Buoyant mood amongst delegates at automotive Expo

Delegates attending North East England’s flagship exhibition for the automotive sector, heard how the region has plenty of opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and innovation, as it continues to be a globally significant area for automotive manufacturing and vehicle electrification.

The North East Automotive Expo, coordinated by industry cluster, the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), attracted over 700 visitors and 110 exhibitors, at the Beacon of Light, Sunderland at the end of September.

NEAA chief executive, Paul Butler, said: “The timing of this year’s Expo was well aligned to the announcement from Nissan on its EV mission to supply an all-electric line-up in Europe by 2030. The North East as a region, and the supply chain based here, are perfectly placed to provide the support structure to assist Nissan achieve these EV objectives.”

Delegates at the Expo heard from two headline speakers, Michael Jude, HR director, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK and Dr Henry Kippin, chief executive, North of Tyne Combined Authority and interim chief executive, North East Mayoral Combined Authority, who both spoke about regional strengths and future plans.

A Skills for the Future panel was chaired by Professor Matt Boyle OBE, chairman at the NEAA and chair of Driving the Electric Revolution Innovation Centre (DER-IC) Project. Panellists were Dr Henry Kippin, Michael Jude, Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive of Education Partnership North East, Howard Slater, director of engineering at Curtis Instruments, Inc. Alison Maynard, deputy principal at New College Durham and strategic lead for the North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT), Neil Willis, regional lead Education Challenge at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Bob Blenkinsop, director at Infinitive Perspective Consulting and Mark David, skills project manager at the North East Automotive Alliance.

Paul Butler added: “Having the opportunity to highlight the skills needs of our sector and what we are doing to support these was of importance at the Expo this year, particularly following the publication of the North East Local Skills Improvement Plan.

“Another key focus of the Expo is the Technology Showcase which continues to grow year on year, with companies demonstrating some of the innovative technology being designed and developed in the region to support the evolution of the automotive sector. This element of the Expo attracted interest during the day not just from those already operating within the sector but a wide range of academics. Companies taking part included Expo sponsors Manosun, Masfix and CMYK and automation and robotics experts ADM Automation (iCart Logistics), Mobile Industrial Robots, Applied Integration, RARUK Automation, Omron Electronics and LC Automation.”

Meet the Buyer, which facilitates over 100 one-to-one meetings each year, along with numerous successful supply chain opportunities and awarded projects, returned with support from OEMs including Nissan and Komatsu, and tier one suppliers Nifco UK, Unipres (UK), AESC UK, Marelli, Faltec Europe, Elring Klinger (GB) and Highly Marelli UK. The NEAA has received direct feedback from those taking part and many have confirmed they have been invited for further discussions with interested buyers.

The main sponsor was Sunderland City Council, with strong support provided by Invest South Tyneside, Theorem Solutions, TR Fastenings, North East Growth Hub, Masfix, Ekobox, Manosun, Horizon Works, Think Prime, SMS Technology, Smart Manufacturing Solutions, CMYK and SOS Industrial.

A date has been set for the 2024 event on Thursday 26 September, taking place at the Beacon of Light for a fifth year.