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New business survey launched to assess impact of EU exit and coronavirus pandemic in the North East

The beginning of 2021 has been a challenging start to the year for many businesses. England entered another national lockdown at the end of December, and the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 December brought new rules and regulations impacting all businesses that operate in the European Union.

Because of this we have launched a brand new survey on the North East Growth Hub to find out how our region’s businesses have been impacted by the UK’s new trading agreement with the EU, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We want to find out what preparations, planning and changes organisations have been able to make during this very difficult time.

All the information shared with us will be fed back to government, ensuring North East businesses get the help and support they need.

One of the main things we want to understand is how the UK’s exit from the EU – and its new trading agreement with the bloc – has affected businesses in the North East. We know from previous surveys that many regional businesses had not prepared for the new rules, which came into force on 01 January this year. We’d like to know what the impact has been in areas such as customs procedures, paperwork relating to imports and exports, supply chain disruption, and data storage and transfer. We are also keen to know if this has opened up any new opportunities for businesses.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the main concern for most businesses in the North East. A large proportion of our region’s businesses have been forced to close because of the new national lockdown, and business owners have to – once again – look to new, innovative ways to engage with their customers.

Through this new survey we’d like to understand what measures businesses have taken to shield some of the impact of COVID-19; whether that’s been through stockpiling, furloughing staff, adopting new technologies, or introducing new products and services.

We’d also like to know if businesses plan to retain any of the changes they’ve made after we emerge from the pandemic, for example, remote working, or a greater focus on online retail.

Businesses can also let us know if they have benefitted from any of the government’s financial interventions, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loans, and grant payments. Importantly, we’d like to know from businesses if they think some of these measures should continue.

The final part of the survey focuses on business resilience. We know many North East businesses have made huge changes to adapt to our current situation, and we’d like to know the type of measures businesses have introduced. It could be a greater investment in IT and digital, more focus on crisis planning, investing in staff training, or introducing e-commerce. Whatever changes businesses have made, we’d like to know what they are and how effective they’ve been.

All the information we gather through this new survey will help us deliver the right support, to the right businesses, at the right time. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and all the information supplied will be treated confidentially.

You can access the Understanding how EU Transition and COVID-19 is impacting your business survey via this link.

Thank you in advance for sharing your feedback. If you have any questions about the survey you can contact us by emailing [email protected].

And do please remember that North East businesses looking for free, impartial, one-to-one business support and advice can book an appointment with our Growth Hub Connectors via www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk. The Growth Hub Connect team can guide you through the business support, and finance and funding available to help your business thrive in 2021.

By Emma Ward, Research and Evaluation Manager at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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Entrepreneurs: Would you mentor an ex-offender entrepreneur?

The Centre for Entrepreneurs (www.centreforentrepreneurs.org) is currently conducting researching into ex-offender entrepreneurship.

Finding employment is a major struggle for people with criminal records, despite the fact that a job offers them the best chance of avoiding reoffending. But many ex-offenders have entrepreneurial strengths that make self-employment and entrepreneurship a viable alternative path to self-sufficiency.

Good quality mentoring and advice are instrumental factors in getting a business off the ground. This is especially true for ex-offender entrepreneurs, who often lack the skills, knowledge and networks – though not the ambition – that many take for granted.

The Centre for Entrepreneurs want to explore how open Britain’s entrepreneurs are to mentoring aspiring ex-offender entrepreneurs through this questionnaire: http://goo.gl/forms/6g1c8ux4Mx

The information collected will remain 100% confidential. The results of the survey will feed directly into a written report by the Centre for Entrepreneurs, to be released later this year.

For more information visit: www.centreforentrepreneurs.org

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In conversation with Dr Peter Simpson, director of N8 Research Partnership and member of the North East LEP Innovation Board

North East economic growth through Life Sciences innovation – can you help by completing our survey?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is currently working on a new strategy to grow the North East’s Health and Life Sciences sector.

I have the pleasure of representing this sector in my role as Health and Life Sciences Lead on the North East LEP’s Innovation Board. Over the last 16 years in delivering innovation in technologies, products and partnerships working in major global pharmaceutical organisations, I have learnt how important a supportive environment, research community, translational tools, skills and resources can be to make innovation happen.

The North East LEP identified Life Sciences as an important strategic area of economic activity in the North East. The LEP is keen to develop an industry strategy and action plan that will foster growth of the Health and Life Sciences sector in the North East – generating economic returns from more and better jobs.

The North East is a great place to do Life Sciences, and a great place to live and work. But there is so much more potential to unlock. The Innovation Board wants to help grow this key economic area through targeted, insightful actions that drive up innovation, and economic investment.

We want to position the North East as a leader in Life Sciences, attracting more companies to locate and employ skilled people in the region, and to help those companies already here to grow and flourish. To deliver this we have been thinking about how to leverage the region’s academic and clinical expertise, and key research institutes and Catapults, to grow the sector.

Seven months ago, the North East LEP Innovation Board set up a working group of volunteers from public and private sector organisations. They have been working in recent months to consider, with me, what we on the Innovation Board should do to help Life Sciences flourish. Under the coordination of Geoff Davison, chief executive of Bionow, the group have been very busy understanding and assessing current capabilities and capacities in the region; and identifying the North East’s strengths, and gaps, in support mechanisms.

We know that we don’t have all the ideas, and we would love to hear views from people working across Health and Life Sciences in the North East to shape priorities to emerge this piece of work.

Areas we have identified as possible opportunities so far include:

• Developing a cluster economy opportunity around world-leading companies selecting the North East for production plants – supplementing the supply chain

• Improving and leveraging the structures that support innovation commercialisation

• Unlocking the commercial potential of North East universities’ areas of world class research

• Helping clinical development in NHS by infrastructure that translates discovery through development to adoption

• Supporting existing North East key high growth businesses and sub-sectors

• Developing a specialist life science skills strategy for the region

We can’t do everything, so focus is vital. What steps would have the most impact on economic growth of the North East region? What have we missed?

I am most grateful to my colleagues on the working group. We are all in this together, I would love to see even more engagement from the industrial, public and academic sector to help move Health and Life Sciences forward in the North East. Insights from businesses, individuals, academics and clinicians are key to translating ideas into actions, and actions into results.

The Health and Life Sciences working group and the North East LEP Innovation Board are doing this work as volunteers because their passion is for the growing the economy of the region together.

Please contribute to this work by filling in our easy-to-use survey, and you can also volunteer time to help with the work too.

By Dr Peter Simpson