ONE NorthEast hopes to have laid the footings for future growth in the region with the establishment of five centres of excellence.

The agency plans to turn the North-East into a world-beater in the areas of process industries, digital technology and digital media, nanotechnology and photonics, renewables and life sciences.

This work was established by the development of the Science and Industry Council for the North of England.

Boasting an influential board, its aim is to reposition the North-East on the world stage for research and development.

Steve Rankin, regional director of the CBI, said patience was needed: "Both organisations we fully support and hope they will produce results.

"It is important we are not impatient because they will only produce results in the long term."

John Irwin, president of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is fantastic for the North-East, they have done really well to get them up and running.

"The problem is actually the involvement of local businesses and trying to get central government to show we are ahead of the game.

"One NorthEast has set the framework, the future is to show they can evolve the businesses."

The regional development agency has also backed a Regional Centre for Manufacturing Excellence, to help businesses in the Region become more competitive in the longer-term and overcome manufacturing problems in the short-term.

Another development has been One NorthEast's newly-approved corporate plan for 2002-2005, which has at its heart a £638m funding package to help bring to fruition a series of world class and innovative projects across the region.

Its key themes are learning and skills, innovation and cluster development, promotion and development of productive and profitable businesses, transport, information communications technology (ICT), ecommerce and regeneration.

One NorthEast broke the RDA mould when it decided to devolve much of the spending power to the sub-regional partnerships.

By allowing partners to spend an estimated £185m during the lifespan of the corporate plan, the agency believes it will allow cash to be better targeted at local projects and communities.