Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

NEPIC’s CEO, Dr Stan Higgins talks to bdaily about the network

After spending the past 40 years working in the process industries, it is easy to see why Dr Stan Higgins has been so successful in his position as chief executive of the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC).

In 2004, Stan was asked to help establish NEPIC due to his varied background in the process industry and since then, has helped over 133 companies fulfil their growth objectives while adding around £1 billion of GVA to the North East and UK economy.

“Setting up the network gave me the opportunity to provide a voice for the region, and has helped businesses to work together to improve the industry’s prospects, “ Stan said.

Through his work, Stan has found that many businesses in the process industries seem to share the same worries: “Alot of people are worried about energy prices and further taxation on carbon emissions,” Stan said. “ We are trying to help them understand the impact of these regulations, as this could potentially drive manufacturing offshore.”

High up on Stan’s agenda is the lack of governmental focus on the needs of industry, which could have long term economic effects: “The process industry represents 30 percent of the region’s economy, yet for years the government has focussed on the financial sector – and you create more value when making things than just financing them”.

“If you make a car, you create more value making it than financing it, and this should be an indicator that the process industry and manufacturing in general needs more support.”

Stan also vocalises his opinions on the skills gap, which he also believes is inhibiting the process industry. “Lots of graduates don’t have the necessary skills, which are vital in a technology based industry like this one,” he said.

“In a technology based world, skills are key both on a personal basis and as a nation as a whole, so we need to see an uptake in engineering and science degrees and apprenticeships to make the economy powerful again. Unfortunately it could take up to 20 years to rebuild this skills base.”

Despite these issues, it is clear that NEPIC has had an impact, regionally, nationally and globally. The organisation has received several awards, and in 2010 Stan was nominated as EU Cluster Manger of the Year from 600 recognised clusters across Europe.

NEPIC is now working with other clusters in Europe, as well as others in Brazil, India and China, and is planning 25 investments over the next 5 years: “We need to get the message out that the region’s process industry isn’t dying, and if companies want to do these processes they should come to the North East.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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