By Daniel Hunter

Minister for Universities, Science and Cities Greg Clark today (Wednesday) visited Science Central in Newcastle to sign the North East Growth Deal, which will see nearly £330 million of government funding invested into the North East.

The minister joined Paul Woolston, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), to sign the Growth Deal at Science Central. Over the lifetime of its deal (2015 to 2021) the LEP estimates that up to 5,000 new jobs will be created.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: "Growth Deals show just what can be achieved when businesses, local leaders and the government work together to build a long-term plan for the local economy.

"The Growth Deal is a historic deal between central government and local leaders and businesses, by devolving powers and money from Whitehall to the North East so that local areas can lead their own growth. The Growth Deal I am signing today builds on the region’s strengths - the projects to improve local transport infrastructure, boost skills and drive innovation will play an important part in the region’s growth in the future."

The North East Growth Deal aims to bring together local, national and private funding as well as new freedoms and flexibilities. Projects funded by the Growth Deal include:

- Merchant Park 2 - to support inward investment and supply chain development adjacent to the future home of Hitachi Rail Europe

- Rural Growth Network infrastructure - a project to plug infrastructure gaps in key rural market towns and to grow the innovative, community-led network of rural enterprise hubs to support business growth

- Swans Wet Berth Infill - to create development land with quay frontage within the Swans site of the North East Enterprise Zone, thereby increasing availability of commercial land available for priority sectors

- a North East innovation programme - a package of 5 projects to support and drive innovation in the LEP area:
1) Newcastle Life Sciences Incubation Hub
2) NETPark Infrastructure Phase 3
3) Low Carbon Energy Centre; Newcastle Science Central
4) Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub
5) The Centre for Innovation in Formulation

- a skills improvement package - 5 projects to increase skills levels in key sectors

- a transport improvement programme - 9 strategic transport projects starting in 2015 to 2016
- the creation of a facility for a national centre to develop and commercialise photonics-based therapies. Lead by the Centre for Process Innovation, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult

- upgrading the facilities at Northumberland College to improve skills levels and support economic growth in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, renewables and ICT

- Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub, comprising the first ‘Fab Lab’ in the North East, incubation spaces, and workshop, office and laboratory space for manufacturing, creative and science-based businesses

An expansion of £40.6 million of government funding was announced on 29 January 2015, on top of £289.3 million when the Growth Deal was originally announced in July 2014.

Growth Deals are a £12 billion long-term programme to revitalise local economies. The deals are the latest and greatest example of the British economy being rebuilt from the bottom up, and sharing the benefits of the recovery around the country.

Local businesses and council leaders have been invited to open discussions immediately on the next set of projects to be funded, building on the momentum that has been established.