The North East is aiming to swap its legacy of shipbuilding, steam engines and coalmining for a pioneering role in the manufacture of electric cars and lorries, renewable energy and life sciences. It's one of the smallest of the English regions and has the lowest population - just 2.6 million - but its designation by government as a Low Carbon Economic Area will mean establishing a training centre for the manufacture and repair of green cars; creating a research and development hub that collates work from five universities on using low-carbon cars; and opening a test track to try out new vehicles.
Having had the stuffing knocked out of it in previous recessions, the economy of the North East appears to have entered and weathered this current recession in better shape than before, thanks to a broader business base and a move into areas such as microelectronics, the offshore industry, biotechnology and automotives. Significant clusters of deprivation exist within Easington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Sunderland, but some businesses in the region have continued to thrive in spite of the tough economic times: the North East is, for example, home to more digital media start-ups than anywhere in the UK apart from London; NaREC in Blyth is helping Clipper Windpower develop the largest offshore wind turbine in the world; and Newcastle is one of only six locations in the UK with ScienceCity status.
Newcastle is three hours from London by train, and 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. The region's two airports - Newcastle International and Durham Tees Valley - offer 30 scheduled routes to UK airports and Europe. The region has five ports, including Teesport and the Port of Tyne, with frequent direct ferry services to the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Average commuting times in the north-east are some of the lowest in the country, though the main A1 route is in dire need of dualling.
The region has five universities, 18 further-education colleges and several world-class research establishments. Two-thirds of its 96,000 students remain in the North East after graduating. More than 50 of its university departments have the UK's highest rankings for research excellence.
Arriva, Nissan, Amec, Go-Ahead Group, Southern Cross, Sage Group, Greggs.
Quality of life
The region offers easy access to city, coast and countryside, including Northumberland National Park and two World Heritage Sites (Durham Cathedral and Castle, and Hadrian's Wall). There are three Premier League/Championship football clubs, Durham County Cricket Club and more than 90 golf courses. The Sage Gateshead has two of Europe's finest auditoriums, attracting world-class musicians, while Baltic on Newcastle Quayside and mima, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, display internationally acclaimed exhibitions.
Offices: between £8.50 and £14.75 per sq ft; factories: between £4.30 and £6.60 per sq ft; high-tech units at around £14 per sq ft; and land prices range from £40,486 to £113,360 per acre.
The North East Proof of Concept (POC) Fund invests in pre-start, early-stage and more mature science and technology-based companies. Investments are made up to £60,000, with a maximum of £90,000 for university pre-start projects. The £23m Co-Investment Fund specialises in high-growth technology opportunities. Investments of between £100,000 and £1.5m are drawn from a strong network of co-investors.
NETPark, County Durham, home to two of the Univer-sity of Durham's most advanced technology research activities; Cels, a fully serviced incubator facility with individual 400 sq ft units for life science or healthcare start-up companies located within Newcastle University's Medical School; Amazon Park near Newton Aycliffe, for large-scale manufacturing and distribution operations, sited just a mile from the A1(M); Baltic Business Park, Gateshead, 40 buildings ranging from two to five storeys high, plus one eight-storey block.
The North East claims to be the only region in England with a positive balance of trade.
One North East - 0191 229 6355; www.onenortheast.co.uk
Business & Enterprise North East - 0845 600 9006; www.businesslink.gov.uk
The Entrepreneurs' Forum - 0191 226 7497; www.entrepreneursforum.net
Government Office for the North East - 0191 201 3300; www.gos.gov.uk/gone/.