Talk of a 'Great North Revolution' might sound grand, but that's exactly what it can be, writes CBI North East director Sarah Green.
This is the Great North Revolution.
To take full advantage of these opportunities we need to ensure every business in our region is considering how it can align its business model to the supply chain potential of these new industries. And that we collectively are looking to support these industries in their infancy by buying in early and gaining first mover advantage maximising public/private sector investment.
Innovation is key to our future. Low-value manufacturing is no longer viable in the UK. We need to ensure our skills add value to all products and services. Utilising this region’s fantastic universities and our world-class research centres, including Narec , CPI and PETEC, is critical to ensuring the region’s businesses are competitive.
This will secure our future and is demonstrated by success stories such as Thorn Lighting, where the Spennymoor plant was facing imminent closure due to global competition. Through a research project with PETEC, Thorn in Spennymoor is now developing the next generation of lighting based on printable electronic technologies. This collaborative research has secured the future of Thorn Lighting in the North East, including a new £28m plant and 700 jobs.
There is already evidence that the revolution is under way.
The North East has been recognised nationally as the UK Economic Area for Low Carbon Vehicles and Nissan has announced a further £200m investment in a new battery plant, positioning the region favourably in our bid to secure an EV Nissan production facility in Sunderland.
No revolution is easy and there is still work to be done. CBI will be identifying the policy challenges that could hold these emerging industries back – issues include clearer planning policy for energy infrastructure and incentivising consumers so low-carbon technologies are pioneered, even if the up-front costs are greater in the short term.
Business needs to innovate and as well as producing new products needs to establish new business models to make these products affordable and accessible.
Our schools, universities and colleges need to develop the people with the skills to deliver these new products and services.
And we need to attract global investment and talent to be a true centre of excellence.
The timescales are tight but the rewards are worth fighting for, positioning the North East at the forefront of innovation will truly revolutionise our region.