Communities Minister, BARONESS Hanham CBE Visits Narec (UK)

BARONESS Hanham CBE, Communities Minister from the Department of Communities and Local Government will today (TUESDAY MARCH 8) officially unveil European funding towards a multi-million pound project at the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) in Blyth, placing the North East at the centre of offshore wind turbine developments.

Lady Hanham is visiting the North East to see the positive impact of European funding, witnessing first hand projects that have benefited from investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Competitiveness Programme 2007-2013, managed by One North East.

Following a tour of the Narec site, Lady Hanham will formally announce the European investment of £2.5m which will enable a major testing hub for large wind turbine developers to be used by up to 80 regional businesses.

ERDF funding will help North East small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to diversify into operations and maintenance activities in the growing offshore wind sector. A new facility capable of testing blades up to 100m long is currently under construction in Blyth and companies will work with Narec to learn from the blade testing capabilities and expertise being developed in the region.

As well as the £2.5m investment from ERDF, further funding for the new 100m blade test facility includes £2m provided through One North East’s Single Programme and £11.5m through the Strategic Investment Fund.

As part of the day-long tour Baroness Hanham will also visit Berwick WorkSpace, a business incubator to bring new jobs and commercial opportunities to the Northumberland coastal town and Putting Enterprise Into Place, a project based at the incubator which is aimed at creating an enterprise surge in Northumberland helping residents become self-employed or start their own business.

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham said: “We believe that local communities know what’s best for driving economic growth in their area and it was inspiring to hear from entrepreneurs in Northumberland how they are using Government funding to create new business and jobs .These projects are opening up life changing opportunities for the local community and will contribute to the regeneration of Northumberland by helping local businesses to realise their potential.

“As the Government continues to cut the deficit, private sector growth is vital, particularly in the small and medium enterprise sectors, these businesses will play an important part in enriching their local area.

“It was an honour to mark International Women’s day in Northumberland and celebrate the achievements of local businesswomen who are playing such a key role in reviving their local economy.”

Lady Hanham will tour the incubator and meet with beneficiaries from Berwick WorkSpace which received £134,500 ERDF funding to assist 37 small businesses and create 35 jobs from its incubator units.

The Baroness will also hear about Putting Enterprise Into Place – an enterprise coaching service based at Berwick WorkSpace, which is encouraging more people to develop enterprising skills and attitudes, particularly in disadvantaged areas. The project received £1.92m ERDF funding to assist just over 2,000 potential entrepreneurs and 250 SMEs, of which 14 are social enterprises.

Narec has received over £10m ERDF funding under the ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-2013, helping it cement its place as a world leading facility.

Lesley Calder, Head of Europe and Skills at One North East, said: “These projects demonstrate how effective and far-reaching the benefits of ERDF funding can be ranging from Narec’s new facility which is a world’s first to helping people reach their full potential through enterprising projects like Berwick WorkSpace.

“The National Blade Test Facility forms part of a broader national offshore wind innovation asset which is being driven by investment from One North East, the Strategic Investment Fund and the Energy Technologies Institute.

“The project is critical to supporting the development of the North East as a world class centre of excellence in the offshore wind agenda. It will also help place our ports at the centre of large company investment creating economic growth for blade manufacturing, development, operation and maintenance and installation services.

“It will also ensure that SMEs in the North East will be able to access the offshore wind supply chain through access to the facility and Narec’s wind sector expertise. Funding from ERDF will ensure that knowledge transfer and training will take place among SMEs.”

Tony Quinn, Director of Major Projects and Assets at Narec, said: “Narec will give SMEs an understanding of the offshore wind market requirements and provide the opportunity to understand the specific challenges of the inspection of composite blades in the offshore environment. Up to 80 regional businesses could benefit from the business diversification and knowledge transfer opportunities, enabled by inspection capability associated with the new test facility.”

Andrew Martin, Manager of Berwick WorkSpace, TEDCO Ltd, said: “In the short time that TEDCO have been operating Berwick WorkSpace, we have used the whole building to help develop businesses. This was an incubation centre that was built to stimulate growth in small businesses and encourage business start ups. I am delighted that we have attracted such a diverse range of inspirational companies and helped to create so many jobs.”

Berwick councillor Jim Smith represented Northumberland County Council at the visit. He said: “The WorkSpace project has had a very positive impact in the rural north of the county. It has helped many small businesses to become established – increasing vital job opportunities.”

The ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-13 managed by One North East is bringing over £300m into North East England.

By Helen Edge (narec)


Source: narec, March 08, 2011