Howay the innovators: creativity flourishes in the North-East

Are you a budding entrepreneur in search of a great new idea? Try the North-East...

Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
It may have played a major role in the Industrial Revolution, but things have been fairly tough for the North-East since the decline of ship-building – particularly in the last few years. Now, though, it seems the Geordies are back in the game: a new survey by the British Library has found that, per pound invested in research and development, the North-East is the most innovative region in the country, producing more patents than anyone else. Given that it's had a more difficult recession than most, the news will come as a turn-up for the region’s books...
While London technically produced more patents than any other region, with roughly 25% of the UK’s total originating from there, the North-East is the most creative on a budget. Even though it only has a quarter of the R&D spend of London, it generates the same number of inventions per head. And while Londoners spend an average of £128,982 per patent granted, oop north they spend a measly £128,441.
It’s good news for a region that’s struggled more than most in the recession. According to official figures, in the three months to May everywhere in the country saw a drop in unemployment - except Northern Ireland and the North East, where ‘small increases were recorded’. Politicians have been falling over themselves to be seen to be doing something about the situation: in fact, just this week, ‘Saint’ Vince Cable has been on a little jaunt of his up to the Teeside Corus factory, where 1,600 steel workers have just been told they’ll be out of work. Sadly workers were less than impressed when Cable used the opportunity to announce a £4.6m funding package for sustainable projects in the region - not particularly helpful given that, erm, they don’t make wind turbines.
Nonetheless, budding Geordie entrepreneurs should have plenty of good ideas knocking about. And we shouldn't estimate how important their efforts will be in helping the local economy recover. Figures from the Standard Chartered/ EO Global Entrepreneur Indicator suggest that entrepreneurial businesses have done better than most lately: more than 80% of business owners said their profits stayed the same or increased over the past quarter (compared to just under 20% who say they’ve seen a drop).
Interestingly, only about 3% have taken on debt, while many are 'deleveraging – either strengthening the bank's argument that the demand for loans isn't there, or small firms' argument that credit is too expensive. But either way, this lack of investment is probably bad news for the growth prospects of the economy as a whole. Once Cable has finished disappointing out-of-work Geordies, perhaps he should turn his attention to that thorny conundrum...

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