The possibility of hundreds of new jobs in low-carbon industries in the UK’s North East received a boost this week after three ground-breaking projects were endorsed by the One North East board

The 15-member board of business people, local authority leaders and academics gave its backing to the development of new facilities that would represent a £42.5 million investment in the region.

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The new investment represents endorsement from government of One North East’s long-term strategy to create centres of excellence in key areas of industrial innovation and to invest heavily in their development.

Construction of new industrial biotechnology (IB) demonstration facilities will begin soon at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) at the Wilton Centre in the Tees Valley after a £12 million investment from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

This will provide a new open-access facility with a 10-tonne demonstration capacity — ten times larger than the existing one-tonne capacity at the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility (NIBF) at the CPI. It will be tailored to supporting companies and researchers to develop new products including sustainable biofuels, speciality chemicals and materials using biological feedstocks.

Fourteen jobs will be directly created by the project, which is intended to stimulate new industrial biotechnology jobs in the region in an industry which could generate up to £11.8 billion in sales by 2025.

The project has received the backing of Ian Shott, CEO of pharmaceutical services company Excelsyn and president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, who was chair of the government’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Growth Team.

“Our industry is set for a bioscience revolution and North East England is well placed to drive and deliver a sustainable industrial biotechnology agenda,” Shott said. “These new facilities will help the region become a world-class home for industrial biotechnology and make sure the UK can meet the sustainable development and consumption needs of the 21st Century.”

The second project endorsed was a £10 million investment in a significant extension of the national marine testing facilities at the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in Blyth, from the government’s Low Carbon Investment Fund.

Like the existing wind turbine facilities at Narec, this will be an open-access facility enabling marine developers to test and prove designs on land before they commit to costly and high-risk testing at sea. Narec will work closely with national partners at EMEC on Orkney and Wave Hub in South West England to offer comprehensive national test facilities for this new industry.

Up to 105 jobs will be created by the new facilities in the short-term, and government figures indicate the UK wave industry could in the long-term be worth £2 billionn and generate 16,000 jobs.

The One North East board also endorsed the £20.5 million expansion of the Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC) at NETPark in Sedgefield. This is made up of £12 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and £8.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13.

One North East has already invested heavily in the Centre, which is the UK’s leading development and prototyping facility in plastic/printable electronics. This new investment will significantly extend the scope and scale of PETEC’s operation, with highly-specialised facilities and equipment tailored to the development and pre-production of wide area printable electronics for displays, photovoltaics and low-energy lighting.

This investment is expected to create 26 new jobs at the centre, stimulate 250 jobs regionally and 1,500 jobs nationally over the next four years.

All three projects will give businesses access to high-level technical knowledge, specialised facilities, industrial design skills and business management expertise to support the design of new products and manufacturing processes. Current timetables estimate the PETEC and Industrial Biotechnology demonstration facilities will be completed by the end of 2010, and the new Narec facilities installed by March 2011.

“We are proud that our long-term strategy for a shift towards low carbon industries and green collar jobs has put the region in a position to benefit from this major national funding, along with £1 billion of private sector investment announced in recent months,” said Margaret Fay, chairman of One North East. “As the development of these industries gathers pace, the partnerships already developed between One North East and its partners at a regional, national, European and global level will be pivotal.”

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