By Guy Currey, director Invest North East England (INEE)
Inward investment from overseas or from elsewhere in the UK, has always been “incredibly important” for North East England.
Nissan’s original £300m investment in its site in Washington in 1986 has led to billions of pounds of investment into the region over the last 35 years, both at Nissan’s manufacturing plant and through the regional automotive supply chain which today employs around 30,000 people, making it one of the UK’s most transformational inward investments ever.
The North East has benefitted from the arrival of “cutting-edge technologies, very high productivity levels and huge UK exports”. Such is the power of inward investment.
Nissan was only the start, as the North East has continued to attract new companies, and in 2021/22 over 8,000 new jobs were created from UK and Foreign Direct Investments. These jobs were created in many sectors, from offshore wind to business services, from digital technology to advanced manufacturing.
North East England is leading the way
This past year has been tremendous for inward investment right across our region. 2021/22 has been the most successful year since I joined INEE back in 2014.
National and international wins in offshore wind, electrification, digital technologies, business services and the automotive sector, has put North East England in the spotlight and demonstrates that the region is fantastically placed both geographically and in its sectoral make-up to spearhead investment opportunities – and focusing on these sectors is going to be our biggest priority going forward.
Last financial year, we created over 8,000 new jobs from inward investment projects, and we were the leading UK region for job creation, when compared with our working-age population, it is important to enable proper comparison between regions of different sizes.
This is a phenomenal achievement, and demonstrates that the North East continues to punch above its weight. We are constantly looking for new opportunities and projects to help grow our economy.
Whilst energy costs continue to be a challenge to households and businesses nationally, we have a very strong pipeline in renewable energy, electrification and other low carbon technology projects. We will focus on ensuring that the North East continues to be the centre of the UK’s Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution
We have seen some tremendous investments into the North East over the past year, particularly around Green Energy and Offshore Wind.
Equinor and SSE Renewables have built a new operations and maintenance base at the Port of Tyne, which is set to create hundreds of jobs in the region servicing the Dogger Bank wind farm, which will be the world’s largest wind farm once operational.
In addition, JDR Cables has started construction of a major new subsea cable factory at Cambois in Northumberland – again to service the offshore wind market.
North East England couldn’t be better located to support the growth of the Offshore Wind sector. It is vital that we position ourselves as being at the centre of the UK’s offshore wind supply chain as the sector continues to grow and opportunities for new investment flow in.
Move On Up
Digital technology is booming in the North East, which led to Newcastle being named the UK’s smartest city in the Global Smart City Index in 2021. Our digital cluster is of the country’s largest – a fact noted by the BBC, which chose to develop a tech hub in the city and invest £25m into the region.
We are driven by our rich heritage in tech and software development, and this has given us a solid base on which to develop new technologies in a variety of markets – from immersive technology and esports to big data and health tech.
Digital technology investments into the region in the past year has seen the arrival of a number of companies including US cyber security company Arctic Wolf and Monstarlab from Japan.
We’re constantly targeting potential investors, and following our team’s recent trip to Ireland to showcase our immersive tech capabilities we’re looking forward to welcoming an Irish delegation back to the North East in 2023. Fintech is an emerging sector for the region, and in 2022 the North East has put itself firmly on the global fintech map.
With our strong fintech ecosystem, the region is quickly becoming one of the most exciting locations for innovative financial services companies to base themselves. Our cluster of fintech companies include Atom Bank, Kani Payments and Bottlepay, who have all located here to take advantage of the North East fintech cluster.
Our wider business services sector is also thriving. Businesses no longer look to London and the South East as the ‘place to be.’ More and more companies are looking to relocate to the North East, driven by the need to recruit and retain skilled and talented staff, have quality office accommodation and a better quality of life for its staff.
We have seen many companies moving on up to the region to do just that. In the last few years we have welcomed several business service companies such as Verisure, Ocado and Just Eat – all attracted to our region for the skills available, low turnover rates, property options and a better quality of life.
Verisure and Ocado have both experienced massive growth in the region, with their delivery centres expanding significantly. I was recently invited to the new Just Eat offices in Sunderland, and I am very excited to see what they will do in our region.
First class knowledge base and future talent
We are fortunate to have five world-class universities with more than 120,000 students in the region. Newcastle University and Durham University are part of the prestigious Russell Group and lead the way in research and development across a number of fields.
Northumbria University, Sunderland University and Teesside University are all specialists in their own right and have ensured their graduates have the right skills for the growing sectors in our economy.
Last month, it was great to see Northumbria University, being named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards. This marks Northumbria’s remarkable transformation to become the UK’s first research-intensive modern university.
Electric North East England
The electrification sector has seen tremendous growth in the region and is leading the UK, with investments from Nissan, Envision AESC and Turntide Technologies totaling over £3.75 billion.
This sector is extremely important for us and it’s important that we continue to look for ways to promote the North East as the premier location for investment in electrification technologies.
Hot on the heels of attending The Battery Show in North America, our team has just returned from the London EV Show with leading North East companies Connected Energy, equiwatt, Fuzzy Logic Studios and Advanced Electrical Machines.
Exhibiting at industry-leading trade shows like these enables us to showcase the region’s real and recognisable strengths in electrification and battery technologies across the globe.
The future is bright
We can’t get away from the fact that inevitably some investment projects were put on hold and delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, despite the current challenging economic conditions, and with our partners at the Department for International Trade and the region’s seven local authorities, we are on the cusp of landing some very big and exciting new investments across our key target sectors.
We are confident that 2022/23 will be another very successful year for our region.
Thinking of making the move?
The INEE team is ready to support your business move to the North East. Our team can support with property searches, skills and recruitment advice, and introductions to supply chains and cluster groups. Please get in touch with the team for further information