The North East Automotive Alliance recently announce the official launch of its fourth stream of activity; Innovation & Technology.

Chaired by Dr Colin Herron, Managing Director of Zero Carbon Futures, NEAA’s new Innovation & Technology Group was launched at the House of Commons at the end of 2015 as part of a wider NEAA reception with MPs and industrialists to showcase the strength of the region’s automotive industry.

The event, which was a great success, was hosted by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, who said: “It feels like every week there is a new success story, record broken, or initiative set up in this sector, and I am just incredibly proud of the hard work that goes on in our region every single day.

The Innovation & Technology Group will work with key players in the North East to form an innovation hub.

Innovation was one of the key working areas identified by automotive businesses when the NEAA initially developed its strategy.

Dr Colin Herron, Managing Director at Zero Carbon Futures and Chair of the Innovation & Technology Group said; “To accomplish this we need to build a collaborative structure within the region, which will support industry in a manner which is directed by industry.

“The next stage is to engage industry to build upon an initial meeting of supporting agencies, both national and local. This initial meeting has led to a draft Terms of Reference being produced, which will be put to the NEAA board and the steering group for approval. The key thing for the Innovation and Technology group is to decide what direction it will take with supporting both process and product innovation, as well as integration within the other NEAA work streams to ensure synergy.”

The Innovation & Technology Group will have two key remits:

  1. Showcase and develop emerging technology
  1. Support process innovation, working with vehicle manufacturers such as Nissan and Komatsu and their suppliers to make products more quickly and cost-effectively.

The group will support companies that are already established and also aims to attract new businesses and start-ups in the sector to the North East.

Hans Moller, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership said, “The North East of England is the only net exporting region in UK and one of the reasons behind that is Nissan’s successful car assembly plant in Sunderland and its well-developed value chain in combination with world class research in Universities.

“That is a fact that has to be capitalised upon in terms of innovation to secure the future development of the Automotive sector, but also to cross fertilize that capability into North East’s other Smart Specialization areas as well.

“The North East LEP is fully supporting the North East Automotive Alliance’s efforts in creating an Innovation & Technology group to walk the talk in this matter. It is extremely important to get the right people to work together under favourable circumstances to achieve positive results in this challenging effort. This is one of the ways of how we can create more and better jobs in North East.”

Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA said: “The new group will help to put the region at the forefront of emerging technology and will give SMEs with new technology the opportunity to showcase it and network with the supply chain. It will support business excellence and drive regional activity and also play an important part in the skills agenda.”

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