The North East is home to the largest single cluster of process, chemicals and energy companies anywhere in the UK, and the second largest in the whole of Europe. Together the multinational companies, that call the North East their home, manufacture 50 per cent of UK foundation chemicals and a third of UK pharmaceuticals – bringing more than £2.1 billion of value to the region each year.
They are the industry of industries, employing 39,000 people locally. Tens of thousands of jobs within the region’s downstream chemical-using industries – including healthcare, electronics, automotive and textiles – rely on its continued success too.
NEPIC, the North East Process Industry Cluster, represents this vital sector. Established in 2005, they work to ensure industry thrives in our region – and that there are investments, innovations and a collaborative network that will create jobs and opportunities long into the future.
Fifteen years on, NEPIC have developed a network of hundreds of member companies who work together to do business, showcase best practice, tackle challenges – and ultimately help one another grow and retain value within the region.
Chemistry-making and chemistry-using businesses are fundamental to the UK’s manufacturing industries, producing a raft of everyday products we take for granted today.
“As an industry we must remain competitive to ensure our long-term future – and seek certainty in uncertain times, said NEPIC Chief Executive, Philip Aldridge.
“We must be realistic about the challenges we face but draw on our resilience and spirit to weather this storm and create a bright future for industry and the region”.
In the longer term, the market opportunities that present themselves will put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. Processing and recycling of materials, building new forms of energy, such as a hydrogen economy, and managing carbon in closed loop systems present significant innovation and investment opportunities.
Philip added, “Alongside the direct impacts for the North East sit countless opportunities for our vibrant supply chain. Teesside is leading the way in Carbon, Capture, Usage and Storage and recently launched the Net Zero Teesside project that is backed by OGCI Climate Investments and has direct support from six of the largest oil and gas companies globally.
“The region is also well placed to position itself as a national plastics recycling hub; capitalising on the significant manufacturing, product development and recycling capabilities that set us ahead of the field.
“Industry’s expertise and knowhow – along with existing infrastructure – will also support ambitions to decarbonise domestic heating and transport.”
As industry looks to capitalise on the grand challenges that will see it at the fore of industrial innovation, NEPIC calls on Government support in overcoming the immediate barriers.
“In the short term, our foundation industries must be protected, or we risk losing the downstream industries which depend on them” said Philip.
“Businesses, and current investment projects, that have the potential to create jobs and transform the economy during these challenging times must be protected too. The Sirius Minerals project – which is the single biggest investment this region has seen in a generation and will develop a vital new fertiliser industry – is one such example.”
Furthermore, growing public campaigns against plastics that focus on the environmental damage being caused by plastic waste around the world have heightened.
Industry is leading the fight to focus on an antidote to the negatives – and this is a battle that must be won to protect the future of a chemicals industry that remains indelibly linked with Teesside and its people.
Teesside is home to a significant number of businesses that manufactures chemicals that form the building blocks for a range of plastic products that we all use in everyday life.
“Technology and innovation have moved on and our industry is committed to achieving the goal of recycling all plastic waste, to play our role in the creation of a circular economy”, said Philip.
“Further to public campaigns, industry faces additional significant financial challenges including tariff uncertainty, compliance with EU waste incineration and wastewater directives and plastic packaging tax.”
Philip concluded: “Government support is vital to the long-term viability of this important industry. We are an industry that underpins thousands of businesses and jobs, and that can make change for the good, and ensure we leave the environment in a better condition for generations to come.”