Collaboration between large and small companies can produce best innovation, report says

Newcastle law firm Womble Bond Dickinson hosted a roundtable event to discuss its Close Encounters report.

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is a prime example of an industry-led cluster group which is making huge strides within its sector. Established in March 2015 to support the economic sustainable growth and competitiveness of the sector in the North East, the cluster now has more than 230 members, making it the largest group of its kind in the UK. It wasn’t easy at the start, however, said chief executive Paul Butler. He said: “There is a recognition amongst larger organisations that they need to collaborate on innovation and we’ve done an awful lot of work around sharing best practice and enabling companies within the region to pick up on innovative ideas. “They share best practice within their organisations, but they have never done it regionally before. We do have a truly collaborative network which recognises that by coming together they are derisking the innovation and helping on financial targets. Instead of asking for £1m for a project you might have five companies putting in £100,000 and matching that through the public sector or through funding. “It wasn’t always like that. When we first set up, two firms were adamant they wouldn’t meet each other. “But they quickly recognised that by working together in areas where there were no conflict of interest that they could upskill their business and that their main competition is internal. Once business is won it’s up to the parent firm to decide where that business is placed, so their competition is actually internal. “By working together those companies are able to increase the cost effectiveness, their productivity and therefore they remain more competitive in their own organisational structure. That has an impact on the region as well because it makes the business more secure.”