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The North East Automotive Alliance’s key achievements so far

Launched on the 27 March 2015, the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) was set up to support the sustainable economic growth of the North East Automotive sector. The NEAA provides member-to-member engagement, connect the supply chain to business opportunities, and enable members to work together to solve skills issues and promote business excellence.

Paul Butler, the CEO of the NEAA, is the only UK based cluster benchmarking expert for the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) and has drawn on his experience to ensure the NEAA follow cluster management best practice from across Europe. Building on his experience, the NEAA has made an immediate impact upon the region’s automotive sector.

Paul updates us on the organisation’s achievements in its 10 months.

Here in the North East, our industry-led cluster of automotive organisations has members ranging from world renowned original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), to world class Tier 1 companies, through to innovative SMEs and sole traders, as well as professional associate members.

Since the formation of the NEAA at the end of March 2015, we’ve grown faster than any other cluster in the UK and are on course to become the largest automotive cluster in the UK this year.

As a collective, the NEAA has a strong portfolio of experienced companies all working together to promote and support the sustainable economic growth of the North East region’s automotive industry.

Here are some of the highlights since the formation of the NEAA in 2015:

Members are central to the success of a cluster therefore attracting companies to the NEAA has been a priority. Today we have 110 member companies and a further 21 companies who are part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) SME Programme. As we grow our voice gets stronger we are able to better understand our regional capability and the value being created by our North East automotive companies, which currently stands at over £9bn. However our aspirations are to grow and become the largest automotive cluster in the UK, which we will achieve shortly.

Industry leadership and working groups

Being an industry-led alliance ensures that we focus on initiatives that offer our members and the region the best opportunities for growth and that we are able to identify and address common constraints.

We identified Business Excellence; Skills; Innovation and Technology; and Trade and Investment as priority areas, to be focused on by our industry-led working groups.

So far, we have three established working groups, each with a different focus and at varying stages of development.

Business Excellence

This is the most established working group, working on the following:
Benchmarking – a benchmarking process across 15 KPIs in order to identify best practice.
Best practice visits – so far, seven best practice visits have generated approx. 140 ideas for company improvements.
Focus groups – a natural progression of the best practice visits, two focus groups have been established to date, concentrating on productivity and energy.


The Skills working group has established a strategy centred on four pillars of activity:
Future workforce – aiming to increase the number of companies engaged with schools.
Apprenticeships – looking to increase the number of companies taking on apprentices.
Graduate – working to increase the number of companies taking on graduates, graduate placements and internships, and aiming to reduce the number of graduates leaving the region.
Current workforce – upskilling the current workforce to meet future demands for the sector.

Innovation and technology

The Innovation and Technology working group was launched in October 2015 and is centring its activity on three key themes: Process Innovation; New Technologies; and Innovation Pathway.

Already, the NEAA working groups and leadership team have more than 100 industrialists working together. In our first ten months, £146,000 of in-kind support has already been contributed by members in order to support the activities of the NEAA. This is extremely powerful and demonstrates how the NEAA has been able to make such an impact in a very short time.

In addition we have also successfully delivered an ERDF funded SME Supply Chain Development programme which ran over a five month period to 30th September 2015. Despite a very short time frame we were able to meet, and in most cases exceed, all contractual targets relating to numbers of jobs created or safeguarded, number of businesses assisted with improved performance and number of SMEs assisted with innovation.

We currently have a further funding bid submitted which would enable the NEAA to build upon this success and support SMEs over the next three years.