UK government initiative Northern Powerhouse could spell a major business boost for Irish firms.
Today (8 February) marks the publication of the Northern Powerhouse report by Enterprise Ireland.
Northern Powerhouse is a UK government initiative to rebalance the national economy by leveraging the potential within the cities and regions of the north of England, including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Tees Valley.
The region is expansive and, if it was a European country, it would be the continent’s 10th–largest economy.
The initiative involves the delivery of a huge amount of investment and regeneration to the aforementioned regions, improving transport and infrastructure between cities, and nurturing economic activities around emerging strengths in science, digital, energy and innovation.
While the scheme will naturally provide numerous economic opportunities to the regions themselves, external countries such as Ireland could stand to reap the benefits, too.
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, explained the vital role the UK market plays in terms of the Irish economy: “The UK is Ireland’s number-one export market, with Enterprise Ireland clients exporting €7.5bn exports, representing 35pc of total client exports in 2016.
“As longstanding trading partners, the UK is, and will remain, the largest export market for indigenous Irish companies.
“As Brexit negotiations continue, the Irish Government and our export agency Enterprise Ireland are committed to consolidating and growing Irish exports to the UK now and into the future.”
Huge opportunities for Irish businesses
There are major opportunities for Irish businesses to create thriving relationships with organisations and companies in the regions.
Standout opportunities range from the construction of 500,000 new homes, the development of new healthcare and life sciences facilities, and scientific collaboration, to digital collaboration with UK start-ups, road and rail developments, and cultural projects, to name just a few.
Cleantech and renewables
The north-east and Yorkshire are leading the UK in terms of renewable energy, and major interest in the area has seen Siemens build its offshore wind blades in Hull.
Manchester’s Alderley Park is home to leading biotech clusters, with more than 150 small firms located there. The region also counts for an impressive 13pc of all EU biopharma production.
The digital economy
Each area of the north has a unique specialism in the digital world, from data analytics in Leeds to game development in Sunderland. The area’s digital economy is worth close to £10bn to the UK’s national economy.
In recent years, the Northern Powerhouse region has experienced a massive increase in building and infrastructural projects, particularly the transport boom across Greater Manchester and plans to invest in Liverpool Docks.
Engineering and manufacturing
Aerospace, automotive, high-end manufacturing and supply chain activity are key production areas for the Northern Powerhouse.
Further collaboration encouraged
Welcoming the launch of the report, UK minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Jake Berry, said: “The Northern Powerhouse is about driving business, skills and economic growth in the north of England, positioning the region as a globally recognised economy.”
Berry added: “Irish companies have been very successfully doing business in the north of England and I welcome further collaboration that will drive the economy of the region while delivering important export opportunities to Irish companies.”
The challenges of Brexit
Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland CEO, said: “Enterprise Ireland is actively supporting Irish companies to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit.
“While we are focused on encouraging businesses to have a more diversified market strategy, the UK is Ireland’s most significant export market and, in parallel, we are focused on supporting Irish companies to consolidate and grow their exports to the UK and diversify in the UK market, seeking opportunities beyond the traditional regions and sectors.”
She noted that the opportunities within the report “play to the strengths of a large cohort of Irish companies, particularly in the construction, life sciences and digital sectors along with collaboration on scientific research and innovation projects”.
Enterprise Ireland has boosted resources in the UK to help exporting Irish companies to navigate and seize the potential of the Northern Powerhouse.