The importance of clustering reaps dividends for region

NEPIC, the North East Process Industry Cluster, has had another very influential 12 months despite the recession.

NEPIC, the North East Process Industry Cluster, has had another very influential 12 months despite the recession.

Member companies have recorded that NEPIC has helped organisations save or create 1,076 jobs, as well as the cluster being recognised for bringing £500m per annum of Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy in North East England.

Another recent success of the cluster, which has represented the region’s process sector since its inception in 2005, was the spearheading of the influential Ten Point Plan, to ensure the sustainability of the Chemical Industry within the region, following a turbulent period on Teesside.

The plan was subsequently headed up by leading industrialists and through their explanation of needs and aspirations for the sector to Government, £60m of public funding was pledged in support of industry innovation, investment, and infrastructure and skills projects in the Tees Valley.

These successes over the past year have been achieved though a culmination of the clusters activities from supporting and securing investments, through promoting innovation, encouraging manufacturing efficiency, and recovery assistance, to the marketing the capability of both the region and its members. And it is exactly this type of activity that is key to NEPIC’s success and highlights the importance of clustering within the region’s chemical sector.

The gathering of industry intelligence through NEPIC’s Industry Leadership and Growth Teams, has resulted in North East England now having a potential investment portfolio of 65 process industry projects totalling £9 billion.

This promotion and investment support work by NEPIC has changed the UK and Regional Government’s perception of the potential of this industry sector. Since initiating NEPIC, the sector in the North East England has already captured £2.5 billion of investment in a sector that was previously thought to be in decline.

Examples of the major new investments captured include the world’s largest low density polyethylene unit opened by SABIC, the UK’s first wood fired power station opened by Sembcorp and Europe’s largest bioethanol facility opened by Ensus, all of which are based at Teesside’s Wilton site.

These have taken place alongside several major investments elsewhere in the region into pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals by GlaxoSmithKline, sanofi-aventis, SSL International, Avecia Biologics (now MSD Biologics) and Special Laboratories Limited.

The Strategic Innovation study initiated and completed by NEPIC in 2006, in collaboration with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) within the region, highlighted several new potential innovation platforms for the recently created CPI.

These platforms have since been established within the cluster and substantial industry and government investment has created globally recognised centres of excellence in Sustainable Process Development (SUSPROC), Industrial Biotechnology (NIBF) and Plastic Electronics (PETech).

These projects alone have since received over £50m of public and private investment, creating operations which have been held up as exemplar innovation activities by the UK Government.

This strategic study has been recently updated alongside a major effort to understand the biomass and renewables capability of the region which should help the sustainability of these industries into the future.

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