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Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton with Paul Butler, chief executive of North East Automotiv

NEAA launches new Innovation and Technology Group at Westminister

by Jamie Hardesty

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will be unveiling its new Innovation and Technology Group at a special Westminster launch event to showcase the strength of the region’s automotive industry.

The industry cluster group, which was set up earlier this year and now has over 100 companies engaged, will be launched at the event hosted by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson on October 28.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, chair of the NEAA and Nissan Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, will introduce the event. It will also feature presentations from key industry figures highlighting the strength of the North East automotive sector.

NEAA chief executive Paul Butler, who will be speaking at the launch, said: “The Alliance is very much industry-driven, with all our working groups populated by industrialists who work together and share best practice in order to improve regional performance.

“One of the reasons NEAA was formed was to raise awareness and act as the voice of the North East automotive industry. The launch is about letting the Government know how North East industry is driving the region’s competitiveness.

“We have perhaps gone under the radar too long and this is a key chance to shout about the expertise and value in the region.”

NEAA chair, Kevin Fitzpatrick, said: “We’re delighted to be showcasing the region’s automotive industry to the rest of the country at our Westminster launch.

“This event provides us with a platform to demonstrate the great things that are happening in the North East, and the opportunity to tell businesses elsewhere in the UK about the support available within the regional cluster.”

The event will introduce the new Innovation and Technology Group, headed by Dr Colin Herron of Zero Carbon Futures, who will also be speaking at the launch. Innovation was one of the key working areas identified by automotive businesses when the NEAA initially developed its strategy.

The group will work with key players in the North East to form an innovation hub. It will have two key remits: the first is to showcase and develop emerging technology and the second is to support process innovation, working with vehicle manufacturers such as Nissan and Komatsu and their suppliers to make products more quickly and cost-effectively.

The Innovation and Technology Group will support companies that are already established and also aims to attract new businesses and start-ups in the sector to the North East. The new Sunderland City Council-South Tyneside Council joint venture International Advanced Manufacturing Park, being built on land north of Nissan, will provide space for new and expanding innovative businesses to grow.

Paul Butler said: “The new group will help to put the region at the forefront of emerging technology and will give SMEs with new technology the opportunity to showcase it and network with the supply chain.

“It will support business excellence and drive regional activity and also play an important part in the skills agenda.”