£26m ERDF call for organisations to lead North East growth and tackle flood dangers

Innovation, high growth businesses and reducing flood risks headline a new £26m call for applications from the European Union in the North East.

The latest round of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment earmarked for the region seeks expert partners to deliver maximum return on the £26m cash pot.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership works closely with Government to ensure that the European Funding allocation is aligned to projects that help deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan.

The latest funding round consists of:


• Up to £16m to promote research and innovation. The North East LEP has a goal of making the region an innovation hotspot in Europe.

Investment will concentrate on backing companies working in the North East’s four ‘smart specialisation’ areas of passenger vehicle manufacturing, subsea and offshore technology, life sciences and healthcare and creative and digital industries

• Up to £2.5m to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium sized firms. This investment is looking to increase the density of high growth SMEs in the North East LEP area.

These firms have a disproportionately high positive impact on regional growth – in 2014 it is estimated the North East had 600 high growth companies with a combined turnover of £2.4bn and 21,000 employees. A 25% increase on 2014’s figure could generate an extra £186m of regional GVA and create nearly 4,000 new jobs

• Up to £8.6m to address specific environmental risks, ensuring disaster resilience and developing disaster management systems.

In the North East LEP area there is a determination to reduce the risks from flooding and climate change. Local partners are being sought to find innovative and new ways to reduce flood and erosion risk to economic infrastructure and businesses, enabling them to survive, thrive and grow.

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, said: “The UK is still very much in the European Union and until we leave it, the North East LEP is determined to take the maximum opportunities for the regional economy from the investment offered by the ERDF programme.

“This new funding call presents a real opportunity for North East businesses and organisations which I urge them to pursue if they have a viable project which meets ERDF objectives.

“I would urge companies and organisations wanting to know more to visit the North East LEP website for more information.”

The North East LEP will be holding an information event giving more detail about the calls on 5 January 2017. To register to attend the event, please click here.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has extended the European Union funding guarantee to the point of Brexit, confirming that the Government will honour European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) projects signed before Britain leaves the EU.

The 2014-2020 ESIF are planned to inject more than £437m into the North East. ERDF is part of the total ESIF North East allocation.


The If We Can You Can Challenge, 2016: co-production, community, collaboration and celebration!

The If We Can You Can Challenge is now open to all 0-3-year-old businesses in the North East of England.

Organised and delivered by Caroline Theobald and Charlotte Windebank of FIRST Face to Face Ltd backed up by Jake Gebhard and with comprehensive support from the Entrepreneurs Forum members, the Challenge’s main aim is to identify ambitious businesses within the region and help them grow.

The competition is looking for all pre-start business ideas or start-ups established in the North East within the last 3 years regardless of the business leader’s age, ethnicity or experience. Working with the 5 universities, enterprise agencies and businesses within the five fastest growing sectors in the region, the FIRST Face to Face team are aiming to create a co-produced, inclusive challenge that will ensure that start-up businesses can access the help and suitable support they need to thrive.

This year all start-ups who make it to the second round will receive relevant and constructive feedback from leading business experts to help them ‘stay and grow’ their business in the region. Applicants will be given introductions to industry contacts, mentors and finance-providers and will receive publicity through various media platforms. With a 300-word maximum ‘Sell your business to us’ application, the opportunity to be involved is just a couple of clicks away.

Confirmed sponsors and supporters include: Entrepreneurs Forum, PNE, TEDCO, North East Finance, Evolution LLP, the five regional universities, Federation of Small Businesses, the North East LEP Growth Hub, Campus North, Toffee Factory, Newcastle Enterprise Centres, Digital City and BQ as our media partner.

Deadline for entries is 16th of October, 2016 and the shortlisted companies and the business idea winner will be showcasing their start-ups at BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art on 16th November, 2016 in the middle of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The exhibition will be followed by a celebratory dinner where attendees will crown the IWCYC winner and celebrate new talent, innovation and achievement.

Caroline Theobald CBE said: “Feedback from the entrants last year prompted us to think carefully about how to offer them maximum support. By working closely with the 5 regional universities, enterprise agencies and regional businesses and involving them in the Challenge process we will give the region’s start-ups the best possible growth prospects whilst banging the drum for collaboration across the enterprise ecosystem.”

Charlotte Windebank, MD of FIRST Face to Face said: “The aim of the Challenge is to signpost start-ups and those with business ideas to the relevant and exciting opportunities the region has to offer. Last year’s winners highlighted the creativity and innovation that’s happening in the North East and if we all work together the Campaign this year can really help those just starting out and show the rest of the world the quality of start-ups that are coming from our region!”

For information on how to apply, the competition and its benefits please visit www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk

For any questions or if you’re interested in becoming a partner, please email: Charlotte on [email protected]

Paul Woolston to stand down as LEP Chair

Paul Woolston, who has led the North East LEP since its formation nearly five years ago, is to leave his post together with several colleagues in a number of changes to the board.

Paul, a former senior partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, has led the LEP board as chair since the organisation was created in 2011. He will formally leave his post as chair at the next LEP board meeting on January 28 when his replacement will be announced.

Under his successful leadership, the North East LEP has:

• Delivered the North East Independent Economic Review led by Lord Adonis. This allowed the LEP to formulate the Strategic Economic Plan setting out how to achieve the economic growth needed to deliver 100,000 new and better jobs over the next decade

• Secured £1.5bn in central Government and European funding to finance new economic growth

• Retained the crucial £120m JEREMIE 2 business support fund in the North East, to be invested exclusively into scores of new and growing North East companies

• Successfully bid for two Enterprise Zones covering a total of 20 sites across the region. The first zone has created more than 1,200 new jobs to date, with a lot more to come, and the second zone is anticipated to deliver a further 14,000 jobs.

• Appointed the North East’s first innovation director – acclaimed entrepreneur and business leader Hans Moller – to oversee the investment of £125m to support creativity and dynamism in the region’s growing business base

• Established effective public-private sector advisory boards to stimulate innovation, business growth and skills development

• Created the North East Growth Hub – the comprehensive online resource for business advice, funding information, networking, news and events.

Paul said now was the time to stand down from his post and make way for a new chair.

“The timing is right for a new chair to lead the North East LEP forward at an exciting time in its development and for the region,” said Paul.

“We are entering a new year with a devolution deal for the North East agreed with Government and the combined authority, which will mean a new role for the LEP.”

Three further business board members will also step down as part of the LEP’s plan to stagger its board member leaving and replacement process, keeping experienced members in place to support newcomers.

Businesswoman Gill Southern stepped down from the LEP board just before Christmas, while Michael Bellamy and Arnab Basu will also leave the board as soon as replacement members are recruited.

As part of a rotation of duties, Northumbria University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Wathey and Jon Vincent, Principal and Chief Executive of TyneMet College, have both recently been appointed to the board to replace Anne Isherwood and Peter Fidler.

Paul added: “I would like to thank our business board members who have all really made a difference to what the LEP does, as well as Edward Twiddy and Helen Golightly for their executive leadership.

“Their intellect, innovation and energy means we have been able to turn a great strategy into great decision-making for the North East economy.

“Strong business representation is crucial to the long-term success of the North East LEP and I would urge businesspeople to help shape the region’s future by applying for a place on the board.

“I am genuinely proud of what we have achieved. Initiating the Adonis Review enabled us to produce the Strategic Economic Plan for the region.

“It is absolutely transformational and it is being adopted and embedded in the region to drive future economic success.

“The North East LEP has attracted an enormous amount of funding, £1.5bn, which is being allocated now to implement the Strategic Economic Plan.

“Our challenge now as a region is to eliminate the persistent economic gap between ourselves and other regions of the UK.”

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Vice Chair, said: “Under Paul’s leadership, the North East LEP has secured significant funding from Europe and Government to underpin vital economic development.

“He has helped build and establish the LEP in a changing political landscape and worked hard with the most senior levels of Government to ensure the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan is understood and supported.”

Arnab Basu said “It has been a privilege to serve alongside Paul on the LEP board since its beginning. He has been a tireless champion of the north east and I wish him well in the future.

“After five years it is only right that we make way for others to carry the mantle forward. The North East has such a vibrant and thriving business community and I have no doubt the new members will have brighter, fresher ideas and contribute fully to the vital task carried out by the LEP. I will look forward to following their success with great interest.”

Gill said: “I will continue to be a strong advocate of the North East LEP’s activity and work hard to ensure North East business seizes the maximum benefits a new political landscape will present.”

Councillor Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority and Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Paul has created a strong foundation for the North East to move into a new phase as we work towards proposed devolution and an elected Mayor.”

Businesspeople interested in applying for a board member post at the North East LEP should contact Jim Allcroft at NRG. Email: [email protected] or Tel: 0191 2604483.

In conversation with Steve Abbott, Business Development Manager at Hyperdrive Innovation

The North East has reached an exciting point when it comes to innovation. There is a cluster of companies, big and small, helping to position our region as a leader in the field of low carbon vehicles and clean technologies and this is somewhere that is making a real difference to industry.

Hyperdrive Innovation is based at the Future Technology Centre in Sunderland and for the past three years we have been developing electric vehicle and energy storage systems, including advances in battery packs and Li-ion battery management.

In simple terms, we provide companies with high specification batteries for use in electric and hybrid transport, industrial robots, off grid and portable energy storage.

Our ethos is to develop and manufacture new technology solutions that not only improve products but also help get them to market. It’s about approaching things differently and lowering costs of leading-edge technology. People come to us because they can’t find an off-the-shelf item; what we provide is designed around a specific need.

We’re currently working with an organisation to improve performance, availability and running times for a fleet of warehouse robots. We’ve been able to design a bespoke power system that achieves their unique requirements and this has given them a competitive advantage.

One of the most exciting developments at Hyperdrive Innovation is our new battery factory, which opened earlier this year. Previously we focused on engineering and developing new products, making them in prototype numbers but we now have the capability to fulfill orders for up to 10,000 units per year.

This provides us with an opportunity to use our technology to create products that are designed, developed and manufactured here in the North East. It also means we can look to expand the business and we are introducing a standard range so customers can benefit from economies of scale.

There is a lot of talent in the region and we work closely with Newcastle University on placement opportunities, which have resulted in full time employment. The Future Technology Centre is an impressive facility and the infrastructure is developing in the right way to drive the sector forward.

What I’d like to see is more collaboration between companies based in the region. The North East Automotive Alliance has recently been set up to provide a platform to share knowledge and best practice. We need to get people working together across sectors and ensure big businesses work with small businesses to develop new products and capability.

Ongoing technological development is key. If we develop it here in the North East we should strive to make it here too, generating more jobs and growing our economy.

I agree with the North East LEP helping to lead the way by positioning the automotive industry centrally within its innovation programme. The inclusion of automotive ensures a clear vision for the sector that will benefit organisations like Hyperdrive Innovation moving forward.

It’s an exciting time to be working in the innovation sector and we need to be ready to realise every opportunity that comes our way.

Steve Abbott, Business Development Manager at Hyperdrive Innovation

Seeking the North East’s cleverest companies

A guest post by Venturefest North East Director, Simon Green.

When we talk about innovation in this part of the world, we often hark back to the 19th century. We talk about the first railways, the first incandescent lightbulb, steam turbines and the age of coal, steel and shipbuilding. But what’s happening today?

At first glance, it appears that the North East is no longer developing innovative products that can change the world. It’s undoubtedly true that invention and innovation is now a more globally dispersed activity, with labs, governments and businesses in North America and the Far East leading the way in many fields. However, I don’t think it’s true that the North East of England is no longer relevant in innovation terms.

My argument is that there are businesses from small-scale start-ups through to more established, larger companies who are delivering value from ground-breaking ideas. These businesses are often world leaders in their fields but are almost unknown in their own area. This is because they spend their time dealing with global customers, suppliers and operational issues rather than worrying about their regional profile.

As a result, we don’t get to see the bulk of the innovation activity going on in the region. This is a shame, as it means that the profile of the community here is lower than it could be, making it more difficult to attract good skilled people to the region and more difficult to persuade businesses to move here. It also means that we have less obvious success stories to inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

I want to change this.

Working with the innovation team at the North East BIC, we plan to use Venturefest North East as a way to promote the successes of innovative North East companies. We want the great businesses buried in the industrial estates and office complexes of the region to shout about what they do, for their own benefit and for the benefit of all of us.

If you’ve got a good innovation story to tell, apply to the Innovation Showcase at this year’s Venturefest. Details are online at www.venturefestnortheast.com.

Venturefest North East is part of the national Venturefest Network and is sponsored by Innovate UK and the North East LEP.