Automotive Cluster CEO recognised as Innovation Champion of the Year

Share this post


Paul Butler, the CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, has been recognised as the Innovation Champion of the Year at the recent North East Innovation Awards.

Organised by Innovation SuperNetwork, the competition to find the region’s most innovative companies and people took place at VentureFest North East, the annual celebration of regional innovation which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023.

Paul, who was named the region’s innovation champion, was praised for his “passion for regional development” and his motivation for “improving the societal and economic factors impacting people in the region”.

Paul recognises the importance of innovation and, until recently, spearheaded the NEAA’s innovation working groups, focusing on electrification and manufacturing process innovation. Paul has been an active participant in a number of Industry 4.0 groups, including Digital 4 Industry, Made Smarter Smart Factory and Connected Supply Chain, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and the Tees Valley Combined Authority Made Smarter Adoption programme.

Paul has been central to several key innovation initiatives for the region, including:

  • The Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (CESAM). Born out of discussions at an NEAA event in Westminster in 2015, Paul led the development of the plans to create a hub for next generation manufacturing innovation.
  • Through his understanding of industry needs Paul led the £4.9m 5G Create funded project, 5G Connected & Automated Logistics (CAL), which successfully provided a proof of concept for a fully autonomous automated 40 tonne truck operating between Vantec and Nissan.
  • Paul led the consortia bid for the recently announced £8.1m V-CAL project, which secured £4 million from the government’s £42 million Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) competition through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), to commercialise the CAL technologies developed under the 5GCAL project.
  • Paul has led discussions on creating the National Innovation Centre for Connected and Autonomous Logistics (NICCAL). Building upon the two CAL projects and capitalising on key regional assets to create a national innovation centre which, if successful, will become part of the CAM Testbed UK, creating a globally significant centre to support the design, development and testing of CAL technologies.

Graeme Miller, head of innovation at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “Paul has been a formidable champion of innovation in the region for many years. His high-standing, and the impact his passion for innovation has had on not just the automotive sector directly, but those operating through the supply chain here in the North East, is testament to his ongoing commitment to supporting regional businesses.”

Paul Butler said “I’m overwhelmed to be recognised by this award. Innovation is an extremely important part of the NEAA work. As a sector we must continually seek to innovate to improve. It’s been a pleasure to be involved in many exciting initiatives across the North East, UK and Europe but innovation is at the heart of the NEAA too.

“There are some exciting times ahead and I look forward to continuing to champion innovation in order to ensure the North East automotive sector remains a beacon of automotive productivity and at the forefront of the design and development of new automotive technologies and manufacturing processes.”

VentureFest North East is organised by the Innovation SuperNetwork as part of the Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters Project 2021-2023, part-funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).