The NEAA Annual Awards provide clear evidence as to the world class status of the region’s automotive supply chain as it honours the brightest talent and outstanding achievements of companies and future leaders shaping the North East automotive industry.

The championing of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects by the NEAA was celebrated in style in 2023, as rising stars Lily Turner and Nathaniel Cutler, scooped apprentice and graduate awards at a glittering awards ceremony in March.

The NEAA Awards 2023 honoured the brightest talent and outstanding achievements of companies and future leaders shaping the North East automotive industry.

The main sponsor of the awards evening was Sunderland City Council, with Smart Manufacturing Solutions and SMS Technology as drinks reception sponsor and Horizon Works as brochure sponsor.

While both Lily and Nathaniel received cheques for £1,000 as part of their prize, company winners receive a cheque to donate to a STEM engagement programme or local school in support of an automotive or STEM related project, which helps to promote and drive forward careers within the automotive sector.

Initiated in 2018 to support future generations within the sector, build sector attractiveness and to recognise talent, the awards are supported by some of the region’s most dynamic, forward-looking and successful automotive companies that, to date, have donated over £60,000 towards future talent within the industry.

Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice Award Winner Lily Turner, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Lily, who is a maintenance technician with Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, won the Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice Award, sponsored by Gateshead College.

Lily, said: “Working at Nissan as an apprentice has been an extremely exciting opportunity. It is a very supportive environment and there are so many opportunities to progress, particularly for women. In the last year I won the regional apprentice of the year award and in the national final I was highly commended.

“I want to stay in maintenance and my goal is to work up to management level. I am proof that women in STEM can build a truly fulfilled career in what was, previously, a male dominated industry.”

Graduate Award Winner Nathaniel Cutler, Komatsu UK

Nathaniel Cutler, an engineering graduate with Komatsu UK, took the Graduate Award, sponsored by Marelli.

Nathaniel, said: “As part of my role I spent five months in each of the five core engineering departments in the role of engineer. A highlight to date was working at a factory in Sweden introducing efficiency improvements around a high-profile global project. I was initially asked to go to Sweden for three weeks but stayed on for three months and I was proud to play my part in doubling the capacity of the factory.”

Outstanding Achievement Award Winner Kevin Fitzpatrick CBE, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Kevin, who retired in April after five decades in the automotive sector, started as one of 22 supervisors hired to oversee the start of production at Nissan Sunderland Plant, rising through the ranks to Region Senior Vice President, Manufacturing and Supply Chain for the Africa, Middle-East, India, Europe and Oceania region (AMIEO).

A former apprentice, Kevin’s passion for skills and training provided the drive for the creation of the Nissan Skills Foundation in 2014. The foundation inspires young people to choose careers in engineering and manufacturing, and more than 75,000 students have now taken part in the programme. Kevin’s was also instrumental in the creation of the NEAA in 2015, and was its first chairman.

Kevin, said: “I’m delighted to be given this award and be amongst some inspiring talent who really are the future leaders of our automotive sector. I consider myself very lucky to have been part of Nissan’s journey and am extremely proud of what we have achieved.”

The full list of winners is

Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice Award, sponsored by Gateshead College
Lily Turner – Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Graduate Award, sponsored by Marelli
Nathaniel Cutler – Komatsu UK

Innovation and Technology Award, sponsored by Newcastle University
Large/Multinational – Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK
SME – Fuzzy Logic Studio

Sustainability Award, sponsored by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK
Large/Multinational – Port of Tyne
SME – Aspire Technology Solutions

Employer of the Year Award, sponsored by Invest South Tyneside
Adient Seating

SME Company of the Year Award, sponsored by North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT)
Ford Engineering

Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Sunderland City Council
Kevin Fitzpatrick CBE, Senior Vice President, Region Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK



Members will immediately benefit from the promotion of the North East automotive sector’s capabilities on regional, national and international levels and the network’s ability to connect the supply chain to business opportunities.