Future of North Is to Be Small and Clever; THE North East's Future May Lie in Presenting Itself as a Small, Clever Country like Singapore or New Zealand, Delegates to a High-Powered Economic Conference Were Told. PETER McCUSKER Was There

The Journal (Newcastle, England), February 2, 2011 | Go to article overview

Future of North Is to Be Small and Clever; THE North East's Future May Lie in Presenting Itself as a Small, Clever Country like Singapore or New Zealand, Delegates to a High-Powered Economic Conference Were Told. PETER McCUSKER Was There


Byline: PETER McCUSKER

FUTUROLOGIST Dr James Bellini works for many of the world's leading organisations attempting to make them immune to some of the dangers - and better-placed to take advantage of some of the opportunities - looming down the global economic track. This work takes him across the globe and he sees a common thread emerging from almost all regions, and all economies, in how they perceive the future.

He identified the same theme in the way the North East markets itself.

"A low-carbon economy with an emphasis on renewables, offshore wind, healthcare and life sciences, nano-technology, printable electronics and a focus on the digital economy. It's the same everywhere I go.

"These are all the key areas identified by One North East, but it could easily have been Yorkshire Forward or virtually any other region in any country I visit. It's becoming a rather crowded space."

Dr Bellini was speaking to an audience of more than 100 senior business people at the Future of the North East Debate organised by Barclays Corporate, and supported by The Journal, at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead last week.

Following his address he acted as host for a question-and-answer session to a three-strong panel - former Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband, Newcastle International Airport chief executive David Laws and Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, who is not only chairman of the Port of Tyne but, as deputy chairman of the Regional Growth Fund, is tasked with judging 450 different United Kingdom bids for a funding pot worth pounds 300m.

All three were asked for their views on how they saw the future of the North East economy.

Miliband accepted Dr Bellini's point. He said: "The North East needs to focus on the green economy and everyone wants to be part of it, but we already have a world-class facility in the region with Narec, the National Renewable Energy Centre."

He believes the North East should look at creating its own green investment bank, mimicking the Government's idea of creating a national green investment bank.

"If we harness certain aspects of the green economy such as offshore wind and our expertise in nano-technology, we can really prosper," he said.

Miliband believes the North East needs to play to its strength as a region of innovation, with strong leaders and an emerging entrepreneurial spirit.

He also believes there is an opportunity to tap in the global North East diaspora.

"In South Tyneside College we have one of the world's great marine colleges and people who have graduated from it now hold some very senior posts across the globe. As a region we need look at harnessing our global connections in a serious way."

Sir Ian believes the region needs to build upon the renaissance of the past decade.

"Newcastle is one of the top 10 cities for creating private-sector jobs in the last 10 years," he said. "But the entrepreneurial spirit shown by the public sector has also helped transform the region."

He cited the work by Gateshead Council, with the help of lottery funding, which was started by Coun George Gill and has helped create the Baltic, the Millennium Bridge and The Sage Gateshead.

These developments have changed the image of the region and led to an improvement in quality of life, he said.

However, he warned against intra-regional partisanship saying inside the North East there was perception of there being three separate identities- from Teesside, which produces 60% of the UK's chemical exports, to rural Durham and Northumberland and the Tyne and Wear metropolitan conurbations.

"It's important that we present ourselves as a self-confident, united region."

He said the creation of the North East Economic Partnership would help in the delivery of that message both inside and outside the North East. …

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