Chamber partners update – July 2019

Louise Hunter MBE – Chair of Partners
Director of corporate affairs at Northumbrian Water

A group of some of the region’s leading businesses representing a range of sectors, work closely with the Chamber through its Partner Programme.  Established in 2007, it enables the Chamber to work more closely with these businesses who help shape it’s agenda on behalf of the wider membership; addressing some of the issues affecting businesses in the region (outlined in our Stronger North East Campaign) and providing the latest information and insight on topics supporting ongoing development and growth. Louise Hunter MBE, Chair of Partners, updates us on what’s being happening since the start of the year..

Our Partner group has been collaborating on a number of projects and campaigns with the Chamber team, with local infrastructure at the forefront of many of these – vital for a stronger, more vibrant North East.

Improved access to our ports and airports to further international trade ambitions was something that members were keen for us to campaign for this year as part of our desire to build a more connected North East.

Continuing to support our exporters in uncertain times is crucial and improving the region’s infrastructure is key with only 40% of total trade from the North East moving through the region’s ports.

Better access to the region’s ports and airports as well as major road and rail freight improvements will help to ensure that the North East is more connected domestically and internationally, in turn increasing international trade and encouraging inward investment to the region.

Over the last few months, Womble Bond Dickinson have been focusing on this issue, examining how better transport links can encourage more businesses to trade overseas and support our existing exporters post Brexit.

We’ve been talking to members in the transport sector and those who trade internationally, with a view to publishing a series of recommendations later in the year, which we’ll use to demonstrate our regional priorities and influence government spending.

As we know the need for improved infrastructure stretches beyond just transport. The North East has the potential to be a world leader in energy production using new and emerging technologies.

The region has tremendous expertise in the offshore sector and already enjoys excellent grid infrastructure and an enabling planning regime in many areas to allow the development of large generation projects. Innovation is key to new technologies being employed and attracting significant investment in generation capacity.

However, whilst the North East can be a world leader, we still need support and recognition from Government that investment in further infrastructure, skills and training will be needed for us to stay ahead of the game.

My company, Northumbrian Water, is driving a project that showcases both innovation in the energy sector (using power from poo as a great example!)  in the North East and identifies areas where further investment or policy change is required to help the sector develop and attract greater investment to the region.

Transport and energy often take up much of the airtime in infrastructure conversations, with less focus on digital infrastructure.

Members told us that they wanted to see digital connectivity be given far greater prominence in economic strategy so it’s great news that Square One Law are working with the Chamber on the development and publication of a high-profile report which explores the barriers to both the growth of the digital sector in the North East and the adoption of new digital technology among regional businesses.

This will highlight some of the excellent examples of digital innovation in the North East, while positioning the region as a potential ‘test bed’ for new projects and connectivity.

The Partner group hasn’t only been busy with projects and events. We’ve worked with Lichfields to draw attention to the economic progress being made in the Tees Valley and the opportunities it presents. We’ve also continued our series of knowledge seminars with Pulsant; most recently exploring the barriers to innovation and growth and the adoption of cloud technology.

Finally, we’ve held some fascinating lunches with our Partner group so far this year, with a variety of speakers who have informed, challenged and inspired us.

We kicked off the year with a discussion around ‘moral injury’ led by Dr Brian Powers (former officer in the US and the first ever Vann Fellow at Durham University), followed by the re-launch of Contact and the opportunity to hear more about the evolution of North East Times.

Jamie Driscoll joined us as one of his first appointments following his election as North of Tyne Mayor in May and Newcastle Airport gave us an exclusive insight into their new inbound tourism strategy, which represents significant progress towards greater promotion and coordination of tourism across the region, which we’ll continuing to support over the coming years.

So we’ve managed to pack quite a lot into the first half of this year, with much more planned for after the summer!