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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