North East England - Home to Europe's fastest-growing sectors
North East England has a well-deserved reputation for supporting firms? international business expansion. Today more than 500 leading global companies are located in the region, making it one of the most dynamic parts of the European Economic Area ? the world?s largest trading block.
High-growth sectors, such as Energy & Low Carbon Technology, Chemicals and Automotive & Advanced Manufacturing have proved a magnet for ambitious companies. And there is increasing potential in key areas such as Healthcare & Life Sciences, as well as Digital Media and Animation.
The region has proven expertise in helping firms exploit business opportunities at minimum risk, attracting high levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Europe, Asia and North America. Around 40% of companies listed on the Dow Jones have operations in North East England.
2009 saw the mass production of electric cars in the UK take a giant stride forward with Nissan?s announcement that it will build its new electric battery plant in North East England. Nissan?s Washington plant already produces one in four cars in the UK and is the most productive car plant in Europe, and the announcement that the North East will be home to Nissan?s advanced lithium-ion battery plant marks a significant step toward the production of zeroemission cars.
The plant is scheduled to supply 60,000 batteries a year for electric vehicles produced by the Renault- Nissan Alliance who will offer electric vehicles in the United States and Japan beginning in 2010 ahead of mass marketing in 2012 to consumers globally. Welcoming the announcement UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: ?Nissan?s investment in a new battery plant and its hope to start producing electric vehicles here in Sunderland is great news for the local economy, creating up to 350 direct jobs and creating and safeguarding hundreds more in the associated supply chain.?
Nissan?s Sunderland plant produced a record 386,000 units in 2008, making Nissan the largest vehicle exporter from the UK, with around 80% of production sold outside of the country. Together with the engine assembly plant and other facilities, Sunderland currently employs around 4,200 workers.
Reinforcing the North East?s place as a leader in the development of electric vehicles, One North East will deliver the country?s first Low Carbon Economic Area (LCEA) specialising in ultra-low-carbon vehicles. The LCEA will focus on the transformation of the automotive industry, supporting innovation and demonstration, skills training and a cluster of manufacturing. The LCEA, announced by Gordon Brown at the Nissan factory in July 2009, will focus on Sunderland, South Tyneside and Easington and will include a training centre specialising in the manufacture and maintenance of ultra-low-carbon vehicles, a Research & Development centre for all five North East universities, and an openaccess test track for new vehicles.
While the location of Nissan makes the North East a natural home for the LCEA, there is a lot more going on in the North East that makes the region a natural place for the development of electric vehicles. A long history of automotive manufacturing excellence means the region is already home to firms like Komatsu, Caterpillar, Cummins and British Engines. But there are also other success stories. Not far from Nissan, Smith Electric Vehicles is another automotive firm considered a leader in its field.
Smith Electric Vehicles has been involved in the development of electric vehicles since the 1920s and is the world leader in commercial electric light vans, recently delivering its Smith Newton, the largest road-going electric truck in the US, to a number of blue-chip companies including Coca-Cola and AT&T.
The region boasts commercial and academic strengths in power electronics and control systems, including the Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives at Newcastle University. Future Transport Systems, a Newcastle-based consultancy that specialises in the interface between transport and infrastructure, is leading the development of a strategy to establish an EV-charging infrastructure across the North East, which has included: spatial and traffic-flow modelling for planning locations for charging points, modelling connections to electrical networks; anticipating the need for public consultation; and the specialist technical insight on EVs and battery technologies.
ONE Smith Electrical Vehicle
Sunderland University?s Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practise (AMAP) provides bespoke design and consultancy services as well as state-of-the-art training for both new entrants and experienced engineers. Running alongside the investment made in the Low Carbon Economic Area, North East England is also one of the areas set to benefit from a share of £25m of government funding to run ?real life? trials. The Technology Strategy Board, the government body that promotes business innovation in technology, will fund an electric vehicle trial in the region that will see 35 passenger vehicles developed and trialled in the first stage of the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator project. These will include the 15 Nissan cars, 10 Smith electric taxis, five Smith people carriers, a Smith executive minibus, two AVID saloon cars and two Liberty urban Range Rovers, alongside a network of charging points.
The consortium consists of Nissan, Smith Electric Vehicles in partnership with LTI and Ford, AVID Vehicles, Liberty Electric Cars, Newcastle University and One North East. Edmund King, AA president, said: ?The North East is already planning for a low-carbon future and the AA is supporting that vision. The North East electric car strategy has the potential to spark a personal transport revolution in UK cities.
Trevor Mann, Nissan Senior Vice President Manufacturing, Europe, said: ?Undoubtedly the most important trend in urban transport within the next decade will be the shift towards low carbon. There is an increasing desire from the public for environmentally neutral transport, linked with big improvements in available technology and an increasing urban population. ?All these aspects are combining to create the right environment and demand for a revolution in sustainable transport, which Nissan is aiming to spearhead through the mass marketing of zero-emission electric vehicles from 2012.
?This announcement represents an important step towards that future, and we look forward to continue working with One North East and the Technology Strategy Board to make electric vehicles a viable and attractive prospect.? The presence of firms like Nissan in the region has resulted in a world-class supply chain but has also brought other benefits to the region.
Since 2003, the Regional Development Agency, One North East, has been working to share the knowledge of lean manufacturing techniques brought to the region by Nissan with other manufacturing firms in the region. This ongoing support for manufacturing in the region includes an investment of over £30 million by One North East and the European Regional Development Fund in MAS North East, the region?s Manufacturing Advisory Service. Hundreds of manufacturing businesses have already benefited from the support on offer, saving millions, making them more productive and reducing energy waste and expense.
This is just one demonstration of the North East?s ability to share expertise and adapt to new developments, and while it is hard to predict what benefits the development of the next generation of electric vehicles will bring to the region, you can be sure the region will take the lessons on board.
For almost a decade, North East England has been at the forefront of the development of offshore wind power in Britain. In 2000, the first offshore wind turbines in the UK were installed just off the coast at Blyth, 10 miles north of Newcastle.
Since then the region has been at the forefront of the offshore wind industry, adapting the skills learnt in traditional industries like shipbuilding, power generation and traditional heavy industries. US giant Clipper Windpower chose to come to the North East to develop the largest offshore wind turbine in the world at Blyth.
Clipper is working closely with the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC). NaREC?s independent bladetesting facility is capable of testing some of the world?s largest wind turbine blades and the centre works as an independent partner under strict confidentiality to help customers achieve new breakthroughs in product design and manufacturing techniques. And the region is already looking to the next generation, with plans for the country?s first wind turbine training tower announced.
Northumberland College, NaREC and Regional Development Agency One North East are working together to ensure the region is well placed to meet the skills needs of an industry that could potentially create 30,000 new jobs. The development will ensure the region is able to produce a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demand for thousands of jobs in construction and long-term maintenance jobs as the offshore wind industry develops in order to meet the government?s 2020 targets for emissions and renewables.
In addition to expanding the college?s Wind Technician Training Course, the training tower will also signify the next stage in the development of a UK Centre for Wind Skills, placing the North East at the forefront of the wind industry?s efforts to avoid a skills shortage.
For more information on innovation in North East
England visit www.northeastengland.co.uk
World-leading US-based turbine technology developer Clipper Windpower has been carrying out research and development at NaREC?s Blyth facilities since 2007. This activity will facilitate Clipper Windpower?s development of Project Britannia, the world?s most powerful commercial wind turbine. The 7.5 MW turbine under development is currently the world?s largest planned commercial turbine.
The company has previously won the US Department of Energy?s Outstanding Research and Development Partnership Award for the development of the largest wind turbine manufactured in the USA, the Liberty Wind Turbine.
Clipper Windpower?s presence in the region has been facilitated by NaREC?s Blyth facilities, which provide the UK?s only blade-testing facility for wind turbines. These facilities were critical in Clipper Windpower?s decision to base its R&D project in the region and are key toward attracting further investment in the region in a rapidly growing area of renewable energy. Blyth has already established itself as a prestigious hub for the development of innovative wind-power technologies, having provided the location for one of the first innovative onshore projects and the development of the first UK offshore wind farm Blyth offers an excellent location for the development of wind turbine technology and will provide significant expertise to Clipper Windpower.
The initial investment from Clipper Windpower is expected to create 25 new jobs in the region during 2009, and has received generous financial support from One NorthEast, as well as support from NaREC through the provision of technical services and facilities, for a period of two years.
Added the 06 October 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-2