Interim Evaluation of the North East Strategic Economic Plan
The North East Strategic Economic Plan was developed to provide the roadmap to a more productive, inclusive, and sustainable North East economy, framed around five critical programmes of delivery – business growth; innovation; investment and infrastructure, skills, employability, inclusion and progression; and transport connectivity. The SEP also establishes ambitious targets for levelling up the regional economy alongside key performance indicators for measuring progress.
The North East LEP commissioned Steer-ED to carry out an interim evaluation of the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) to assess the progress made to date in delivering its objectives. In addition, the evaluation included an assessment of the LEP’s own role in championing SEP delivery. Over a three-year period (June 2018 to October 2021), Steer-ED worked closely with every team in the North East LEP, as well as its extensive network of stakeholders and partners.
The evaluation deployed a mix of recognised evaluation methods – including logic model development, evidence and monitoring data review, additionality and value for money analysis, and qualitative methods including case studies, consultation and workshops and an assessment of Strategic Added Value.
The case studies covered key activities, including:
- Infrastructure – Enterprise Zone programmes, including the offshore renewables cluster at Blythe Estuary and the automotive cluster around Nissan at IAMP;
- Skills – the evolution of the Gatsby education and skills pilot;
- Innovation - Scale-Up North East, Innovation SuperNetworks and the Incubator Support Fund; and
- Business support – North East Growth Hub’s response to COVID-19
The interim evaluation has provided an assessment of progress in delivering SEP objectives, identifying areas where delivery is on track, behind or ahead of schedule. It highlights strong performance against job creation (including ‘better’ job targets) and progress in reducing the employment gap and the economic activity gap, but also the persistent challenges around the increasing gap in productivity per worker.
Moving forwards, the evaluation recommends where resources must be prioritised in order to deliver against programme-level and SEP targets. Working closely with senior officers, the process was designed to build evaluation capacity and capabilities within the LEP team which will ensure that data, evidence and evaluation continue to be developed and embedded across all areas of its work, leading up to the final evaluation of the Strategic Economic Plan in 2025.