The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is celebrating its first anniversary, in which it has become the UK’s largest automotive cluster group and one of the biggest in Europe.
Such has been the response to the industry-led cluster group it now has more than 130 members ranging from industry giants including Nissan and Komatsu UK, to tier one suppliers and SME component manufacturers.
The strong growth arc means the NEAA has been fast-tracked to Bronze Label status by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative, which benchmarks cluster groups on quality indicators including achievements, recognition and management.
Because the NEAA has only been established for 12 months, it should not have been ready to achieve Bronze status until October 2017 and is the only cluster in Europe to be awarded this recognition so quickly after it was set up.
NEAA CEO Paul Butler said: “Terrific progress has been made since our launch on March 27 last year and we have exceeded all our targets for our first year. We are already the largest automotive cluster in the UK and one of – if not the – fastest growing in Europe.
“The European Cluster Excellence Initiative already thinks we have fulfilled the core criteria for the Gold label, which is very high praise indeed and would put the NEAA in the top 0.5% of clusters in Europe. That would be a remarkable achievement given the youngest cluster to attain Gold was formed in 2008.
“The benefits we’ve generated for the region include our industry working groups and the collaborative networks we have formed that have broken down barriers of communication. The NEAA has really created a great awareness of the sector and the value that’s been created here, and is helping to build trust across the supply chain.”
Kevin Fitzpatrick, chair of the NEAA and Vice President of Nissan Manufacturing UK, comments: “The future looks bright for the UK automotive sector with over £20bn of capital expenditure spend expected by 2020, however I’m sure there will be challenges ahead. With the NEAA the North East now has a platform through which we can maximise the growth opportunities and I’m looking forward to continuing the work with the NEAA to drive the North East automotive sector forward.”
Cllr Trueman said: “The NEAA has become a fantastic success story for the region in just 12 months, supporting our automotive hub and putting the spotlight on what is being achieved here in the North East.
“We’re looking forward to its future growth and seeing the expansion of the region’s automotive sector through the collaboration and best practice that NEAA is fostering across the industry.”
The NEAA’s working groups focus on areas that offer the sector the greatest growth potential. The business excellence group concentrates on benchmarking and best practice visits; the skills group focuses on upskilling the current and future workforce; and the innovation and technology group is working towards a knowledge-based regional innovation system.
This year, the NEAA will set up a new trade and investment group to introduce members to key international markets. SME members will be attending the main automotive trade show in Japan in May, with UKTI, APC & Innovate UK offering the opportunity to build relationships and boost export sales.
In addition, the NEAA has also secured EU funding to further develop its highly successful inaugural SME Supply Chain Development Programme. The new programme, ‘Advancing the Competitiveness of North East SMEs’ will provide up to 160 SMEs with support to develop their businesses and become more competitive by sharing best practice.
The NEAA will also be repeating its highly successful North East Automotive Expo at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in September. The first event attracted over 300 delegates including buyers from Jaguar Land Rover and was opened by Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton, raising the national profile of the region’s automotive sector.
North East automotive key statistics for 2015 as stated in NEAA’s first annual report include:
• Sales over £9.2bn, exporting £5.1bn and a trade surplus of £2.6bn
• Employees – 30,000 direct and impacting a further 141,000
• 46 regional investments totalling more than £1.6bn in past 5 years
• NE accounts for 26% of all EV production across Europe
• The region is home to:
o OEMs Nissan Manufacturing UK, Komatsu, Caterpillar, Explorer and
o Tier 1 Suppliers – 28 Car & Commercial and 14 Off-highway
o 280+ automotive and related supply chain companies