Brazil boys on a Tees mission; Process cluster goes global.
THE NORTH East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) extended its reach into one of the two most important chemical processing regions in the world yesterday.
It signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Pernambuco region of north east Brazil where billions of dollars of inward investment, backed by the federal government, has moved the 8.5m inhabitants from an economy based on sugar cane to one fuelled by oil.
A $10bn refinery and an emerging $1.7bn Petrobras petro chemical processing plant are powering the regional economy, so that last year it outstripped Brazil's already respectable 5.6% by more than a percentage point. Bolstered by Novartis' announcement that it was to sink $500m into a plant producing meningitis vaccines, Pernambuco glowed red on NEPIC chief executive Stan Higgins' international hit list for strategic partnerships earlier this year.
Following an exploratory visit with
UKTI and One North East in the spring, it signed the MOU with the state's secretary of economic development, Fernando Bezerra Coelho in Newcastle. Mr Higgins said Brazil was just the latest in a string of countries to have invited NEPIC to demonstrate how cluster working could benefit their economies. Similar MOUs exist with regions of India and Europe - evidence of NEPIC's growing role in trade development, said Mr Higgins.
The signing coincided with yesterday's release of inward investment figures for the region, which showed a net gain for the North-east on 2007/8.
"We have moved from internal issues like productivity and improving skills locally to identifying international opportunities for the cluster," said Mr Higgins. "By doing that we hope to improve inward investment opportunities and trade for our indigenous companies." He said the North-east had a number of synergies with Pernambuco, including port and ship building industries which were also seeing significant investment.
"They are interested in acquiring skills and development.
This is about using our knowledge economy to help other countries grow." Petrobas said it had already placed around pounds 10m worth of business with the UK, where companies such as Exwold Technology on Teesside were already benefiting from a partnership with the region.
Snr Coelho, who is also chief executive of the regional port and president of the Santa Cruz football club, said he hoped to create a "mini NEPIC" in his home state. "We want to learn from their experience," he said..
THERE was a net increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the North-east over the past 12 months.
According to figures released yesterday by UKTI, the 68 projects created 2,600 new jobs and safeguarded another 2,900.
Dr Simon Goon, One North East head of business investment, said the agency had focused on attracting foreign investors in manufacturing activities in new and renewable energy, automotive, healthcare, digital and advanced engineering..
SIGNED UP: From left, Keith Stockdale, UKTI, Silvio Leimig, The Suape Port Authorithy, Stan Higgins, NEPIC, Ross Cordiner, UKTI, Fernando Bezerra Coelho, Secretary of Economic Development of Pernambuco, Fernando Vasconcelos, Petroconsult, Richard Ward, PETROBRAS, Chris Cobb, UKTI Brazil and Nilton Gonalves, PETROBRAS