Revamped awards categories reflect transformational change in the automotive supply chain

Following a year in which investment in the North East’s automotive sector reached record levels, the industry is uniting around a revamped awards ceremony to celebrate exceptional company performance and outstanding individual achievements.

Winners of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) annual awards 2024 will be announced on March 28 at Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham. In addition to promoting the industry, the awards donate to schools and STEM programs to raise awareness of automotive careers and, to date, over £60,000 has supported future talent.

This year’s awards and sponsors are the Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice (Gateshead College), Graduate (Marelli), Innovation (Newcastle University), Digital Transformation (NA College), Environmental and Sustainability (Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK), Employer of the Year (Invest South Tyneside), SME of the Year (North East Institute of Technology) and Outstanding Contribution (Sunderland City Council). A drinks reception is sponsored by Smart Manufacturing Solutions and SMS Technology and the awards brochure sponsor is Horizon Works.

Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA, said: “These awards are all about recognising the incredible talent and achievements of companies making a real impact on the North East automotive industry and this year’s awards ceremony features a line-up of eight new and updated categories, each one recognising the very best in their respective fields.

“The North East region is widely recognised as a beacon of automotive productivity, thanks to a world-class workforce, high levels of automation and decades of continuous improvement. It is well positioned to benefit from digital technologies and its aim is to drive longer term ambitions of a factory of the future. We felt it appropriate to reflect this in our award categories with the addition of the Digital Transformation award that recognises the company championing digital adoption and can demonstrate their digital transformation journey.

“Participation in business awards can enhance credibility, boost employee morale and increase brand awareness, making it a valuable marketing tool. Being shortlisted can attract new customers or interest new talent.

“The importance of the awards is evidenced by the highly influential list of sponsors who, in their own way, are leading the charge for transformational change within the North East. They recognise that innovative and high performing businesses are crucial to meeting their own strategic goals and want to be aligned with them as well as the wider importance of supporting a supply chain that provides tens of thousands of jobs across the North East.”

Nathaniel Cutler, engineering graduate at Komatsu UK, was the Graduate Award winner in 2023. Since winning the award he has successfully completed his rotational Graduate scheme at Komatsu UK and taken a position as a production engineer. This role looks to introduce new technologies, machines or tooling to optimise the overall efficiency and safety of the factory to help achieve the business targets.

Nathaniel said: “I still view my biggest achievement to date, in my career, as winning the NEAA Graduate of the Year award. I would highly recommend a career within the automotive sector, specifically in the North East, as the sector is growing with new factories and manufacturing sites planned to open over the next few years. Through these new sites there is an increased opportunity to work on exciting projects in which you will be able to see a real-world, day-to-day, impact.”

Additional beneficiaries of the NEAA Awards in 2023 included a number of local schools and STEM clubs, including Harton Academy who, since receiving the donation from winning SME of the Year Ford Engineering, has invested in additional resources for their STEM club, which has meant they can offer a better learning experience for students. In addition, it has funded a trip to the Centre of Life in Newcastle and has enabled 12 students to work towards the CREST award, an accredited qualification in science.

Although company success and recognition are a massive part of the awards, it is also about linking winning businesses with local schools and education to raise awareness of careers in STEM and nurturing a longer-term relationship to support the future workforce.

Kirstine Walker, deputy headteacher at Harton Academy said: “Receiving this donation has made a big difference to the school’s STEM club, enabling us to acquire more resources and coordinate external visits. A big thank you to Ford Engineering Group for choosing our school. I am keen to maintain engagement with Ford, the NEAA and the wider automotive sector to give our students a greater insight into the job opportunities that exist here on our doorstep.”

All entries to this year’s awards are to be submitted by close of business on Friday 9th February 2024. An application pack is available from Laura Gage at


Picture caption: Nathaniel Cutler, production engineer, Komatsu UK (2023 Graduate Award winner) and Ginny Elton, engineering and maintenance manager, Marelli (Graduate sponsor company and 2018 Graduate Award winner)