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In Conversation: An innovative legacy: Hans Möller reflects on his time at the North East LEP

Two and a half years after joining the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), its Innovation Director Hans Möller is moving onto pastures new. Here he reflects on key achievements during his time in the role.

I look back at the last two and a half years with a sense of pride and a sense of sadness. Sadness to be leaving this incredible region, but pride for everything that has been achieved during my time here.

When I joined the North East LEP in March 2015 I had two aspirations; to transform the North East and help it regain its reputation as an innovation hotspot. This region led the industrial revolution and I had a very clear vision that we could do this again in a variety of ways.

As I leave, I am confident in saying that by embedding innovation as a matter of course within business, we are well on our way. One look at the smart spec areas set out in the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) and we are not just performing well but thriving. And it’s thanks to a team approach that we’ve been able to achieve this.

Within the last seven days alone, it’s been announced that the North East is at the heart of the UK’s globally important offshore renewable energy sector. We’ve also just been chosen as a national testbed for a 5G trial.

These things happen by design, not by chance.

They happen through collaborations between likeminded people who place ego aside to put the region’s needs first. And it pays off.

An open mind to a new approach

The North East LEP’s team is a small one but it punches above its weight. I am grateful for the fact the Board was open to transforming its approach and to cascading smart spec thinking through all its programmes of activity, from Finance and Investment and Business Growth, right through to Skills and Enterprise Zones.

Since my arrival many projects that were previously only on paper have been realised thanks to this and our excellent partnerships. Consider the Centre for Innovation in Formulation based at NETPark, where the National Centre for Heathcare Photonics will also open next year. The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has been instrumental in making these happen.

Newcastle’s Science Central boasts a National Innovation Centre for Ageing which is being funded by Newcastle University and the Medical Research Council.

These are just a couple of examples and there are many, many more.

Take the Innovation SuperNetwork, which two years ago was just a line in the SEP. Now it’s an eight-strong team supporting business growth and delivering inspiring events such VentureFest, Finance Camp and the Innovation Challenge.

The Innovation Observatory in Newcastle even has dashboards which allow us to measure how well or poorly the North East is performing in terms of innovation. This is critical to success because we must keep up the momentum and continue to lead from the front.

A healthy pipeline

Best of all, the work isn’t anywhere near finished yet. There is a very healthy pipeline of projects still to be delivered, including the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) near Nissan and the commercialisation of intelligent pharmaceutical packaging through a consortium that the CPI is involved in.

I really look forward to seeing the outcome of all the latest investment and to following the North East’s next steps from a short distance. As I head off, I’d like to thank those I’ve worked with for making me so welcome and wish you all the best.