Hopes of an upturn in the region’s retail economy were bolstered after the North East’s shopping hotspots experienced strong trading over the Christmas period.
At Newcastle’s Eldon Square, overall spend was similar to the previous year and, although December footfall was marginally down, the centre still attracted 3.6m people – one of the highest figures in the UK.
Also benefiting from a huge investment in activities and decorations – including a 10m (33ft) tree featuring over 101,000 LED lights – was the Metrocentre in Gateshead, which has over 330 shops.
North East companies taking part in the region’s largest business survey returned the most positive set of results in over a decade.
The North East Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), produced in partnership with Barclays, revealed scores for domestic sales and workforce across the private sector were at their highest levels since the NECC formed in 1995.
Having charted slow but steady growth across most indicators throughout 2013, the Quarter 4 QES, in fact, returned the best set of results generally since 2003.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) gave the green light to a £10m investment to help fund the first phase of a world-class innovation centre to be based at Durham University In its early stages, the Centre for Innovation and Growth (CIG) will support research arising from the long-standing relationship between the university and consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble (P&G).
Future expansion of the site, which will house data handling and laboratory space, is anticipated to provide an open innovation hub in which the university can work with a range of non-competitive industrial partners, boosting business engagement on a local, national and international scale.
Newcastle-based bakery chain Greggs reported improved trading, but warned that over 400 jobs – dozens of which could be in the North East – could be lost as it progresses with a change in strategy. The company announced it was turning its attention to improving the efficiency of its bakery network and growing operational effectiveness in support areas.
As a result, it proposed that 79 shops offering in-store bakeries would be transferred to its regional bakery network, potentially resulting in 300 roles becoming redundant.
The company also proposed a restructure of its management and support teams, which could see a further 110 jobs going.
At the time, chief executive Roger Whiteside said “less than 50” jobs would go in the region.
World-leading Newcastle biotech firm, QuantuMDx, announced it was launching a crowdfunding campaign to support the development of a “handheld laboratory” that could save millions of lives throughout the world.
The company, based at the city’s International Centre for Life, had developed a prototype for the one-of-a-kind technology that can provide an accurate diagnosis for infectious diseases within 15 minutes and was looking for contributions to expand clinical trials for the device’s application in the eradication of malaria.
Chief executive Elaine Warburton OBE said: “What we are doing is putting that technology in the palm of a health professional’s hand. It’s revolutionary and is changing the whole way diagnostics is done.”