The North East Select Committee’s first report on Industry and Innovation in the region says that it is well placed to benefit from the growing global market for green technologies, but warns that British innovation and ideas could be lost as other countries benefit from quicker commercial development and implementation.
World-class renewable energy companies in the North East - such as the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) at Blyth, the North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC) on Teesside, and NETPark, the North East Technology park in County Durham – could put the region at the forefront of the Government’s efforts to turn the UK into a low-carbon economy.
However, the MPs warn that the UK’s cumbersome and slow planning process poses a significant risk to long-term development in the North East as businesses from countries like China seek quicker, guaranteed sites elsewhere in Europe.
The Chair of the Committee, Dari Taylor MP, said:
"The North East is well placed to benefit from the growing global market in green technologies. "The innovative renewable energy industries in our region could spearhead a manufacturing renaissance in the UK as we make the transition to a low-carbon economy.
"We now need the Government to ensure that industry in the region isn’t held back by the planning system or poor transport links."
The reports says the Government should explore incentives to encourage local development of renewable and clean energy. In several other European Union countries people living close to the site of onshore wind farms are offered lower electricity bills as a trade-off in exchange for the inconvenience.
There is also significant concern about levels of university research funding in the North East, with a pervasive perception that it fares badly compared with universities within the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge.
Meanwhile, struggling manufacturing businesses continue to find it difficult to access funding from the banks following the credit crunch.
In addition, Government programmes to increase finance for small and medium-sized businesses have not always been adequately explained to banks or businesses, lessening their impact on roll-out - the European Finance Guarantee Scheme, for example.
Underinvestment in transport links is also proving detrimental to investment in the region. Serious gaps remain in road links to Edinburgh in the North and Cumbria and Carlisle in the West.