A little over one week since the North East automotive sector gained a significant boost following Nissan’s announcement that the new Qashqai and the new X-Trail SUV will be built at the Nissan Sunderland plant; and the sector hits the headlines again as the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) celebrates a major landmark by signing up its 200 th company to the cluster.

Paul Butler, CEO, NEAA stated: “It’s just 19 months since our launch so this is a significant milestone in our brief cluster history; and testament to the excellent work of our team and the NEAA board.”

Launched on the 27th March 2015 the NEAA was established to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the North East automotive sector. Through the NEAA companies find benefit from leadership and co-ordination of activities which have mutual benefit. The NEAA acts as a voice for the sector and provides a strong network which provides collaboration and business opportunities, supports existing companies in the region and is more compelling and attractive environment for investors.

Butler who is a recognised cluster expert explained: “I had a strong belief that the NEAA would be a success. As the UK’s only benchmarking expert for the European Secretariat for Cluster Excellence (ESCA) I have been able to instil the best practice from the benchmarking of over 850 clusters across the globe.”

The aforementioned benchmarking has recognised that cluster management excellence is the single most important factor in the success or failure of newly formed clusters.

Helmut Kergel, Director, European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) said of the success: “To achieve the “Cluster Management Excellence Label BRONZE – Striving for Cluster Excellence” in record time and attain excellent results is a fantastic achievement.”

“Even more impressing is the fact that the NEAA already fulfilled a high share of criteria for the internationally recognised quality label for cluster management, the “Cluster Management Excellence Label GOLD – Proven for Cluster Excellence, which would put it in the top 1% of clusters across Europe.”

“Paul and the cluster management team have achieved great things and their commitment to our principles is a clear indication of their desire to provide industry with the best platform to maximise the growth potential of the sector.”

Industry leadership is a key facet of cluster management excellence and is the driving force behind the NEAA success and expansion. Simply review the NEAA’s Executive and Advisory Boards and it’s a ‘who’s who’ of North East automotive. Industry support for the NEAA is further demonstrated by its ability to harness the in-kind support for cluster activities. Today, the NEAA has over 100 industrialist working through the various thematic working groups.

NEAA Executive & Advisory Board:

•Kevin Fitzpatrick, Vice President Manufacturing UK, Nissan & NEAA Chair

•Mike Mathews MBE, MD & European Operations Officer, Nifco UK & NEAA Vice-Chair

•Paul Butler, CEO, NEAA

•Martin Porton, Operations Director, RTC North & NEAA Company Secretary

•Matt Boyle President and CEO, Sevcon, & Chair of Skills Group

•Peter Watson, Plant Manager, Kasai UK & Chair of Business Excellence Group

•Stephen Irish, Managing Director, Hyperdrive

•Peter Howe, Managing Director, Komatsu UK

•Simon Elliot, Consultant

•Chris Willoughby, Plant Manager, Cummins UK

•Colin Herron, Managing Director, Zero Carbon Futures

•David Cann, General Manager UK, Mecaplast Group

•Wayne Turnbull, Purchasing & Projects Manager, Faltec Europe

•David Brander, Plant Director, SNOP

•David Land, Director, Drive2Business

•Gerry Ingleby, General Manager, Unipres (UK)

•Ian Malcolm, Managing Director, Elring Klinger (GB)

•Jim Casey, Plant Manager, Lear Corporation Sunderland

•John Barnett, Operations Director, Calsonic Kansei

•John Hickling, Senior VP – Purchasing & SCM, Calsonic Kansei

•Paul Blanchard, Manufacturing Director, Komatsu UK

•Peter Gallone, Plant Director, Gestamp Tallent

•Raymond Albert Tate, Manufacturing Director, Johnson Controls Automotive (UK)

•Robin Finley, Plant Manager, ZF TRW

•Tom Hurst, Chief Investment Officer, Sunderland City Council

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan Divisional Vice President for European Manufacturing &Chair of the NEAA commented: “It is great news that the NEAA has hit such a significant landmark.

Achieving 200 participants reflects the current strength and diversity of the North East automotive sector.

“The NEAA provides a platform for a collaborative, industry-led approach to maximising the region’s growth potential. I know all associated with the alliance will be looking to build on this success.”

Mike Matthews MBE, Managing Director at Nifco UK and Vice Chair of the NEAA further supported this: “The news of the NEAA reaching 200 participants is outstanding and really demonstrates the value that the automotive industry places in the work of the NEAA team.

This announcement follows on from the great news of the future builds of Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail in Sunderland, and the NEAA is committed to working in our industry to bring further investment and growth opportunities to our region so that we have even more to celebrate.

“2016 has been a fantastic year for the NEAA, not only reaching this membership milestone, but also securing funding for projects, high demand for its series of best practice events and the success of its second North East Automotive Expo back in September. For 2017, we can expect to see more of the same and I praise the work of the full NEAA team, including the many industry representatives.”

The Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson and Irene Lucas CBE, Chief Executive also welcomed the news: “On behalf of Sunderland City Council we are delighted to be a supporter of the NEAA. The Alliance has gone from strength to strength and is to be congratulated on attracting the 200 th company to join.

Hans Moller, Innovation Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership further congratulated the NEAA: “I am absolutely convinced that the NEAA have been instrumental and one of the reasons why Nissan decided to continue their investments in Sunderland.

The focus on our Smart Spec sectors in the region seems to pay off.”

The Nissan announcement is a huge boost of confidence for the North East’s automotive sector and further strengthens the NEAA’s role in supporting the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the regions automotive sector.

In addition the Automotive Investment Organisation has highlighted a £4 billion re-shore opportunity for the UK automotive supply; and further growth and expansion across the UK will further strengthen the need for the region to be organised and ready to maximise the growth opportunities for the region.

The NEAA offers companies strategic support in three key thematic areas – Business Competitiveness, Skills and Innovation & Technology. Later this year this will be extended to include Trade & Investment. Through an ERDF funded programme the NEAA is also able to offer eligible SMEs specific support to improve capability or to help them enter the supply chain.

Butler finished by saying: “The future is bright for the North East automotive sector, we are still a young organisation but with the leadership and guidance of industry we look forward to rising to the challenges and driving the sector forward.”