By Helen Golightly, Chief Executive, North East Local Enterprise Partnership:

I’m very happy to be able to begin the New Year by speaking at the North East Development Conference, which takes place in Newcastle on Wednesday 8 January.

I will be speaking alongside representatives from some of our universities, who will be discussing their ambitious plans to further develop our region’s campuses and research facilities.

The team at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is proud to work with our colleagues at North East universities to help drive forward the region’s reputation for world class research and innovation, and to ensure that we are creating a skilled workforce for the industries of the future.

In the past few years we’ve worked together with Newcastle University to invest in Newcastle Helix, a city centre site which this year has seen the opening of the Biosphere, a specialist lab facility tailored to commercialisation of life sciences.

Also in Newcastle, we’re working with Northumbria University on the development of the International Centre for Connected Construction (IC3) – an initiative which is set to make a major contribution to the transformation of the built environment and the construction sector world-wide.

With colleagues, we have invested in the Durham University Centre  for Innovation and Growth, while at Sunderland University, funding from the North East Growth Deal was invested in creating the first FabLab in the region – the North East’s first digital fabrication laboratory.

All the investments we make in the built environment, both in the academic arena and elsewhere, are based on key criteria. We invest in projects which align with the North East Strategic Economic Plan – our roadmap for driving economic growth in the region – and which have real potential to result in more and better jobs for the North East.

Whether we are talking about a new manufacturing unit, transport infrastructure or a specialist research facility, everything we do and all the programmes we support play a part in strengthening the North East economy, improving life for our communities and businesses, and ultimately bringing more and better jobs to our region.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan has a focus on five key sectors: advanced manufacturing; life sciences; digital and tech; energy; and financial professional and business services. These are areas of huge opportunity for the North East. They are sectors which we have real strengths in, where there are opportunities for growth and investment, and which we know will be central to securing a strong economy for future generations.

These five sectors also present opportunities for developers and investors from outside our region and I hope that during this conference you will be able to explore some of the exciting developments which are taking place here.

The North East is an amazing place and I look forward to playing my part in showcasing the region and its many opportunities for investors and developers, to everyone at next month’s conference.

Helen Golightly, Chief Executive, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.