Massive bid to put North East world leader in 'no carbon' economy

Multimillion pound-scheme would create centres of excellence in the North East and aim to create hundreds of jobs

A massive bid to put the North East at the heart of the zero carbon revolution is being pulled together by some of the leading figures in the industry. Three industry leaders are pulling together an ambitious plans to unlock hundreds of millions of pounds from global companies in the transport and power industries.

Matt Boyle, who led Gateshead’s Sevcon until it was bought out last year by American company BorgWarner, is working on the project with James Widmer, chief executive of Advanced Electric Machines, and power electronics specialist Professor Bill Drury.

If successful it would see centres of excellence set up in the North East to exploit the region’s existing world leading position in Power Electronics, Motors and Drives (PEMD). The plan would also see companies given help to build supply chains and scale up to ensure that the region’s expertise translated into job creation. It has come as the UN has issued a stark warning on the need for deep emissions cuts, with a switch to electric vehicles crucial to keeping global temperature rises to an acceptable level.

That report also outlines the economic opportunities that exist in a switch to a carbon-free economy, and Mr Boyle said his project could see the North East working with companies around the world in sectors including rail, wind, aerospace, maritime and automotive.

He said: “By 2025 this market will be worth £1trn through automotive propulsion becoming electrified, the electrification of train lines, renewable energy and power drives in marine and aerospace and so on.

“But if we do nothing our share of this growing market will go down, so we have to act now.

“The transition from internal combustion engines is accelerating rapidly, meaning 2.5m engines will need replacing and more than 30,000 engine engineers will be out a job when they are phased out - and all of them will need retraining.

“So three of us have got together to harness our combined expertise with a view to creating a supply chain for PEMD.”

The PEMD sector has been described as “vital building blocks on which the next generation of robotics and automation, electric cars and planes, hybrid trains, smart renewables and grid distribution technologies will be built”.

Newcastle and the North East, Mr Boyle says, already has a world leading position within the sector, especially the motors and drives markets.

He said: “It’s world class. James Dyson has his research centre at Newcastle Univerity and BorgWarner, a huge global firm, came to Gateshead and saw what Sevcon are doing and bought the company. We are very, very good at it.

“But we could do better. This is an industry that underpins the future – the future cannot happen unless we do this properly because so many decisions that have been cast in stone, such as replacement of all internal combustion engines, won’t happen unless this technology happens.

“And it’s ubiquitous, covering everything from planes to windmills.

“Here in the North East we’re very good but we need to scale up and create a supply chain, teach people, upskill and reskill. The opportunities are huge.”