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Northumberland strides ahead with huge gains in inward investment activity

Blog by Michael Black, Director of Economic Growth and Investments at Advance Northumberland

Published: 13 May 2022

Over the last 12 months Northumberland has witnessed a number of major investments that are helping to transform the county, provide opportunities for local people, and contribute to the UK’s drive to Net Zero. 

With in person events returning following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Advance Northumberland team have been showcasing the investment opportunities on offer in Northumberland  at the likes of Global Offshore Wind, Offshore Wind North East and The North East Automotive Expo; talking to investors, business leaders and innovators about the development sites, assets and capabilities Northumberland has to offer to growing companies. 

New chapters have opened for the region… and as we enter a new financial year, we’re proud to bring you just some of the highlights of the past year. 

Energy Central powers forward

2021/22 was a hugely significant year in the development of Energy Central, a partnership between Advance Northumberland, Port of Blyth, Northumberland County Council and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

It’s the premier UK deep water base for businesses working across renewable energy, offshore wind, subsea engineering, decommissioning, battery manufacturing and energy storage and it is putting Northumberland on the map as a fulcrum for energy transition.  

Having secured 95 ha of prime strategic employment land from Northumberland County Council and with considerable support from Advance Northumberland, Britishvolt was able to secure planning permission to build its first 2.7 million sq.ft battery Gigaplant on Northumberland Energy Park Phase 3. At £2.7 billion, it’s one of the UK’s largest ever industrial investments and is set to bring 3,000 highly skilled jobs to Cambois, with another 5,000 in the local supply chains.

And in January of this year, the Government announced that a principle offer of funding had been made through the Automotive Transformation Fund, which has enabled a long-term partnership with Trixtax and abrdn that will deliver £1.7 billion in private funding for the Britishvolt site. Tritax and abrdn were announced as Britishvolt’s partners to fund the build of the project, shell and core, as well as to develop the associated supplier park in Northumberland.

For Peter Rolton, Britishvolt Executive Chairman of Britishvolt, the funding announcement was “a major step in putting the UK at the forefront of the global energy transition” and in January 2022, The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy visited Cambois, hailing the investment as “a resounding vote of confidence in the North East economy”.

Developments supporting the offshore wind sector have also continued

Last September, we welcomed plans from JDR Cables – the global subsea cable and umbilical supplier and servicer – to build a £130 million manufacturing facility at Northumberland Energy Park Phase 1. It’s set to create 170 new local jobs and when complete, will be the only facility in the UK capable of producing high voltage subsea cables for offshore wind farms from start to finish… a real win for Northumberland, the region and the UK.

In addition, in September 2021, Port of Blyth was selected by Seaway 7 as the location for the storage and mobilisation of inter-array cable for the Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm – another example of how Energy Central is supporting the UK’s offshore wind sector.

Just a month later, The North Sea Link (NSL), a 450-mile subsea electricity cable between Blyth and the Norwegian village of Kvilldal became operational. It’s the world’s longest subsea electricity link and is a major new source of renewable energy capable of transporting 1.4GW of clean energy, enough to power up 1.4 million homes. 

The NSL is a €1.6 billion joint investment by National Grid and Statnett and we’re proud that the NSL’s UK infrastructure is sited on Northumberland Energy Park Phase 2.

Port of Blyth’s 17 HA Bates Clean Energy Terminal has also come to prominence. It offers prime   quayside development land, two berths capable of heavy lift operations, a RoRo pontoon, warehousing and workshop space, a marine fuels facility and 7 HA of open storage and development land.

It’s also home to Port Training Services’ £1 million Wind Turbine Training Facility which officially opened in 2021. 

The clean energy terminal is set to be a centre for a number of low carbon initiatives, including a project to extract heat from mine water, the installation of solar panels and the introduction of a new 120 tonne capacity electric crane. 

With a Supplier Park and an increase in the strategic employment land being planned, there is much more to come from Energy Central.

A growing hub for advanced manufacturing 

Northumberland has the infrastructure, transport links, supply chain and workforce to support advanced manufacturing operations and over the last 12 months we’ve proved that the county can attract major investment in this area and that companies already located here don’t need to look elsewhere to grow their businesses. 

Take Contec Cleanroom (UK) Ltd for example. The company which manufactures contamination control products for use in manufacturing clean rooms and healthcare environments was established at a 22,000 sq ft unit at Wansbeck Business Park, Ashington in 2015, where it joined the likes of Arian EMS, Polar Krush, Boyd Corporation, Sugarfayre and LED security and Raytec.

In September 2021, Contec UK demonstrated its confidence in Northumberland by announcing that it was to build a 60,000 sq ft advanced manufacturing and office facility at Ashwood Business Park in Ashington, now in the latter stages of construction.

This 62-acre site – already home to a state-of-the-art AkzoNobel facility – is one of the largest development sites in Northumberland, and offers excellent connectivity, access to the region’s formidable supply chain, and the opportunity to expand. 

The business park is also a North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) Enterprise Zone: organisations locating there can benefit from 100 per cent Enhanced Capital Allowances to accelerate their investment.

Contec UK is part of a Northumberland manufacturing landscape which includes Kilfrost, EGGER UK, Thermo Fisher Scientific, TT Electronics, Merit , Renolit, Essity and Avery Dennison amongst others.

Looking ahead with the Northumberland Local Plan now formally adopted, sites such as Northumberland Energy Park, Ashwood Business Park, West Hartford, Ramparts Business Park and Wansbeck Business Park, have the capacity to support further economic growth and investment. 

Supporting businesses and supercharging innovation 

The Rural Design Centre Innovation Project – a collaboration between Advance Northumberland, Innovation SuperNetwork and Northumbria University – linked up with the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) in October 2021 to launch its first annual conference.

The Rural Catalyst Conference, hosted in the stunning surroundings of Alnwick Garden, brought together innovative businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers  and rural community groups, and was opened with an address by HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of the Prince’s Countryside Fund.

The event attracted 175 attendees and was a great success. It put a spotlight on the issues that residents and businesses face in rural Northumberland and the partnership work taking place to tackle these. 

Alnwick Garden also played host to the finale of Digital Disruption. Shaped and delivered by Advances’s Business Northumberland business support programme, this week of hybrid events last September focussed on providing businesses the skills to develop their digital footprint, increase sales and get their business noticed online.

Reflecting on an exciting 12 months for Northumberland

From renewable energy infrastructure to rural business innovation, advanced manufacturing growth to R&D and digital skills training, Northumberland has not stood still over the last 12 months and I look forward to what 2022 has in store.

If you’d like to find out more about Advance Northumberland’s support, our projects and development sites, visit https://www.advancenorthumberland.co.uk/


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