North East Industrialists met this week with regional MPs to discuss strategic initiatives on how to improve the global competiveness of the North East process industry.
The potential for the Northern Powerhouse to support the industry’s own integration initiatives, which seeks to improve resource and energy and industrial symbiosis, was discussed – along with the potential for carbon capture and storage to underpin the sector in the future.
The region’s capability to support the development of a hydrogen economy and utilisation of waste industrial heat were also debated.
The skills requirement of the sector, as well as the impact of the proposed apprenticeship levy, was of concern to all present.
Sue Graham Johnston, MD of BOC UK & Ireland, who sponsored and chaired the meeting, said:
“Many industry leaders like myself have benefited from an apprenticeship to get to leadership positions in business. I am concerned that the proposed levy may have a negative impact on the numbers of apprentices, but I hope that the new funding regime will encourage more creative ways for companies to get involved in the training of apprentices as we seek to encourage young talent into our industry.”
Also discussed was the need for a more integrated industrial strategy to support foundation industries such as steel and chemicals and their need to innovate and be supported.
NEPIC are currently undertaking a high level analysis of up to 50 companies in the Tees Valley process industry to identify greater material and energy sharing opportunities.
Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, commented:
“The process industry is vital to the future of Teesside. The cluster has representation from across the process industry in our region, and we will be working together to tackle the needs and issues of our manufacturing sector and its associated supply chains”.
(The meeting noted that the supply chain job impacts of some of the local chemical companies can be as high as 10:1 (supply chain to chemical industry)).
Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool and Chair of the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee in Parliament, told the industrialists:
“In Parliament and indeed across Westminster we need a greater understanding of how industry supply chains operate and particularly their impact on local communities.”
Ian Swales, former MP for Redcar and newly elected NEPIC Chairman, said:
“After a very difficult year for industry in the North East, I think tonight’s discussion has helped identify a number of opportunities to take the process industry forward into 2016 and beyond. These business opportunities centre on the NEPIC integration project, which will identify infrastructure improvement options for the Northern Powerhouse”.
Mr Swales concluded:
“It was good to see the continuing support from MPs which will be vital in ensuring the sector remains globally competitive.”
The meeting which took place at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster was attended by 23 North East industrialists and 7 Members of Parliament.