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Quarterly Membership Update
In late December, I wrote to you following an unprecedented year that was without doubt the most challenging we had collectively faced in a generation. Despite the steps forward in preventing and combatting the effects of Covid-19, we understood that these challenges would continue into 2021. However, we would enter the start of the new year more determined and resilient than ever before.
At this point, we were unaware that the new year would be blighted by a third lockdown and that this, coupled with the effects of a last-minute trade deal, would strike a blow before we had even got off the starting blocks. Despite this, the pliability of our remarkable network and teams remained strong and this, combined with significant, game-changing announcements, delivered renewed confidence and palpable optimism across the business community in the region.
In March this year, Government announced that Teesside had been selected as one of eight Freeport locations across England, paving the way for the long-term success of new and existing industries in the region. Over the past four years, the NEPIC team have worked hard to engage, inform, and influence on this matter and ensure that chemical parks, such as Wilton International, formed part of Teesside’s bid – and allowed companies to benefit from tax relief, simplified customs procedures and streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment, along with government support to promote regeneration and innovation. Today, we continue to represent our members as we work closely with all parties in relation to governance as the development plans progress.
This significant announcement was shortly followed by a wave of successes for the region. Britishvolt confirmed Blyth was the chosen location of their battery Gigafactory and, a masterplan was unveiled for the UK’s first hydrogen transport hub. Based on Teesside, the hub will create an estimated 5,000 jobs and see the region set to become a global research centre for new hydrogen technologies.
A second wind was offered to Teesside’s energy industry has GE Renewable Energy announced a blade manufacturing plant at Teesport that would create 750 new jobs and be open for production in 2023. £20million of government investment was also confirmed to support the development of the Teesworks Offshore Manufacturing Centre – with construction beginning later this year and including port upgrades that will help to revitalise this historic industrial heartland.
Furthermore, a greener future is now firmly on the horizon for manufacturing and construction as government set out an ambitious blueprint to deliver the world’s first low-carbon industrial sector that included over £1billion to cut emissions. Net Zero Teesside was one of 9 green tech projects that will now undertake engineering and design studies for the roll out of decarbonisation infrastructure for carbon capture, usage and storage and hydrogen.
In the meanwhile, a showcase of the very best in UK science, and advanced manufacturing, was taking place in Billingham as FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies rose to the challenge in supporting the global mobilisation of vaccine manufacturing. In March, just seven months after the project started, and eight days earlier than estimated, vaccine manufacturing began, creating 180 new jobs in the process.
Last week, we were proud to celebrate this, and many more outstanding achievements following the most challenging of years at our Annual Industry Awards. The event, that supported the donation of £16,000 to local schools, demonstrated the vigour and spirit of companies across our sector that we are so proud to represent.
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 17 new members to the cluster during the first quarter covering a broad range of product and service offerings. We have also delivered a variety of virtual events, webinars and workshops enabling essential networking, learning, and showcasing of business opportunities – all elements that remain at the heart of our offer. Furthermore, 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.
In 2020, we reported a significant growth in the team to enable work across key development areas that supports the long-term success of the sector in the North East, along with offering additional value to members. Project delivery continues across supply chain growth, plastics recycling, bioprocessing, hydrogen, pharmaceutical and life science sector development, and clean growth.
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. 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 One 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.
- 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.
- Innovation – We have supported the innovation agenda across decarbonisation, plastics recycling, and bioprocessing – and assisted in the delivery of the Healthcare and Life Science strategy, and related projects, covering clustering, supply chain development and generics manufacturing.
- Export – Our work has also extended to supporting both regional government organisations with post-Brexit export strategy developments to ensure member views are understood and considered.
- Freeports – We have worked hard to ensure existing chemical sites were included within the Teesside Freeport bid and help safeguard our vital sector. Following the success of the Teesside bid, we continue to work closely with partners as early-stage development plans progress.
- 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. More recently, we joined forces with the CIA, and UK manufacturing bodies, to lobby government in relation to UK REACH.
- Board Appointments – Board level appointments have also been made over recent months allowing increased visibility of the sector’s needs and our ability to further influence. These appointments include North East Pharma and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Chemical Economy.
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.
- Despite the unique and unprecedented challenging business conditions faced by many of our members during 2020, membership renewals (that commenced in January 2021) remain extremely high.
- NEPIC’s membership offer continues to attract interest from across the UK, and due to our current virtual presence, we continue to attract members outside of the North East.
- Since the start of the year, we have welcomed 17 new members to the network who provide a broad and diverse array of product and services offerings to the network.
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 promote learning, networking, and business growth.
- Since January we have continued with a virtual event programme across a variety of subject matters supporting critical learning, best practice sharing, sector opportunities, and networking and introductions.
- Cluster Connect, held monthly, continues to be popular across the membership attracting more than 60 members per event.
- The Teesside Integrated Group, chaired by NEPIC CEO Philip Aldridge, continues to meet quarterly to discuss key issues facing manufacturers.
- A fortnightly meeting is held with pharmaceutical members across the region to discuss challenges, support, growth and share best practice.
- Mentoring support remains through ongoing Engineering Connect meetings.
- The NEPIC Annual Industry Awards took place virtually on April 22nd where we once again celebrated the outstanding companies from across the network. 17 awards were presented during the event, and £26,000 donated to the region’s rising stars and nominated beneficiary schools of our winning companies. The event was attended by 150 NEPIC members.
- Roundtable events covering CCUS, Export Strategy and Trade Tariffs were also delivered.
- We continue to monitor government guidelines regarding the viability of recommencing face-to-face events from September.
During 2021, the NEPIC Board continue to meet regularly and have undertaken a review of the current NEPIC strategy, and developed governance action plans. Furthermore, the board has been strengthened by the addition of Emily Humphreys, Managing Director at Cambridge Research Biochemicals.
Subsector News & Projects
In 2020, we reported a significant growth in the 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.
- 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. The project team, that recently welcomed Sandra Osturk as Project Administrator, continues to work to ensure delivery and value adding support. As a result of Covid-19, this project has been extended by 6 months and will now run until March 2022.
- Pharmaceutical Innovation Accelerator – This project, funded by the NE-LEP, allows us to greater support 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 of industrial manufacturers, SMEs, innovation research groups and training providers.
- Healthcare and 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.
- Carbon, Capture, Usage and Storage – Recent public announcements by Government regarding the ISCF Deployment Competition winners is great news for the region, and the UK. NEPIC is a partner in the successful Net Zero Teesside project that officially started on March 1st and will further develop the onshore industrial capture network and power station to enable final investment decisions to be made.
- ISCF Cluster Plan Project – NEPIC, along with partners TVCA and BP, are working 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 and Plastics Recycling – During 2020, NEPIC recruited two innovation managers to enable vital scoping work across these two areas that has now achieved considerable engagement and support from key stakeholders. The team are currently exploring funding sources 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.
Looking forward to 2021
- We will continue to work hard to support your business and ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the North East’s Chemical Processing Sector.
- We will continue to support our members during these unprecedented times.
- We will represent your needs and views in relation to business landscape challenges.
- We will deliver a hybrid events programme that offers networking opportunities, insights and learnings, best practice sharing and mentoring.
- The NEPIC Directory 2021 is currently in development and will be delivered to you digitally.
Upcoming Conferences & Events:
- Introduction to the Process Sector, 12 May
- Industrial Biotechnology in the Process Industry Cluster, 18 May
- Virtual Cluster Connect, 20 May
- Fire & Explosion Hazard Management Audit Masterclass, 25 May
- Understanding your Business Growth Strategy, 27 May
- NEPIC Clean Growth Conference, 9 June
- Virtual Cluster Connect, 17 June
- Introduction to the Process Sector, 23 June
- Virtual Cluster Connect, 15 July
- NEPIC Employers’ Conference – The Future of Work, 24 June
- NEPIC Meet the Members Conference & Expo, 29 September
To find out more about our upcoming events, and secure your places, visit www.nepic.co.uk/events