A report by the North of England’s leading universities and top Tees Valley officials has highlighted how the chemical and process sector across the Northern Powerhouse could grow by more than £20 billion over the next 20 years.
The Northern Powerhouse Chemicals and Processing Sector Science and Innovation Audit is one of a selection of major government studies produced for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to identify identified a number of strengths in different industries across the country.
Co-authored by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Durham University, the report set out to assess the chemical and processing sector’s innovation network across the Northern Powerhouse – the economic corridor between Tees Valley, Humberside and the North West Cluster around Liverpool.
Chemicals and processing currently contributes £32billion to the UK economy, but the audit identified opportunities, actions and investment that could be taken to boost this figure by £23billion.
These include further industrial digitalisation, opportunities for scale and growth through supply chain and export diversification, and sectoral free trade zones.
The report provides and evidence base for a £20m bid to Government’s Strength In Places fund, to create a world-class research presence to pioneer new approaches to the low carbon economy, meaning the chemicals industry can continue to be globally competitive and environmentally sustainable.
It would also see an ambassador established for the Northern Powerhouse chemicals cluster, to drive forward growth, investment and innovation.
Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership chair Paul Booth OBE said: “The chemical and process sector is a huge part of our economy in Tees Valley, and in other parts of the Northern Powerhouse. The history of the chemical industry is in many ways the history of Teesside, and with the right effort we can make this vital sector part of our future for decades to come.
“We now have a choice, we can embrace the findings of this report and look to grow this sector, or we can stand by and watch it decline. For me there is no choice, and it is clear that there is no status quo. We can move backward or forwards.”
Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor at Durham University, said: “The North of England has tremendous strengths in research and innovation, underpinned by close working between some of the country’s leading universities and industry.
“Building upon this, there are huge opportunities to grow the transfer of skills, technology and research knowledge between universities and businesses in the chemicals and process sector, with potentially enormous benefits for the economy of the North and the UK as a whole.
“We look forward to working with our partners in industry and government as we aim to find a way forward to implement the ambitious proposals of this report.”
The science and innovation audit was delivered by a group led by the Combined Authority comprising representatives from Durham and Teesside Universities, the North East Process Industry Cluster and the region’s national innovation centres, the Centre for Process Innovation, Materials Processing Institute and TWI.
Further engagement was sought from 15 Northern Powerhouse universities, 11 LEPs within the Northern Powerhouse, sectoral bodies, via industrial consultation and the Chemistry Growth Partnership.
• The full Tees Valley Science and Innovation Audit can be found online at www.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/research-intelligence/sia