and Rural Affairs Network (NEFRAN) and provide information to support the growth of rural businesses.

Around 150 delegates attended to take part in a full day that offered delegates the opportunity to meet business support and funding providers, attend workshops and listen to key note speakers highlighting key issues facing the rural economy, the north east devolution deal and what had been achieved through the Pilot Rural Growth Network Programme.

Key note speaker Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle CBE, said rural businesses had a huge part to play in supporting the regional economy and in creating more and better jobs for all. Rural businesses needed to be well supported. He referred to the opportunities of the rural economy – the strength of its diversity and the potential growth that tourism, culture and heritage businesses could generate.

Antony Braithwaite, Chair of NEFRAN who chaired the conference said, ”It came over very strongly that a rural voice is needed to take part in the devolution and Brexit revolution that is about to occur. NEFRAN is ideally placed to undertake this role and influence the relevant decision makers.”

The conference reflected on the Pilot North East Rural Growth Network Programme and what had been achieved and learnt. This has been used to inform new support programmes going forward. Businesses were directed to sign up to the North East Growth Hub for information on grant funding, business support, what’s happening in the business community and up and coming events: www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk

The Rural Growth Network Programme Team who currently manages the Rural Growth Network capital grant offered to be the first point of contact. For help and advice on rural business support contact one of the Rural Growth Network Implementation Officers based at Arch:-

Julie Bullen
01670 528476
[email protected]

Katy McIntosh
01670 528489
[email protected]

Or visit www.archnorthumberland.co.uk/arch-business/rural-growth-network-2-1

The conference was funded and supported by the North East Rural Growth Network with support from Arch and Kirkley Hall.

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FinanceCamp North East pitches as the future of investment for regional businesses

FinanceCamp North East is being pitched as the smart new way for regional businesses to secure the right kind of investment to fit their plans for growth.

Details have now been released for this new programme of support which will culminate in a major event on 21 June 2016 at Ramside Hall, Durham, where businesses with bright ideas will meet lenders who want to lend and investors who want to invest.

Enterprises of all sizes, structures and sectors are now being urged to apply for the programme to explore different ways to finance their ambitions – whether that’s through a start-up loan, a multi-million pound equity deal or anything in between.

FinanceCamp has been shaped by input and ideas from a wide cross section of businesses, government bodies, research and educational institutions, business representation groups and support organisations who have an interest in accelerating innovation in the region.

It’s been developed by the team behind the region’s annual innovation conference Venturefest North East, with backing from the North East LEP, North East Finance, the North East BIC and Innovate UK.

Simon Green, Executive Director at Venturefest North East, said: “Venturefest’s investor introductions have helped secure hundreds of thousands of pounds in finance for businesses across the North East over the past few years and FinanceCamp builds on this success story.

“Businesses told us that they needed more opportunities to explore their finance options throughout the year and we have responded with this exciting new programme designed to save time and simplify the investment process.”

Hans Möller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “We know SMEs have struggled to secure finance in recent years and as such wholeheartedly support initiatives like FinanceCamp North East and our own North East Investment Fund, which provide businesses with the capital they need to grow and create new jobs.

“The Venturefest North East team has done a fantastic job getting this new scheme off the ground.”

Support provided to businesses taking part in FinanceCamp will be tailored to their needs, stage of growth and structure.

Expert advisers will work with each participant to explain all of the finance routes open to them, weigh up what fits their plans best and prepare their proposition to make it as attractive as possible to investors. Once they are fully prepared, businesses will then be introduced to a range of potential funders.

This initiative is part of a wider programme being developed with around 50 partner organisations to support innovation in the North East. Led by the Venturefest North East team, the programme is supported by Innovate UK and the North East LEP and North East BIC, with part-funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

For more information and to apply for FinanceCamp North East visit financecamp.co.uk

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Pilot schools share over £50,000 for innovative careers guidance projects

First bids approved for North East LEP/Gatsby National Careers Benchmark Pilot

The first North East schools leading a pilot programme have received more than £50,000 between them to help fund their innovative ideas to improve careers education – ideas that could be used across the country if they prove successful.

The proposals are part of the Gatsby Foundation National Career Benchmarks Pilot led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).

The projects are being funded by Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation as part of a four-year national pilot running in the North East LEP area to test eight benchmarks of good career guidance.

North East schools and colleges were selected to test how the benchmarks can be implemented, identify any barriers to helping young people make more informed decisions about their future study and employment, and ensure that young people are better equipped with the skills employers need.

Sixteen schools and colleges in the North East LEP area are taking part in the national pilot and the findings will be rolled out across the country at the end of the project.

A total of £53,100 was approved in the first round of awards from the Innovation and Activity Fund. Pilot schools and colleges were asked to submit their innovative ideas to further develop careers education in collaboration with employers and other education providers.

Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot at the North East LEP, said: “There is a real buzz around careers education in the North East LEP area. Lots of schools and colleges are using the benchmarks and making an impact on good practice at a national level.

“The Innovation and Activity Fund is supporting schools and colleges that are already participating in the pilot to develop innovative practices, systems and processes that help schools and colleges to make measurable and rapid progress towards achieving the benchmarks.

“Successful projects are those that are able to demonstrate increased partnership working, enhanced collaboration, potential wider benefit, replication and scalability.

“We’re looking for projects that use an innovative approach to address particularly challenging issues, identified by initial audits against the benchmarks. Solutions can then be tested and potentially rolled out across the country.”

The first three grants will fund projects from St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn, Churchill Community College in Wallsend, and six schools and colleges in the newly-formed Labour Market Information working group.

The project led by St Joseph’s will look at how employer engagement programmes such as the Careers and Enterprise Company’s and North East LEP’s flagship Enterprise Adviser Programme can be successfully integrated alongside existing provision.

The project will concentrate on benchmarks targeting meaningful encounters with employers and employees and multiple experiences of workplaces.

St Joseph’s will produce a best practice guide detailing how a school can map its current provision and what it must do to effectively integrate employers across the school. This guide will be made available to every school and college in England via the North East LEP and the Gatsby Foundation.

Churchill Community College in North Tyneside will work with Northumbria University’s Multidisciplinary Innovation Unit to explore creative ways of schools and colleges providing high quality work related experiences in challenging financial environments. A series of recommendations will be made, with the most appropriate being tested by the school.

The Labour Market Information project, a collaboration between six schools and colleges, will spend two months working with young people to explore how they currently access information about job sectors, apprenticeships, vacancies and pay and how they would like to access this in the future.

This research will form a case study that will be used by the national ‘LMI for All’ data portal and will inform future thinking about how young people and their parents get better help to access important information about future career opportunities.

The national pilot, including the projects funded through the innovation fund, will be independently evaluated by the International Centre for Guidance Studies, led by Tristram Hooley, at the University of Derby.

Future funding windows will be looking for pilot schools and colleges to work in partnership with other organisations to enhance school/college ability to achieve the benchmarks and improve careers guidance provision.

The Career Benchmarks were drawn up by Professor Sir John Holman after visiting the Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Finland, Canada and Ireland, as well as a selection of UK schools, which have strong international reputations for careers guidance and educational results. The benchmarks for creating good careers guidance are :

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of work places
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance
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North East LEP hosts live Investment Fund twitter chat

First of all, thank you to everyone who joined our live twitter chat on Wednesday 30 March. There is obviously a lot of interest in the North East Investment Fund (NEIF) from the business community so I was delighted to answer your questions.

Thank you also to Kevan Carrick, principal at JK Property Consultants LLP, and Gavin Cordwell-Smith, owner of Hellens Group, for your support and expertise too.

You can revisit the twitter chat below and we of course welcome any further questions about the Fund and how you can access it. For more information and advice about the North East Investment Fund, please contact Matthew Ebbatson, Programme Manager at the North East LEP on [email protected] / 0191 338 7432.

Feel free to tweet any questions via @northeastlep

To date, the NEIF has invested more than £58 million in the regional economy and I very much see the Fund as a sustainable source of income that will continue to support North East businesses looking to create more and better jobs in the North East.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Jeremy Middleton
Chairman of North East LEP Investment Panel

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New finance support for North East businesses announced

The North East’s leading business organisations are coming together to develop an innovative new way to help companies access finance and grow their operations.

The team that delivers the region’s annual innovation conference, Venturefest North East, is working with the North East LEP and North East Finance to design a new programme of investment support that culminates in a major annual event.

Details of the programme are currently being finalised and will be announced in April when tickets will also be released for the inaugural event on 21 June 2016 at Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham.

The development comes in the wake of the abolishment of the Government’s Business Growth Service, which ended its national business support programme following the Spending Review in 2015.

The programme has been developed with business input from the start. Business networks including the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are involved to ensure the creation of a solution suited to the needs of the region’s businesses.

Simon Hanson, North East Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Without access to funding our members and smaller businesses cannot achieve their potential to grow their businesses, create new jobs and new wealth for the region.

“The development of this programme is a response to this need and will simplify the investment process for the huge number of business that have ambitions to develop.”

Support provided by the initiative will be dedicated to making it easier for companies of all sizes and sectors to secure the funding they need to develop ideas, innovate and grow. Businesses will receive expert advice to make their propositions as attractive as possible to investors and will gain access to a wide range of funding sources.

Hans Möller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “The development of this new programme represents a positive, collaborative move by the region to solve an issue shared by the whole business community.

“It demonstrates how the North East is leading the way in shaping its future by designing a solution to the challenges faced. This will really help widen access to funding as well as help SMEs to develop and grow.”

Other partners involved in the development of the initiative’s activity include: Transmit Enterprise, Blu Sky Tax Ltd chartered accountants, Agora Bay Ltd growth finance consultants and NatWest which has partnered with Entrepreneurial Spark to launch business accelerator hubs across the UK including one due to open in Newcastle this August.

North East businesses can register an interest in finding out more about the programme as it develops by emailing [email protected]

This initiative is part of a wider programme being developed with around 50 partner organisations to support innovation in the North East. Led by the Venturefest North East team, the programme is supported by Innovate UK and the North East LEP and North East BIC, with part-funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

NECC member Amber North East has grown rapidly since the launch of its healthcare workforce solution business in Durham in January 2015, with 100 staff already on its books.

Operations Director Kelly Bentham welcomed the news of the investment programme saying: “The challenge of finding finance for your business can be a show stopping issue no matter what size your business is.

“If you don’t understand what is available to you when you’re starting out you will struggle to get out of the starting blocks, while growing businesses don’t have the time to consider all of their options so can find themselves stung by high repayments.

“Cash is king when it comes to the growth of all businesses and this programme will make it simpler for companies to get access to the money they need to achieve their ambitions.”

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North East LEP Budget reaction (2016)

North East LEP Chief Economist Chris Milne gives his reaction to The Budget delivered today by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

“We welcome in particular the Chancellor’s announcement of £15m for a national institute for smart data innovation to be based in Newcastle working with partners across the region and nationally,” said Chris.

“The North East has a strong profile as one of the UK’s leading digital economic hubs. This new national institute will provide a focus for business to unleash the huge innovation potential in digital data which will deliver improvements to business and public services.

“This is a huge opportunity for the region to provide leadership and skills, ideas and resources in a global market worth $125bn annually.

“Investment in transport infrastructure – the A66 and A69 in particular – is also crucial for the growth of the North East economy and we will benefit from the £75m pot which the Government has allocated to develop the business cases for a number of transport projects.

“Regional connectivity remains an important issue for the North East and we will also benefit from broader connectivity projects to the M62.

“We welcome a range of other announcements that will have a positive impact for businesses, entrepreneurs and the income of households.”

Chris also commented on today’s Labour Market Statistics.

“It is encouraging to see continued improvement in the North East labour market following last month’s figures,” he said.

“They show that over the last quarter, the North East has seen the UK’s highest increase in people in work, the largest fall in unemployment and the biggest reduction in economically inactive people.

“The employment rate now stands at a record 70.6%, the highest rate going back to 1992.”