Levelling Up for Blyth

Driving regeneration, inward investment and highly skilled jobs

Published 1 June 2022 Last updated 1 June 2022

ORE Catapult is playing a key role in the energy transition that will lead the UK towards a net zero future, providing huge economic opportunities to support the levelling up agenda.

By leveraging its existing, world-leading research and development (R&D) capabilities at its National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth to attract a global market and grow UK capability, ORE Catapult has become a cornerstone of the Northeast’s offshore wind cluster, actively securing national and local investment into the region’s industrial heartlands and coastal communities. As a result, the Northeast is now increasing its R&D footprint, boosting economic regeneration, developing the future workforce and creating new, highly skilled and better-paid jobs.

‘Energising Blyth’ – investment and levelling up for a net zero future

In Blyth specifically, ORE Catapult is using its unique position in the town to leverage inward investment, greater infrastructure and skills provision, in order to create a sustainable model for the town that builds on the vast array offshore renewable energy and net zero opportunities; a significant shift away from the coal and ship building of Blyth’s past, but intrinsically tied to its maritime heritage.

As a result, ORE Catapult has embedded itself as an instrumental partner in the formation the Town Investment Plan (named ‘Energising Blyth’) with Catapult director, Tony Quinn, elected Vice Chair of the Town Deal Board. The Town Deal’s ambition is to create a thriving UK and international centre of renewable energy and advanced manufacturing growth and innovation, providing new jobs, better skills, more homes, and a clean environment for people in the town and the wider Northeast region. The deal was successful, with Government awarding £20.9m to the town, adding to the Future High Streets Fund and Associated Towns Fund to a total of £70m – demonstrating ORE Catapult’s influence in attracting investment that will directly support levelling up opportunities for Blyth.

Attracting world class industry, investment and jobs to Blyth

ORE Catapult plays a key role in Energy Central, a strategic partnership alongside Advance Northumberland, Port of Blyth and Northumberland County Council, which provides leading skills, facilities and R&D for clean energy industries. Located around the Blyth Estuary, it comprises a growing cluster of businesses working across renewable energy, offshore wind, subsea engineering, decommissioning, battery manufacturing and energy storage. The Energy Central partnership has been highly proactive in bringing forward investment sites, supporting local business growth, enabling innovation and attracting investment and jobs.

One of Energy Central’s most successful inward investment stories to date is JDR Cables. A long-term partner of ORE Catapult, the success of JDR Cable’s 66kV cable product has been underpinned by the organisation’s commitment to Northeast operations and ORE Catapult’s UKAS accredited high voltage laboratories in Blyth to support JDR’s research and development programmes. This partnership was bolstered by a major recent announcement from JDR Cables that it will invest an initial £130m in a new manufacturing facility to be located in Cambois, near Blyth, by 2024. The move is set to create 170 high-quality local jobs on completion and safeguard 270 jobs at JDR’s existing Northeast facilities.

“The 66kV work we’ve done with ORE Catapult has been essential in bringing us our new facility to make long length 66kV cables…we can see further collaboration with local partners in the Blyth area, including ORE Catapult, to help us make sure that’s a success”

James Young, Chief Strategy and Compliance Officer, JDR Cables

Forging and retaining the skills of the future in Blyth

With substantial traction gained from ORE Catapult’s involvement in Energy Central activity, it is also building a foundation for skills development in Blyth that will in turn feed the businesses that are establishing themselves within Energy Central.

In 2017, Catapult partnered with the Port of Blyth and Blyth Tall Ship project to initiate the Blyth STEM Hub. It was formed to bring together education and business to enable young learners to experience the world of work and STEM career opportunities from Blyth and wider Southeast Northumberland. It does this by acting as the vehicle for schools and further education partners to access businesses and professionals across a range of STEM activities, visits, presentations, awareness raising and engagement.

As part of Energy Central in Blyth, and a self-funded operation, the STEM Hub engages with all 12 schools in the town (and other schools in areas such as Ashington and Newcastle), as well as colleges and universities. It also has relationships with over 50 local businesses. Its impact to date has been to engage over 2,500 young learners per year in dedicated, STEM-led and career pathway-focused activity.

A major aspiration of Energy Central is to use part of the Town Deal to help create the next evolution of STEM provision to the area,
creating the Energy Central Learning Hub (ECLH), a new public facing focal point for the Energy Central scheme. The ECLH
will be a new build industrial training, education and skills facility, creating 2,396 sqm of new learning and skills space.

With the partnership now set to be stronger than ever with a close geographical proximity of only a few miles, JDR Cables and ORE Catapult have an even greater opportunity to cement the UK’s leading reputation in subsea cable manufacturing with the potential future
introduction of 132kV cables to the market, as well as significant regional impact through job creation, supply chain growth and investment in skills.

The space will incorporate vocational training for young people, including electrical, mechanical and digital skills aligned to the needs of clean energy employers. It will also raise awareness of STEM-based careers and deliver STEM activities and education programmes and the Blyth community will benefit from a clean energy exhibition visitor space.

With ORE Catapult’s direct input into the ECLH, there will be multiple, direct beneficiaries in the community, with children and young people in education key to the ECLH’s ambitions for STEM provision, covering Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5, with up to 3,600 STEM interactions per year planned with schools and colleges.

Young learners will:

  • Participate in compelling engagement – including with ORE Catapult – and awareness-raising activities that highlight the opportunities in the clean energy sector
  • Work with sector employers who will support STEM learning through a focus on clean energy
  • Access to priority curriculum pathways to employment in the clean energy sector, underpinned by a world-class education, training and skills programme that is informed by sector employers
  • Develop the knowledge and skills required by clean energy sector employers

This approach will enable young people to compete effectively for clean energy sector jobs. In addition, the ECLH will support employees in low carbon industries or transitioning from high to low carbon intensive industries with upskilling, reskilling and accreditation opportunities, with similar opportunities for local people who are currently unemployed.

“Children enjoyed all the different activities and came away having a better understanding of engineering and STEM itself. Many children have now come to me and said how they would love to go into engineering in the future and they did not realise how many different areas there are.”

Clare Hancock, St Wilfrid’s Primary School, Blyth

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