In conversation: Professor Alan Lowdon on showcasing the North East

Dr Alan Lowdon, Chair, North East LEP Innovation Board

Showcasing the North East is something we can all do very easily. So easily, in fact, I thought I’d have a go myself!

I grabbed at the chance to arrange a visit to the region for Derek Goodwin, Head of the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP) for which I am one of 23 Dealmakers. Derek and his colleague, GEP Senior Manager, Mike Forrest were keen to pay a visit to the North East to meet some of the key players and hear first-hand about some of the excellent research, innovation and entrepreneurship work I had been reporting in our meetings.

The support received from the North East LEP, Arch Northumberland’s John Hildreth and Julie Dodds and Business Durham’s Simon Goon was superb. An extensive day-and-a-half programme was quickly pulled together which comprised a visit to Avid Technology in Cramlington and IHC in Blyth, a river trip to see the full development and renaissance of the Port of Blyth, as well as a meeting at the Core building on Science Central with presentations from Science Central itself, NEL, Business Durham, the North East LEP (on the refreshed Strategic Economic Plan and the Innovation Programme), and Polyphotonix. The visit concluded with a mind-blowing visit to hedgehog labs in Newcastle where its VR work for Nissan was showcased and where Derek and Mike got to swap out a Nissan Leaf battery pack!

Walking Derek and Mike back to the Central Station from Generator Studios, it was clear that the GEP HQ team was mightily impressed. They had seen ‘big technology’ in Blyth, state-of-the art ICT/AI/VR technology in Cramlington and Newcastle and gained a firm understanding that all of this was underpinned by a strong, strategic direction set by the North East LEP and its supporting business development partners. The penny also dropped that all of this is also underpinned by financial support instruments designed and developed specifically for the North East Region.

The positive impact of the visit was confirmed the following week during the quarterly GEP Dealmaker get-together in London during which Derek and Mike eulogised about the North East’s rapidly growing, pan-sector innovation ecosystem and how good it is as a landing point for companies that GEP attracts to the UK. As I was quick to point out, given time constraints, we had only scratched the surface, a statement which left the duo from Whitehall Place wanting to hear and see more! Watch this space for round two!

Have a relaxing summer and remember to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to promote the North East! It’s really easy!

Alan