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Why a Smart Specialisation strategy is delivering more and better jobs for the North East

If I were to ask a group of undergraduates what career they’d like to go into, chances are they’d start by choosing a job involving the things they’re good at. It’s a very sensible approach; playing to one’s strengths.

In a way we’ve adopted a similar approach here at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. Our Smart Specialisation strategy for the region is focused on sectors we believe we’re the best at. By focusing on our strengths we will not only provide strong economic growth, but also deliver more and better jobs for the North East – our primary goal.

In December 2013 the North East LEP published its Smart Specialisation report, which identified the four key areas of industry that would make up our smart specialisation areas. They are:

− Passenger Vehicle Manufacturing
− Subsea and Offshore Technology
− Life Sciences and Healthcare
− Creative, Digital, Software and Technology Based Services

Why these particular industries? Because we believe they provide the greatest potential for economic growth in the North East, both now and in the future.

One of the greatest advantages to identifying smart spec areas is the ability to focus investment. Without a strategic vision, funding can be spread too thinly across a range of industries, which ultimately waters down its impact. As we bid for more European and national funding it’s important we can ensure it has a real, measurable impact. Focusing investment into our growth areas is one of the ways we can ensure that.

Another benefit is increased inward investment. If we want to see more businesses locate here and invest in our region its important we showcase the things we’re good at. Our defined smart spec areas make it clear to potential investors that we have a strategic economic plan for the North East, one that will see our economy grow.

We’re currently in the process of segmenting our smart spec areas even more. These subsectors really shine a light on the specific areas we excel at. For example, life sciences cover a whole gamut of specialties. By breaking these down into subsectors we can really focus our efforts on key strength areas.

Ultimately what we want to achieve is more and better jobs for the North East. Here at the North East LEP we believe our Smart Specialisation strategy can help us do that. It has the support of the business community; it gives our region a clear proposition and its building confidence in our economy.

By Hans Möller, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

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ENGIE North East innovation event a great success

Innovation is certainly where the conversation and the action are at.

On Wednesday 8 June 2016, as part of ENGIE’s global Innovation Week programme, the company hosted a high-profile ‘Creating the Cities of Tomorrow’ conference and exhibition at the Cobalt Business Park, looking at the future challenges facing our cities and citizens, and how innovative approaches are needed to generate sustainable solutions.

Gathering together businesses small, medium and large, local public sector organisations, academics and investors, including North Tyneside Council, North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Newcastle University, Ctrl-Shift, Arjuna and Blue Prism, the day proved to be a genuine inspiration for innovation, according to Mike Hedges, Partnership Director at the ENGIE/North Tyneside Council partnership.

Over the course of the day, respected national and international speakers held a range of workshops and masterclasses for over 150 delegates from across the region, on topics covering developing personalised services, to minimising environmental impacts.

Hans Möller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, spoke on Innovation and a Healthy Economy and how organisations need to bring in ideas from outside the business and bring together people from a variety of backgrounds to encourage disruptive innovation. The LEP’s vision is for the North East to become one of Europe’s innovation hotspots and has earmarked £100m for innovation.

Delegates heard how innovation is rarely the result of one big thought from a single corporation or lone individual. Instead, it is usually down to collaboration among organisations, communication between different people and combinations of technologies.

Putting its money where its mission is, ENGIE is investing more than £1.5bn over the next three years to support and promote innovation. It is also investing hugely in building effective partnerships that foster the collaboration, communication and combinations, which drive successful innovation.

In the North East, ENGIE UK is a key member of the local innovation network, and is working closely with North Tyneside Council, the North East LEP, Newcastle University’s Cloud Innovation Centre, Northumbria University and Newcastle City Council, among others, on regional innovation programmes to help create a bright future for the area and its citizens.
At its conclusion, delegates confirmed that the cities of tomorrow event had already established important new relationships – that is innovation at work.

For a round-up of the day, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTuwR9nFavo

On Friday 10 June, the final day of Innovation Week 2016, Hans Möller along with Patrick Melia, Chief Executive of North Tyneside Council, supported ENGIE’s showcase event held at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London at which Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, gave a speech on innovation in front of an audience of around 200 innovators, intrapreneurs, investors, influencers and industry representatives. Hans and Patrick shared ideas and contributed to the debate, gathering further inspiration for innovation to bring back with them to the North East.