We might be in the depths of recession, but it has not been all bad news for the North East economy over the past few months - and a major campaign has been launched to support some exciting developments, as Andrew Hebden reports.
THIS month North East Vision is throwing its weight behind the drive to stimulate a Great North Revolution. Last June, our newspapers The Journal and the Evening Gazette announced the launch of the Great North Revolution campaign.
At its heart was a desire to focus the efforts of the entire region on the opportunities that lie ahead in several economic areas. It followed the announcement of a major Government initiative by Lord Mandelson, entitled “New Industries, New Jobs”, tackling the question of how challenges such as climate change, the recession and transition to a digital economy will transform skills and jobs in the next five to 10 years.
The Great North Revolution aims to tackle these issues and more. In this economic climate, it’s never been more important to ensure we do not lose sight of the long-term strategy for the regional economy.
As well as assisting in the short to medium term as the recovery comes out of the downturn, it should also ensure a more secure future for generations to come. The campaign has identified five sectors of the economy which have formed the focus for much of the activity to date.
These include electric vehicle production and infrastructure, the manufacture and supply chain for offshore wind technology, building on the expertise of Digital and Software City, innovating further around new exciting materials such as plastic electronics and exploiting our expertise in biosciences and healthcare.
These are all areas in which the North East is an established force, but where there is also formidable opportunity to develop even further. In short, these are sectors in which we believe the region has the potential to become world class.
Our newspapers aim to support this campaign through news articles related to these industries and by providing a home for debate about what needs to be done to ensure the region exploits the opportunities that are out there.
Topics that might be addressed include:
* Is the region’s public sector providing support needed by firms in these sectors?
* Are our schools, colleges and universities tooling our young people up with the skills that will be required as these industries grow?
* What should the business community be doing now to try to establish the supply chains required to support these sectors?
Vision will become a focal point for much of this activity as the magazine is ideally placed to provide a one-stop reference point for the latest developments from the campaign. And we have also set up a special section of our website, at www.nebusiness.co.uk/revolution , where you can access archives of stories we have featured so far as well as taking part in our live online debates about the campaign. You can read a transcript of our first debate in this edition of Vision. The campaign has backing in the region and beyond.
CBI director general Richard Lambert attended a launch event for the campaign at Darlington Football Club. He said: “It’s critical the Government’s new industries, new jobs policy is led by business and not dictated by government.
“The event in the North East was the first to my knowledge where a region’s businesses have collectively considered the supply chain opportunities created by key UK trends, including the move to low carbon, increased digital capacity and the implications of an ageing population.”
Northern Way chairman Hugh Morgan Williams said the campaign could energise the region.
“We saw in the 19th Century what steam power did for the North East. Wind power and printable electronics are just two technologies where the North East might well be able to take not just a national lead, but a global position at the head of the pack.”
And Beccy Earnshaw, director of Schools NorthEast, said teachers had their role to play in providing the skilled workforce of the future.
“The future of our region is in schools. The pupils of today will be responsible for delivering on the vision that we generate now; it is their skills and ambitions, and those of their children, which will define the North East’s success in 2109.”