NEAA awarded UK Shared Prosperity Fund to support Sunderland businesses

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) has been awarded a share of over £5 million from the recently announced package of business support projects, funded through Sunderland’s Shared Prosperity Fund Programme. The projects will aim to stimulate economic development and provide a wide range of enterprise support to businesses and residents in the Sunderland area.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025.  The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business and people and skills. UKSPF succeeds the old EU structural funds and money will go straight to local places right across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The NEAA’s programme, named Local Automotive Business Support – Sunderland (LABS-S), will provide business support and intervention for up to 50 businesses in the Sunderland region by addressing their strategic needs. The programme, which will run until 2025, will support some of the key deliverables of the UKSPF programme, which is to boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards to support economic growth. In addition to this, the LABS-S programme will bolster Sunderland City Council’s City Plan (2023-2035), which provides the blueprint for all partners and communities to work together, to address the economic and social challenges that Sunderland faces so that the city and its people can achieve their full potential.

The Sunderland region is central to the North East automotive sector and accounted for 57.5% of the £8 billion of regional automotive turnover in 2021. The North East is a globally significant region for automotive manufacturing, home to the UK’s largest car plant, three of the UK’s top five off-highway manufacturers and an internationally competitive supply chain comprising 34 first tier suppliers and a myriad of innovative SMEs. The sector faces unprecedented challenges linked to the global mega trends of vehicle electrification, NetZero, industrial digitalisation, supply chain resilience and energy. These challenges provide opportunities and businesses in the region require specialist support to address these transitions and maintain regional competitiveness.

The NEAA, which was established in 2015 to support the automotive supply chain, has a proven track record of delivering business support programmes to the automotive sector. An independent audit stated the NEAA is uniquely positioned to deliver support for the region’s automotive sector, bringing together companies working within the sector, experiencing similar issues, and linking regional activities to national sector priorities, thus providing significant economies of scale for regional and national programmes.

Paul Butler, CEO at the NEAA said: “We’re delighted to receive a share of the Sunderland UKSPF programme, which will enable us to continue the active work we do to help automotive businesses, particularly here in Sunderland.

“The automotive sector has shown tremendous resilience over the past few years as it has come through a series of hurdles and the NEAA remains committed to supporting and facilitating the collective needs of our automotive supply chain in the North East to accelerate business growth.”