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East’s electric vehicle sector ‘could strengthen ties with China’

PUBLISHED: 09:30 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:30 01 February 2018

LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

Archant

The burgeoning electric vehicle industry presents an “exciting opportunity” for the East of England to strengthen its economic relationship with China, according to an enterprise leader.

From left, speaker Prof Dr Detlef Nauck, chief research scientist at BT Technology in Martlesham, and Doug Field, chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters in Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB From left, speaker Prof Dr Detlef Nauck, chief research scientist at BT Technology in Martlesham, and Doug Field, chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters in Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

Julian Munson, head of enterprise zones and innovation at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said while much of the activity was happening under the radar, it was a growth area in Suffolk and Norfolk.

“I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities in the electric vehicle market. There are lots of companies in the supply chain which are actually quite hidden across Norfolk and Suffolk,” said Mr Munson, who at a LinksEast event, promoting the region’s food and drink business ties with China.

The lunch, at Wherstead Park in Ipswich, on Wednesday, January 31, coincided with a visit to the country by prime minister Theresa May this week.

“It’s a growth area, and the LEP is very keen,” he said. “Because of its business-to-business nature, I think the general public don’t see that.”

Julian Munson, head of enterprise zones and innovation at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB Julian Munson, head of enterprise zones and innovation at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

Technology, ICT and advanced engineering is a key sector for the LEP, along with the food and drink industry, which is already a top economic performer, but one which the LEP is hoping can developed further.

It is keen on attracting inward investment by Chinese companies, using existing ties through Chinese firms already present in the region, and educational and research relationships at the University of East Anglia, and the University of Suffolk to help strengthen links.

At the moment, the region lies below the mid-line in terms of attracting inward investment, he said, London and the Cambridge to Oxford corridor being among the most attractive regions for Chinese firms.

“We want to be in the top third, and we need to be in the top third,” he said.

LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has established a base at Adastral Park in Ipswich and Chinese automotive heavyweight Geely, which has bought Lotus, is keen to promote electric vehicle technology.

“We really need to concentrate on building the relationship,” he said. “I see us as ahead of the game here in understanding the Chinese market.”

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