During the past quarter we looked to be taking significant steps forward in operating under the ‘new normal’. We saw the return of many face-to-face, large-scale events including the relaunch of NEPIC’s flagship annual Meet the Members Conference & Exhibition in October that welcomed more than 500 industry colleagues to Wynyard.
However, as you are no doubt aware, we are once again facing further challenges as we see the biggest spike in positive Covid cases since January 2021, along with considerable concerns and unknowns of a new variant. Yet as we return to working from home and virtual meetings and events resume, 2021 has without doubt been an unprecedented year for the chemical, pharmaceutical and processing sector in the North East of England – a year that provided renewed optimism and opportunity.
Throughout the year, I have reported on the many significant developments and the past quarter has proved equally successful for the region and sector. The East Coast Cluster was announced as one of the UK’s first Carbon, Capture, Usage and Storage projects and this week confirmed the award of first phase engineering contracts. BP unveiled its largest green hydrogen initiative so far in its UK home market with plans for renewable H2 production on Teesside; and Billingham-based Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies confirmed a £400 million investment plan to create the largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the UK.
Furthermore, the Teesside Freeport began operation putting the region at the forefront of green energy, manufacturing, and innovation; and Sembcorp Energy UK have this week announced plans to build Europe’s largest battery energy storage system at Wilton, coupled with news that SABIC are to strengthen operations to enable chemical cracker transformation.
In the North of the region, investments and developments are prevalent too. The region has made a significant contribution to the immediate response to the pandemic through its manufacturing and innovation strengths. Quotient Sciences have announced a £6.3 million investment in its recently acquired facility at Alnwick that will see the firm notably increase manufacturing capability and create new jobs. Opportunities to further strengthen regional growth in the pharmaceuticals industry through the reshoring of pharmaceutical generic manufacturing are also being developed via the North East Pharma consortium that NEPIC is proud to support.
In addition to the continued wave of great investment news, we also witnessed a surge in engagement activities across the cluster. During 2021, we welcomed 50 new members, delivered an array of virtual events involving more than 1,000 guests and saw the greatest increase in use of NEPIC’s digital marketing platforms.
Furthermore, and as mentioned, we were delighted to finally return to face-to-face networking in October with our annual conference – and welcomed many colleagues to the ever-successful digitalisation event in December. Our first in person roundtable session was also held since the start of the pandemic and saw the team sharing findings and seeking guidance on the best way forward in progressing our work and support in plastics recycling.
Last year, I shared a significant growth in the NEPIC team to enable work across key development areas that supports the long-term success of the sector in the North East and brings additional value to members. This work continued through the course of 2021 and saw the introduction of several new projects, along with the completion of initial scoping reviews and research projects. Further information on our work in this important area is detailed below.
I regularly report on the importance of the foundation blocks of UK manufacturing being understood and protected; and remain steadfast in our messaging that if the UK is to realise its Clean Growth potential – in relation to hydrogen, carbon capture usage and storage and plastics recycling – core industries must be safeguarded as without them a circular economy is unachievable.
During 2021, the NEPIC team have played an important role in highlighting the impact of major regulatory and policy amendments, along with key Government decisions affecting the region and sector. Our work over the course of the year has seen us support an array of critical matters including Freeports; Short Haul Gas and the Gas Pricing Crisis; Covid & Key Worker Status; Inward Investment; UK Reach; CCUS & East Coast Cluster; UK Global Tax Tariffs; Levelling Up; Innovation and most recently the Decarbonisation & Hydrogen Revenue Support Scheme.
There is no doubt that notwithstanding the steps forward in combatting the effects of Covid, the challenges will continue into 2022. Despite this, we move into another year with even greater foresight and understanding of our businesses, and our people. As we enter the New Year, we will continue to support your business and work tirelessly to ensure industry in our region thrives. Furthermore, we will continue to represent your needs and views; and deliver a programme that will provide your business with valuable growth support.
All that we have achieved this year would not have been possible without you. Therefore, may I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of the Cluster and your engagement in our activities. We look forward to working with you long into the future to ensure this region remains a thriving home to the largest single cluster of process, pharmaceutical and chemical companies anywhere in the UK.
On behalf of the NEPIC team, may I wish you Seasons Greetings and best wishes for 2022.
With best wishes
Chief Executive Officer, NEPIC
To achieve our vision of a thriving sector in this region, it is vital that government and policymakers understand its importance and take action. During 2021, the NEPIC team played a key role in highlighting the impact of major regulatory and policy amendments, along with key Government decisions affecting the region and sector covering:
We also remain in regular communication with LEP’s, Ministers & MP’s, CIA, Government Departments, Chemistry Council & regional cluster organisations. In relation to Government, we have focused upon outlining the integrated nature of the chemical industry – with the recent temporary shutdown of the CF Fertiliser plant at Billingham being a prime example.
NEPIC represents the largest single cluster of process, pharmaceutical and chemical companies anywhere in the UK, and the second largest in the whole of Europe. We manufacture 50 per cent of UK foundation chemicals and a third of UK pharmaceuticals – bringing more than £2.1 billion of value to the region each year.
Facilitating interactions and enabling connections is at the heart of our work. We create unique insightful and inspirational meetings, workshops and events that promote learning, enable networking and stimulate business growth.
Through our work we promote your business, products and services to NEPIC’s extensive network, whilst championing this sector and region as a great place to do business and supporting local initiatives.
Last year we reported a significant growth in the NEPIC team to enable work across key development areas that supports the long-term success of the sector in the North East and brings additional value to members. This work, detailed below, continued through the course of 2021 and saw the introduction of several new projects, along with the completion of initial scoping reviews and research projects.
Supply Chain North East
Supply Chain North East works with businesses looking to diversify, broaden their customer base and unlock new market opportunities – and supports companies by developing core competencies, understanding improvement needs and identifying suitable opportunities in new and existing markets. A partnership between the North East LEP, RTC North, NEPIC, NEAA and Generator North East, this project will work with over 800 businesses between 2018 and 2022 and is designed to support companies across Advanced Manufacturing; Health and Life Sciences; Subsea, Offshore and Energy Technologies; and Digital, Tech and Creative. For more information, and to find out if you can tap into this support, click here or contact NEPIC’s SCNE project manager, Glen Kelly.
Made Smarter Adoption North East
Made Smarter Adoption North East, launched in August 2021, is a fully funded business support programme specially designed for manufacturing SMEs in the North East region covering both the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority areas. This project has been designed to help businesses go to market faster, cut costs and reduce downtime, by investing in digital tools, innovations, and skills. NEPIC is a delivery partner for this programme. Contact Ryan Siddall, Innovation Manager and Made Smarter project lead for NEPIC, about how you can access world-renowned businesses and the UK government and connect your organisation with digital tools that can transform the way you work.
THYME Project / Bio-EO
In 2021, the THYME project was awarded funding of £1.8 million from Research England to continue a highly successful collaboration between the Universities of Teesside, Hull, and York. The universities will continue to work together to develop innovation assets and drive increased productivity in the bioeconomy across the Tees Valley, the Humber and Yorkshire. The innovations kick-started by THYME will not only help to boost economic growth but pave the way to a more sustainable future where industry uses renewable sources of raw materials. The THYME Project is also supporting the recently communicated Bio-EO Project. The aim of the project is to build the business case to re-shore and decarbonise the ethylene oxide supply chain.
ISCF Cluster Plan Project
Innovate UK is running the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, supporting CCUS deployment schemes, industrial clusters, and an industrial decarbonisation research initiative across the UK. This aims to develop four low-carbon industrial clusters by 2030; and four net zero clusters by 2040. In the Tees Valley, a consortium of TVCA, bp and NEPIC are developing the decarbonisation ‘Cluster Plan’ for our industrial cluster. In this we are developing a strategy for decarbonisation using CCUS, hydrogen generation, fuel switching and renewable energy generation as the core technologies. Over 40 CO2 emitters are being contacted for information about their emissions with engineering studies being carried out to develop the data for the decarbonisation strategy and impacts on the region’s jobs and economy.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel
CPI received funding for the FASTACEJET project to optimise technology for the scalable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient production of sustainable aviation fuel. The outcomes of this project have the potential to minimise reliance on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the global aviation industry. In support of this activity, NEPIC have taken a position on the project Steering Group alongside Rolls-Royce, Airbus and TVCA.
Transforming Foundation Industries Research & Innovation Hub (TransFIRe)
Through TransFIRe and the Chemicals Technical Working Group (TWG), of which NEPIC is a member, this project brings together researchers with specific materials, energy and processing expertise, industry experts, and representatives from trade associations, policymakers, and non-profits, to identify the hot spots of resource usage within each sector and potential to drive improvements. The Chemicals TWG is one of the six TWGs in TransFIRe, with groups on ceramics, glass, cement, metals, paper, and chemicals.
CRF Innovation Project
This new project, a consortium with NEPIC, the Innovation Super Network and RTC North and funded via the Communities Renewal Fund, will seek to improve innovation in large companies via the region’s SME supplier based. Running from January to June 2022, this project will support companies within the Tees Valley LEP.
Pharmaceutical Innovation Accelerator
This project, that was funded by the NE-LEP, allowed NEPIC to scope potential for greater support for members across the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector. More specifically, it sought to bridge the gaps, and streamline collaboration between stakeholders of industry, comprising of industrial manufacturers, SMEs, academic research groups and training providers.
Healthcare & Life Sciences Fund
2021 also saw NEPIC provide support to the NE-LEP to carry out a supply chain study to identify potential suppliers and service providers who may be able to contribute to a new generic drug manufacturing facility in the region via the newly formed North East Pharma consortium.
Bioprocessing & Plastics Recycling
During 2021, NEPIC’s innovation managers have been providing vital scoping work across bioprocessing and plastics recycling that achieved considerable engagement and support from key stakeholders. In the case of plastics recycling, an initial mapping exercise took place and future opportunities identified. In late November, a workshop was held to share and discuss findings with members and seek guidance on the best way forward in progressing our work and support in this area.
We are continually addressing industry challenges and championing the sector to ensure the long-term sustainability of chemical processing in the North East of England. During 2021, the team led industry focus groups covering:
Working to support our members and grow North East England’s chemical, process, and pharmaceutical sectors. During 2022, we will:
*NEPIC Annual Industry Awards & Dinner 2022 postponed following growing Covid concerns. Click here to read our recent statement.
To find out more about our upcoming events, and secure your places, visit www.nepic.co.uk/events
Thank you again for your continued support.
We looking forward to working with you long into the future.