Reaping international awards

Sunderland's international connections continued to help boost the city in the 12 months to April 2020.

Many of the opportunities and benefits have come from working with its four formal partnerships of Washington DC in the USA, St Nazaire in France, Essen in Germany and Harbin in China.

Economic development continues to be the key driver for the city’s international engagement. At the end of March 2020, the city was home to 91 overseas-headquartered businesses, originating in 19 different territories, employing a total of 25,940 people, equivalent to 27 per cent or approximately one-in-four of all workers in Sunderland.

During the financial year 2019/20 nine projects undertaken by overseas companies brought 713 jobs and £333.7 million of capital investment to the city.

The figures are contained in the city's International Strategy Annual Report April 2019 to March 2020. It outlines dozens of economic, social and cultural areas of work works that have international connections and are benefiting the city and its residents. The report is being considered by the City Council's Cabinet at its next remote meeting on Tuesday 14 July.

But, the report notes, the arrival of COVID-19 is impacting on this year's work.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller said: "For the majority of the year, before the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt, there's excellent figures and very good news in this report to our meeting.

"We've known for many years how our city's international engagement is important for investment, job creation and wider economic development in Sunderland.

"Economic development remains one of Sunderland's top priorities and we want to encourage all companies – from our large multi-nationals to our locally-owned small and medium sized businesses - to thrive in our city.

"We have strong business and education links, as well as important cultural ties, and, as circumstances allow, we look forward to expanding these – like we have done with our new Harbin health partnership.

"Sunderland has many friends abroad and we are continuing with our aims for a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant city. Our international connections are a big part of this."

The new figure of £333m for 2019/2020 compares to £45m of capital investment and 735 jobs created by overseas companies in the financial year of 2018/2019. Significant investment has come in the Nissan supply chain and at other manufacturing projects such as Grundfos of Denmark and Snorkel.

International work during the last financial year has also seen:

* The fifth Sunderland Shorts Film Festival (May 2019), which received 168 film submissions from 15 countries, went on to see 89 films programmed across 12 screenings in a private 80-seat screening room at the Empire Cinema. It attracted an estimated audience of 720.

* Sunderland celebrating Chinese New Year with an event attended by more than 2,700 people at the Museum and Winter Gardens. The Mayor of Sunderland led celebrations to welcome the Year of the Rat and the event was supported by volunteers from Sunderland College, the University of Sunderland and police cadets.

* Sunderland and Saint-Nazaire concluding an EU-funded project on health education, with four primary schools and two secondary schools in Sunderland sharing good practice in how to teach and support health education and healthy behaviours. All four Sunderland primary schools made much greater reductions in the proportion of overweight/obese young people between the baseline (2015/16) and end data than the city average improvement (of 0.8%), with two seeing an improvement of greater than 10 per cent.

* Sunderland and Harbin cooperating to deliver a partnership health project with funding from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office British Embassy Development Fund during 2019, the 10th anniversary year of the partnership. The focus of the collaboration was a visit in November 2019 of five senior health professionals from Harbin Hospital No.1 and Harbin Health Bureau to take part in meetings with representatives from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, the City Council, Public Health and the University of Sunderland. Partners worked on themes including Digital Health and Integrated Care, and clinical themes with a particular focus on diabetes, cardiovascular and dementia treatment.

The report also outlines how:

* The University of Sunderland has 2,402 foreign students studying in the city during 2019/20 and, reflecting its international reach, has engagement with 46,919 international alumni across 200 countries.

* South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust currently has more than 300 overseas nurses, with significant workforce from the Philippines, India and Nigeria. The last visit to the Philippines resulted in 130 posts being offered, of which 70 nurses are already employed and the strong partnership with the University of Sunderland has enabled recruitment of Nigerian nurses who have been studying in the city for a top-up nursing studies degree.

* The 70th anniversary of Sunderland’s twinning partnership with Essen was marked in November 2019 with a visit from its Mayor that included meetings with residents, businesses and partners on a range of priority themes (including economic development, youth engagement, creative collaborations, and the low Carbon agenda).

During COVID-19, the City Council's Cabinet has begun meeting remotely. Meetings can be viewed on the council's Youtube channel. 


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