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Jonathan Walker's latest for The Journal


​This year seemed to get off to a particularly tough start for many people so it was brilliant our region got a much-needed boost with the news Fujifilm will be producing a Covid vaccine here.

It is a great testament to the management team, their workforce and the proud history of scientific innovation in the North East. I think it is fitting that the production site will be within a stone’s throw of the former global chemical giant ICI’s head office which was such a similar trailblazer in its day.

The news is great not just in relation to the actual vaccine itself but also the confidence boost it gives us for our economy. It makes people realise there is a route back to normality on the horizon and businesses can recover from the huge impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Safety is obviously still paramount. We have urged our members, and the whole business community, to continue to ensure the health of their staff and customers is protected and allow them to work from home wherever possible.

This is not always easy but is making a difference to the statistics which shows the Covid infection rate heading in the right direction.

Something else we need to be heading in the right direction is support for our region to level up, in relation to the rest of the country

We have written to the Chancellor ahead of his Budget announcement on 3 March to stress the importance of supporting our region.

When we went into this pandemic we were not equal with the vast majority of the rest of the country in terms of employment figures, health and the potential impact of leaving the EU.

There has to be investment in the North East to enable us to develop our potential. We want to grow businesses, enjoy great connections and trade opportunities with Europe and the world, as well as more power to make our own decisions.

The North East has been so effective at rolling out the vaccines imagine if we had the devolved authority to crack on and make a similar difference in other parts of our lives. That’s the dream. Let’s see if the Chancellor is going to make it reality.