Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North-East Innovation Impressive, So Let's Have More

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North-East Innovation Impressive, So Let's Have More

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jacqui Smith Minister For Industry And The Regions

Today's list of the 50 fastest-growing companies proves that although the North-East has seen some tough times, there is an enormous amount of dedication, innovation and expertise in the region.

Indeed, when I was in Sunderland a few weeks back visiting the Nissan factory, I saw for myself just what can be accomplished when large multi-national firms harness the energy and abilities of a skilled and dedicated local workforce.

But the Nissans of this world are one thing. I am thrilled to see that so many of the Top 50 growing companies are small businesses.

At the Department of Trade and Industry we recognise that the North-East needs help to develop its own home-grown companies. Just over 4,000 new businesses start up in the North-East every year. This is certainly not to be sniffed at, but it's only 21 new companies per 10,000 adults. The national average is about 40.

With the right support, I am confident we can push this figure up. We know there is a limit to what can be done from London. That's why we've put more money into the hands of One NorthEast, the regional development agency, and why we've given it more freedom than ever before to decide how best to spend it. This year it has pounds 220m. And that is also why we have set up the regional Centre for Manufacturing Excellence at Sunderland. The centre provides hands-on support and advice for local manufacturers, who are facing significant challenges but continue to show tenacity and ambition.

Lack of access to much-needed finance is one of the main reasons for the slow growth rates of businesses in the North-East. Not everyone knows what financing options are open to them. And among those who do apply, some people missed out on valuable financing because they didn't know how best to make their case to investors.

We have introduced a number of measures and organisations to try to bridge this "information gap". The area's four Business Links are spending about pounds 3.6m on programmes to support business start-ups. In the Tees Valley, for example, you'll find the local Business Link offering SMEs its Start Right in Business programme. …

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