NEAA starts 2016 in the driving seat

NEAA starts 2016 in the driving seat

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is starting 2016 as the fastest growing cluster in the UK and is on course to become the UK’s largest automotive cluster.

Just eight months after it was established, the industry-led group has beat its target of 100 members for 2015 and now boasts 110 members drawn from sector giants including Nissan and Komatsu UK, to tier one suppliers and SME component manufacturers.

The UK’s largest automotive cluster group, the Welsh Automotive Forum, set up in 2001, has 126 members, and the NEAA is on course to overtake it to become the biggest with a target of 200 members in 2016.

NEAA chief executive, Paul Butler, said: “The industry support and leadership has really driven the Alliance in its first eight months.

“All the top performing clusters across Europe are industry-led and we have followed those examples of best practice.

“Industry leadership ensures that we focus and collaborate to address areas of concern and on those opportunities that offer the region the best opportunities.”

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing, UK operations, added: “Great things are happening in the North East’s automotive sector and the NEAA has hit the floor running since its launch in March.

“It now offers support and strategic direction across three key strands – skills, business excellence and innovation.”

In September the NEAA held its first NE Automotive Expo. The event was opened by Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton and attracted 340 delegates from over 200 companies.

One key aspect of the event was the 140 meet the buyer meeting which took place with 15 buyers from Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Komatsu, Gestamp, Lear, Faltec, Calsonic, Nifco and Faurecia.

Chris Hutchinson, general manager of the Bignall Group in Shildon, added: “Meet the Buyer was an excellent event where we met a number of potential clients and received enquiries the following day, who we’ve quoted and engaged with.

“From an exhibitor’s point of view, it was a very good set up with impressive footfall.” 

Paul Butler continued: “2015 was a fantastic success. This is down to a great team and the forward thinking companies within the sector who have grasped the cluster concept.

“It is great to see so many companies now working together to better the region’s automotive sector and we look forward to building on this success throughout 2016.”