Back to News >
Part of the great reset, as companies and sectors envision a post COVID-19 future, is enabling technology for sustainable, long term growth. And none more so has this been witnessed than within the chemicals and processing industries, as we see a future road map for how the sector will first emerge, and then thrive in the post pandemic economy.
When I wrote to you in May, I described the pliability of our remarkable network and the significant, game-changing announcements that had delivered timely, renewed confidence and palpable optimism across the business community in the region. As I put pen to paper, this message remains unchanged, and we continue to receive positive news in relation to groundbreaking investments and revolutionary projects coming to the North East.
Only yesterday did Nissan announce a major expansion of electric vehicle production at its car plant in Sunderland, that will also see its partner, Envision AESC, built an electric battery plant. This £1billion investment is a major vote of confidence in the UK and a pivotal moment in the electric vehicle revolution, whilst providing a substantial boost to the automotive sector and its many supply chains including chemicals.
Wilton International on Teesside also received a wave of investment wins. The Sembcorp Energy UK owned site has been chosen as the location for the onshore electricity converter station for the Sofia Wind Farm, which is under development at Dogger Bank in the North Sea. This is one of the largest construction projects that Wilton International has seen in recent years and aligns with the owner’s commitment to decarbonise the industrial site.
Australian firm Peak Resources also confirmed Wilton International as the location of its multi-million-pound rare earth processing plant. The 250-lease will see the minerals processing plant produce materials used in the manufacture of powerful magnets, which will ultimately be placed in items, including mobile phones, wind turbines and in the automotive sector.
A major collaboration between member companies Johnson Matthey, CPI and Thomas Swan to optimise battery technology has also been announced. The ICE-Batt project – that will help Johnson Matthey realise the full potential its high-performance battery materials – aims to overcome limitations of lithium-ion batteries, including energy density, power density and low temperature performance through the application of innovative carbons.
The chemical sector’s key enabling technologies provide the critical building blocks for the solutions needed to achieve a sustainable low carbon circular economy. By accelerating the transition to sustainable chemical technology research, we as a sector are at the heart of helping to tackle global challenges of climate emergency, sustainable development, and plastics pollutions.
NEPIC, along with Teesside and Hull Universities, was successful in securing academic funding for the newly launched BIO-EO project. The aim of the project is to build the business case to re-shore and decarbonise the ethylene oxide supply chain. Ethylene oxide is a crucial platform chemical for the process industry and is used to manufacture a multitude of different sectors including plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and among others.
In parallel to the wave of good news and successes across the region, the NEPIC team have continued to grow and support the network. We have welcomed 34 new members to the cluster since the start of the year who cover a broad range of product and service offerings. We continue to play a vital role in influencing government, regulators and policy makers and remain in close and regular contact with UK and regional industry bodies, local authorities, MP’s, and government departments. Further details of this work are outlined below.
Looking forward to the coming months, our work continues to support your business and ensure that industry in this region thrives – and we remain committed to representing your needs and views and delivering a programme that provides you with valuable growth support.
As we head into the summer break, and after an unprecedented eighteen months, we are delighted to see major trade shows returning in the autumn, and with this I am thrilled to announce that NEPIC’s flagship annual Meet the Members conference and exhibition will return to Wynyard Hall on Wednesday 20th October. Enabling essential networking, learning, and showcasing of business opportunities remains at the heart of our offer to members and never has there been a more exciting time for us to come back together.
On behalf of the NEPIC team, may I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of the Cluster and ongoing engagement in our activities.
With best wishes
Chief Executive Officer, NEPIC
Quarter Two Highlights
External Engagement & Influencing
To achieve our vision of a thriving sector in this region, it is vital that government and policymakers understand its importance and act. During the first quarter of 2021, the NEPIC team have played a key role in highlighting the impacts of major regulatory and policy amendments affecting the region and sector.
- MP’s Sector Briefing – NEPIC hosted its annual Industry-MPs meeting in May and welcomed Jacob Young, MP for Redcar and Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington along with representatives from CF Fertilisers, ConocoPhillips, ReNew ELP, bp, TVCA, Micropore Technologies, Alpek Polyester, Mitsubishi Chemicals, Huntsman Polyurethanes, Sembcorp UK, BOC and Womble Bond Dickinson. During the virtual roundtable, sector challenges and opportunities were discussed covering decarbonisation, plastics recycling, EU-exit, energy pricing and UK REACH. More>>
- Freeports – Following the announcement in March 2021 of Teesside’s Freeport bid success, NEPIC welcomed representatives from Government’s Freeport Taskforce to Wilton. The meeting, which formed part of a two-day visit to the region, allowed officials to meet with the companies who represent the largest cluster of process, chemical and energy companies in the UK. This visit also gave NEPIC the opportunity to further highlight the existing manufacturing and research strengths in the region and emphasize the need for the Tees Freeport to leverage existing industry, as well as having large ‘brown field potential’. More>>
- Low-Carbon Hydrogen – NEPIC contributed to this recently issued POSTnote (Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology) that outlines different ways in which hydrogen is produced, and how these could be made low carbon. It examines how much low-carbon hydrogen may be needed in future, and the challenges in increasing production. It discusses hydrogen storage and transportation, commercial and regulatory challenges, and the potential global market. More>>
- Local Government – We remain in regular contact with the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE-LEP), with the aim of influencing policy decisions and helping deliver economic plans that support the growth of the sector.
- National Influence – On a national level, we continue to meet regularly with our UK process cluster colleagues, together with the Chemical Industry Association (CIA), BEIS and DIT.
A growing membership
NEPIC represents the largest single cluster of process, chemicals and energy 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.
- Since the start of the year, we have welcomed 34 new members to the network who provide a broad and diverse array of product and service offerings to the network. Online Directory>>
- We’re delighted to announce two major dates returning to NEPIC’s event calendar:
- NEPIC’s Meet the Members Conference and Exhibition is returning on Wednesday 20th October. This major networking event, that has become the region’s chemical processing sector event of the year, will once again be held at Wynyard Hall’s Grand Marquee. For further information, please contact Lucy Tyreman or Louise Gwynne-Jones
- NEPIC’s prestigious annual awards and dinner will return to Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield on Friday 21 January 2022 and we welcome member companies and guests to join us for a glittering evening of celebrations and networking. For further information about this event, please contact Lynne Aungiers.
Events and engagement
Facilitating interactions and enabling connections is at the heart of our work. We create unique insightful and inspirational meetings, workshops and events that promotes learning, enables networking and stimulates business growth.
- Since January we have continued with a virtual events programme across a variety of subject matters supporting critical learning, best practice sharing, sector opportunities, and networking and introductions.
- Pharma Connect, that focuses on developing the pharmaceutical and supply chain community through engagement, introductions, best practice sharing and networking returned for 2021. During the virtual session, held on April 29th, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies spoke about the development of the Novavax vaccine their Billingham site. Guests also heard from Wood and the Biophysical Sciences Institute.
- In May, NEPIC partnered with Teesside University’s National Horizons centre and BioVale to deliver our first Industrial Biotechnology event. Over 80 people joined the online event from cross sectors to learn more about the opportunities within Industrial Biotechnology for organisations within the Chemical Process sector. Exciting talks came from Grant Pearson from Ensus, Peter Rowe from Deep Branch (CEO and co-founder) and Ben Dolman from Holiferm (CEO and co-inventor) illustrating the potential that industrial biotechnology has to diversify the process industry, while providing key benefits in terms of decarbonisation. More>>
- NEPIC hosted its inaugural Clean Growth Conference on 9th June to highlight the opportunities this presents to the North East. The event looked at new methods of clean energy generation, storage and transportation and how they will impact on the future economy, while examining industrial symbiosis, industrial bioprocessing and plastics recycling as ways of minimising industry’s impact on the environment. The event welcomed speakers from bp, Britishvolt, SUEZ UK, Procter & Gamble, Net Zero Teesside, North East LEP, Net Zero Teesside, Tees Valley Combined Authority, CPI, Newcastle University, Womble Bond Dickinson, Innovate UK and Doosan Babcock. More>>
- June also saw NEPIC and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies join forces to host a virtual roundtable to discuss the continuous manufacturing landscape within the North East of England’s pharmaceutical sector. To ensure the region is positioned to respond to the accelerated product delivery challenge and the opportunities they present, we sought the support of industry experts from multiple sectors as we work to map the North East’s manufacturing capabilities across this vital area. Guests also heard from key industry manufacturing specialists and had the opportunity to share views, methods, and network with fellow manufacturers. Findings from the event will be used to support collective learning, educational purposes, and potential future collaborative projects. More>>
- On 24th June, NEPIC held its first Employers Conference to explore the forces shaping the future of work and what this means to employers and the workforce. During this full day event, guests heard from a diverse range of speakers covering legislation and legal, HR best practice, internal communications, technology, skills and training, learning and development, and mental health and wellbeing.
- Cluster Connect, held monthly, continues to be popular across the membership attracting more than 60 members per event. This free to attend event brings members together in a relaxed setting and provides a fantastic opportunity for companies to make introductions and share business information. Speaker opportunities are also available to book via Liz Rooney. The next event will take place on Thursday 15 July. To secure your place, click here>>
- The Teesside Integrated Group, chaired by NEPIC CEO Philip Aldridge, continues to meet quarterly to discuss key issues facing manufacturers.
- Regular meetings continue to be held with pharmaceutical members across the region to discuss challenges, support, growth and share best practice.
- Mentoring support remains through ongoing Engineering Connect meetings.
- We continue to monitor government guidelines regarding the viability of recommencing face-to-face events from September.
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.
- More than 300 member news stories have been published over the course the quarter via the Members’ Hub platform. In turn this information has been disseminated to our extensive network via the weekly e-news bulletin and social media platforms. View all news>>
- The start of the year saw the launch of NEPIC’s ‘support measures for businesses’ area – created to help members source the latest business support and funding information and understand eligibility, scheme timeframes and application processes. More than 20 new updates have been posted since April. View latest>>
- The NEPIC Directory 2021 will launch digitally in late July. This publication allows us to showcase the world-leading chemical processing businesses that are located here, and also highlight the extensive supply chain that underpins the sector in the Northeast of England.
Subsector News & Projects
In 2020, 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.
- Bio-EO – NEPIC, along with Teesside and Hull Universities, was successful in our application for academic funding. The aim of the project is to build the business case to re-shore and decarbonise the ethylene oxide supply chain. Ethylene oxide is a crucial platform chemical for the process industry and is used to manufacture a multitude of different sectors including plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and among others.
- As ethylene oxide is extremely hazardous to transport, most of the downstream industry disappeared in the UK when Dow Chemical ceased production at their Wilton plant in 2010. The project will build the business case to re-shore industry, bringing jobs and economic growth to the region. Furthermore, this project will assist the UK in meeting its Net Zero targets as the aim is to utilise renewable low-carbon feedstocks, such as bioethanol, rather than traditional petrochemical feedstocks. A project kick-off meeting took place on 28th June. More>>
- Supply Chain North East Programme – NEPIC is a delivery partner of the SCNE programme, supporting the diversification and growth of SMEs based across the NE-LEP area. As a result of Covid-19, the SCNE project has been extended by 6 months and will now run until March 2022. For more information about this programme and how you can get involved, contact Glen Kelly.
- Pharmaceutical Innovation Accelerator – This project, funded by the NE-LEP, allows us to scope out the potential for greater support for members across the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector. More specifically, it seeks to bridge the gaps, and streamline collaboration between all stakeholders of industry, comprising industrial manufacturers, SMEs, academic research groups and training providers.
- Healthcare & Life Sciences Fund – NEPIC is providing 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.
- CCUS Cluster Sequencing Competition – Following the announcement from UK government regarding Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Sequencing, Industrial Clusters and emitters in the UK looking to develop CCUS have been put into a competition to determine which projects move forward first and which are delayed. The competition is in two parts – one for Transport & Storage Networks and one for individual emitter capture projects. The regional submission is headed up by the Northern Endurance Partnership (the offshore storage and transport infrastructure) and encompasses Net Zero Teesside and Zero Carbon Humber, both of which are onshore CO2 networks for emitters to tie into.
- Through linking the Teesside and Humberside regions, and utilising one offshore storage location, a much more cost effective and compelling proposition is being put to the UK government. NEPIC continues to support the development of CCUS in the region and highlight the need for sustainable business models to support companies to decarbonise, whilst emphasising the regional benefits in terms of jobs, investment and GVA.ISCF Cluster Plan Project – NEPIC, along with partners TVCA and BP, continue to work to develop a plan to decarbonise the Tees Valley Industrial Cluster with the aim of reaching Net Zero by 2040. This project, funded via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for 2 years, aligns with NEPIC’s wider objectives around decarbonisation through CCUS, hydrogen, bio-processing and plastic recycling.
- Bioprocessing & Plastics Recycling – NEPIC’s innovation managers continue to provide vital scoping work across bioprocessing and plastics recycling that has now achieved considerable engagement and support from key stakeholders. As mentioned above, the team have successfully secured funding to enable an initial study into the feasibility of the production of bio-EO in the region – along with the benefits to UK supply chains.
- Sustainable Aviation Fuel – CPI have recently 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. More>>
- We will continue to work hard to support your business and ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the North East’s Process Sector.
- We will continue to support our members during these unprecedented times.
- We will represent your needs and views in relation business landscape challenges.
- We will deliver a hybrid events programme that offers networking opportunities, insights and learnings, best practice sharing and mentoring.
Upcoming NEPIC Events & Conferences
- Cluster Connect, 15 July
- Meet the Members Conference & Expo, 20 October
- Digitalisation Conference & Exhibition, November
- Annual General Meeting 2021, 8 December
- Annual Industry Awards & Dinner 2022, 21 January
To find out more about our upcoming events, and secure your places, visit www.nepic.co.uk/events