I hope you enjoyed a relaxing summer. We have seen a significant change in pace in recent weeks as we return to some element of normality following the pandemic. None more so than with the return of face-to-face meetings and networking events.
As I put pen to paper, we are a day away from the relaunch of NEPIC’s annual Meet the Members Conference and Exhibition that will return to Wynyard Hall’s Grand Marquee this coming Wednesday, 20 October. The appetite for this event has been staggering and we mark our return to face-to-face networking by welcoming 550 guests and more than 90 exhibitors – along with a fantastic line up of speakers and many pre-arranged 1-2-1 mentoring appointments.
Acutely aware of the risks still presented by the pandemic, and the safe delivery of events, NEPIC have partnered with occupation health specialists, Recovery4Life, who are supporting our Covid Policy and the requirement for negative lateral flow tests to be presented prior to entry.
Over recent months we have highlighted the investment updates that are set to shape the future of industry in the North East – and we are delighted to welcome many of these companies to Wynyard Hall to share with you in person the opportunities these present. Guests will hear from the East Coast Cluster, Stork, Sembcorp Energy UK, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, bp, Quotient Sciences, Johnson Matthey and TVCA.
Whilst such fantastic investment news sparks much positivity for a bright future, we as a sector are also facing many challenges. The impact of Brexit is still playing out and none more so than in relation to UK Reach. As an industry we are working to support the development of a pragmatic solution to deliver a more proportionate UK than currently being proposed by DEFRA – however, the challenges are grand and the impact to UK industry estimated at £1billion.
Furthermore, the heavily publicised, critical issue for energy-intensive industries hit by high gas prices must be solved quickly and we are working to seek urgent Government support. The focus of Government to date has been in relation to provide immediate solutions to CO2 shortages and the related impacts – along with additional supply chain implications.
As the industry of industries, we remain steadfast in our messaging to Government that we must protect the foundation blocks of UK manufacturing or risk losing many downstream industries that depend upon them. Furthermore, 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 protected and remain. Without them a circular economy is unachievable.
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. I hope to have the opportunity to meet with you at our annual conference tomorrow.
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 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.
Covid & Key Worker Status
During the summer, NEPIC responded to concerns raised by members in relation to Key Worker Status following the effects of the ‘pingdemic’. Working with Local Government Bodies, Industry Bodies, Public Health Departments, Local Authorities, and all Local MP’s and Government departments we sought clarification on those sectors exempt from track and trace – and how they could work with the changes commencing mid-August and mitigate the challenges of track and trace and NHS contacting, allowing individuals with a negative test to return to work and minimise business disruption. Whilst awaiting further government announcements, we continue to work with members companies to seek further clarity for extending the reach of ‘Critical Chemicals’ and planning for a potentially challenging winter.
During September, NEPIC supported a visit to Teesside by the Governments’ Levelling Up Unit. This unit is a cross departmental group looking at the required policy levers that Government can use to ‘level up’ the North of England. Government officials visited Tees Works, Wilton International, the Wilton Centre, Middlesbrough Town Centre, Teesside University, and the National Horizons Centre. During a positive visit, NEPIC emphasised help needed to access deployable innovation.
Initially a direct copy of its EU counterpart, the practicalities, and consequences of implementing UK Reach are playing out. As an industry we are working to support the development of a pragmatic solution to deliver a more proportionate UK regime in line with UK Reach principles. Concerns include overburdened resources and costs to UK industry with no perceived benefit; compliance costs that outweigh market opportunities (leading to a reduction in range of chemicals, erosion of UK manufacturing competitiveness and knock-on reduction in investment IN R&D, innovation skills and productivity) and that registration and evaluation obligations drive repetition of animal studies. The estimated cost to UK industry is £1billion – covering data acquisition, registration fees and administration. NEPIC continues to work closely with the Chemical Industries Association in relation to the proposed UK regulations that are expected to come into force by DEFRA.
East Coast Cluster
On Monday 20 September, NEPIC joined industry representatives at House of Commons to showcase the environmental and economical benefits of the East Coast Cluster. The East Coast Cluster is the new name for the collective Net Zero Teesside, Zero Carbon Humber, and Northern Endurance Partnership bid. The event, hosted by Redcar Constituency MP, Jacob Young, took place a month ahead of the CCUS Cluster Sequencing phase 1 announcement expected from 25 October.
Following the announcement in March 2021 of Teesside’s Freeport bid success, and further to Government Freeport Taskforce representatives visiting the region in July, an additional meeting with NEPIC members was held over the summer. The meeting, that welcomed TVCA Freeport Director Nolan Gray, was specifically for members of the Wilton Centre – an area that is likely to be within one of the Teesside Freeport tax zones offering potential financial advantages for investment.
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.
On a national level, we continue to meet regularly with our UK process cluster colleagues, together with the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), BEIS and DIT.
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.
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.
Made Smarter Adoption North East
Made Smarter Adoption North East is a new, 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 tap into world-renowned businesses and the UK government and connect your organisation with digital tools that can transform the way you work.
The THYME project has been awarded funding of £1.8M 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 also pave the way to a more sustainable future where industry uses renewable sources of raw materials. For more information, click here>>
The THYME Project is 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. 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, it 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.
Supply Chain North East Programme
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, Supply Chain North East will work with over 800 businesses between 2018 and 2021 and is designed to support businesses 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.
CCUS Cluster Sequencing Competition
BEIS have confirmed the eligibility of the East Coast Cluster submission into Cluster Sequencing. The East Coast Cluster is the new name for the collective Net Zero Teesside, Zero Carbon Humber, and Northern Endurance Partnership bid. Individual emitters are now developing capture projects where appropriate for submission into the second stage of this “competition”. NEPIC continue to highlight the importance of CCUS to the region and support the East Coast Cluster submission. Phase 1 clusters are expected to be announced by Government from 25 October 2021.
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.
An initial meeting of the Industrial Advisory Group for the Cluster Plan project was held in early August with industry representatives and data collection activities have commenced with emitters.
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. Work continues to complete the mapping exercise and identify future opportunities. A workshop will be held in November to share and discuss findings with members.
Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation Hub (TransFIRe)
The foundation industries are worth approximately £45bn to the UK economy and employ 500,000 people. However, these sectors are the largest polluters generating 10% of all UK CO2 emissions, so what can be done? The chemical sector needs to continually innovate to makes step changes in sustainability whilst increasing productivity, resource, and energy efficiency. It can do that through increasing throughput, reducing energy costs, waste valorisation, moving to alternative feedstock, process optimisation, low grade heat recovery and industrial symbiosis.
Through TransFIRe and the Chemicals Technical Working Group (TWG), of which NEPIC is a member, the project will bring 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.
Upcoming NEPIC Events & Conferences
To find out more about our upcoming events, and secure your places, visit www.nepic.co.uk/events