Category Archives: Grants

Ken Teears SAM Project Manager

Multi-million-pound boost for North East manufacturing

MANUFACTURERS across the North East are set to receive a major boost, after one of the region’s largest investment programmes secured a further £6 million in funding.

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project (SAM) was launched in 2018 in a bid to help businesses become more productive and sustainable by supporting projects that enhance their products, processes and technology.

Since then, the programme – which was due to end in December 2020 – has proved a huge success, providing £800,000 in matched-funding – as well as practical and research support to over 200 SMEs across the region – and is set to continue supporting the sector after securing a further £6 million, taking it to June 2023.

The pioneering initiative was originally part-funded by ERDF – with a £2.6m commitment – and the University of Sunderland and industry, which invested £2.5m, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees) based in the North East LEP area, with an annual turnover of less than €50m (£45m approx.)

The project offers a range of assistance – tapping into significant academic resources, a team of industrial specialists and a number of factories with more than £1m worth of equipment – to offer both practical and research support, ensuring businesses can access a knowledge bank comprising some of the industry’s brightest brains and most advanced technology. This extension will see the Technical Research and Development team grow, to offer even greater specialist industry support to companies.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce that the project has been extended until June 2023. Over the last two years, we’ve provided funding and support to scores of businesses and have witnessed first-hand the impact this has had, from safeguarding and creating jobs to transforming entire production lines.

“Since the pandemic hit the UK in March, the impact it has had on the nation’s manufacturing sector has been catastrophic. However, it has provided opportunities such as re-shoring and bringing back in-house previously sub-contracted works, as well as business diversification. Now, more than ever, manufacturers need our support and this funding boost will go a long way to helping many of the region’s SMEs adapt and grow as we look to get through this crisis and keep Britain’s economy moving.”

In phase 1, SAM provided matched-funded grants of up to £50,000 to SMEs across the North East LEP area for capital, product validation, equipment and other financial inhibitors to drive the strategic development of both product and process. This will continue in phase two, with an additional £1Million being put into the grant pot, together with some tweaks to the intervention rates (now at 25% in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and 35% in County Durham).

Teears added: “This latest expansion means the project is now fully-funded until June 2023, however we can’t recommend early engagement enough. Our fully funded technical research and development support and grant fund are seeing a strong increase in interest as companies look to diversify, adapt and innovate. We have moved to monthly grant panels as we foresee the additional £1 million being very popular.

“If you’re an SME manufacturer, then the engineers, researchers, grants and access to capital are here to help you adapt to the inevitable process changes facing us post-pandemic and help take your business to the next level.

“Programmes like this are pivotal to ensuring the North East continues to lead the way in product, process and technology innovation – and we can’t stress enough how important it is that manufacturers get on board.”

AGMA Family owned business

Capital investment pays off as AGMA helps clean up

A FAMILY-OWNED manufacturer of cleaning and hygiene solutions has revealed how major investment in new machinery helped it step up to the fight against Coronavirus.

AGMA Ltd, based in the rural town of Haltwhistle, Northumberland, designs and manufactures sterile and non-sterile cleaning and biocidal products, which it exports to customers in over 30 different countries.

Serving a broad range of industries – from the NHS to major global blue-chip pharmaceutical, biotechnology and oil companies – the company, like most others in its sector, saw its order book swell during the Coronavirus outbreak, with production lines running at full capacity while staff adhered to social distancing measures.

However, despite growing demand from its client base during what has been an incredibly testing period for the industry, the company was still able to join the global fight against Covid-19, thanks to grant funding and expert advice from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

The support helped AGMA – a Royal Warrant holder – identify areas of the business that could be improved through automation – such as the production of its triggered sprays – and invest in the machinery required to automate the process, safeguarding 30 jobs while increasing output, reducing lead-times and increasing sales.

John Taylor, finance director at AGMA Ltd, said: “Our sanitisers and hand gels have become extremely popular both abroad and domestically over recent months due to the pandemic. However, as a family company that is deep-rooted in Haltwhistle, we’ve continued to stand-by our commitment to give back to the community that’s served us incredibly well over 52 years, by continuing to donate products locally. We also supply the NHS and various other organisations – while fulfilling orders for clients.

“This would not have been possible had it not been for the support we received from the SAM Project last year. The funding and support was crucial to help us understand how automation can benefit our business and allow us to invest in new machinery, introduce new procedures and make us more competitive, while reducing production costs, expanding into new areas and safeguarding jobs.

“As a company, the majority of our competitors are multi-global organisations that – for the past 50 years – we’ve had to really punch above our weight to compete with. This support has allowed us to tap into R&D expertise, previously out of reach, and invest in state-of-the-art machinery that will help us compete for years to come. We can’t thank the team enough for all of its support.”

Having seen output double and a significant rise in sales over the last 2-3 years, AGMA is now looking to the future as it continues investing in new machinery and processes, as well as ramping up its R&D activity as it uses its increased manpower to brings new innovations to market.

John added: “Looking forward, we’re hoping to continue growing and exploring how we can continue to embrace new technologies. The support from SAM has really opened our eyes to the potential of industry 4.0 and how processes such as automation can help us grow as a business, and we’re aiming to continue investing in new technologies as a result of this over the next 12 months.

“As an export nation, our manufacturing sector is vital to our economic success and projects such as SAM will play a pivotal role if manufacturing companies such as AGMA are to continue competing on the global stage long into the future.”

SAM offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “The SAM Project was launched in a bid to help manufacturers in the North East LEP area lead the way in product, process and technology innovation – and AGMA Ltd is a perfect example of this in action.

“The company is a fantastic case study of how manufacturers can innovate and grow by embracing new technologies and processes. Not only has investing in automation helped the company increase output and sales but it has also helped safeguard 30 jobs and maximise the potential of its workforce.

“However, the support on offer from SAM is only available for a limited time, therefore I’d recommend any SME manufacturer in the North East LEP area that has plans to grow over the next few months, or that is having to adapt due to the pandemic, to get in contact with us to find out if they’re eligible to tap into the support on offer.”

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing is a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and University of Sunderland, that was set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes.  It was funded with a £2.6m commitment from ERDF and £2.5m from the University of Sunderland, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees), with an annual turnover of less than €50m (£45m approx.)

Grant support helps sustain growth for Vixen

A NORTH East manufacturer of industrial cleaning machinery and equipment has revealed how a business support programme helped it through the pandemic and prepare for life post-Coronavirus.

Founded in 1990 by managing director Aidan Mallon, Thornaby-based Vixen Surface Treatments is a market leader in the production of wet and dry blast cleaning cabinets, degreasing machines and phosphating equipment.

Manufacturing both off-the-shelf and bespoke machinery, the company exports 40% of its products overseas to customers in the nuclear, engineering, healthcare, automotive and aerospace industries, meaning it is often required to maintain close and constant dialogue with clients.

Thanks to a capital expenditure grant obtained last year from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project – which offers a range of support to the region’s SME manufacturing businesses – Aidan and the team were able to mitigate the impact of social distancing and travel bans throughout the pandemic, by purchasing state-of-the-art 3D CAD visualisation software.

The installation of ‘Solidworks’ software means Vixen is able to provide 3D demonstrations of its products to clients, allowing them to visualise how products will look and work once complete.

Aidan said: “As a manufacturer you must explore every avenue possible to grow your business, be it investing in new equipment or tapping into expertise and funding – and business support from organisations such as SAM is vital to helping SMEs move forward.

“We’d just extended our factory prior to approaching SAM and wanted to move into Solidworks. The grant helped us secure the funding needed to do that and accelerated our growth, helping us gain a competitive advantage by massively increasing the quality of service we’re able to offer clients.”

Vixen began producing 3D virtualisations just under a year ago and it has already enabled the company to secure a major export order from a German aerospace business, as well as helping keep its order book filled during the pandemic, which brought manufacturing supply chains to a halt across the globe.

“The first project we completed after the investment saw us test the Solidworks software on a live project that we won,” he added. “It was a €500,000 export order from a German aerospace company and I genuinely believe we wouldn’t have won that contract without including it in our offer. It really adds credibility and professionalism to our proposals.

“It also helped us share up-to date designs and updates with clients during the pandemic, meaning we could still fulfil orders despite travel bans. That’s not to say we weren’t impacted by the pandemic – as we were functioning with just 25% of our workforce at one stage – but it certainly helped us to continue operating and servicing clients.

“We’re now have almost everyone back at work and the continuity of interest means our order book remains heavy. Now, looking to the future, we’re confident that we can continue building on this.”

SAM offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “Vixen Surface Technologies is a fine example of how visualisation through 3D technologies such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM)can help businesses innovate and grow, even during the most challenging of conditions.

“Millions of manufacturers across the world are reeling from this crisis and wondering how they can improve business continuity strategies in the event of such disasters going forward. Technologies such as Solidworks and other CAD, CAM that can also be pulled into Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will play a huge role in helping businesses minimise downtime in the future. It’s been a pleasure working with Aidan and the team and we’re excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Image shows: Aidan Mallon, managing director of Thornaby-based Vixen Surface Treatments.

Manufacturers continue to invest in innovation during UK lockdown

MORE THAN a dozen North East manufacturers have been supported with funding to enable them to innovate during the UK lockdown.

Small and medium sized manufacturing and engineering businesses from across the region have been backed in their plans to pivot during the COVID-19 crisis by the University of Sunderland and ERDF-backed Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project (SAM), which exists to support the development of the sector in the North East LEP area.

Thirteen businesses – including three who used the funding to enable them to adapt to supply vital PPE in the COVID-19 battle – have been successful in accessing financial assistance since March, allowing them to adapt their business in order to grow.

Projects including manufacturers purchasing equipment to bring previously sub-contracted work in-house, purchasing new equipment, adapting production to enable workers to return from furlough and work safely at a distance, and companies piloting cobotics technology as a means to supporting safer social distancing, have all been part-funded by SAM, which offers businesses grants and a range of support to assist with introducing new technology to improve products or processes.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “It’s been encouraging to see that – despite the challenges the UK manufacturing sector has faced – many businesses have been looking to innovate, and find new ways to emerge from this crisis on the front foot.

“We were absolutely determined that – despite not being able to get the panel physically together to assess applications – we would get together virtually to keep the support flowing when it is so sorely needed.”

The SAM Project provided circa £100,000 in grant support to the businesses that applied, running virtual grant panel meetings every two weeks to ensure that much-needed assistance continued to reach businesses looking to bounce back from the pandemic.

“There was a fear that businesses would retreat during the pandemic, and perhaps wouldn’t be minded to save rather than investing in the future, but the fact that we have approved and paid out applications from businesses that have invested in new technology to drive the growth of their business in the long-term and adapt their company to be more resilient to any future impact of the pandemic, demonstrates that there is still a real focus and drive among the region’s manufacturers.”

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing is a £5.1m project to support the implementation of product and process development, and the introduction of technology to the SME manufacturing sector, in the North East LEP area. The project has received £2.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the University of Sunderland, who are investing £2.5m and managing the delivery of this project.  It is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees), with an annual turnover of less than €50m (c.£45m)

The project offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.


 

 

 

RDS Engineering receive grant

North East firm turns weeks into days with new kit

A WEARSIDE engineering firm has trimmed weeks from delivery times, thanks to support from an elite team of manufacturing experts.

RDS Engineering is turning weeks into days and days into minutes, thanks to state-of-the-art scanning equipment, purchased with the assistance of the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

SAM, which offers a range of support to SME manufacturing businesses in the North East LEP area, also supported the Washington firm via a production planning and workflow management workshop, to help iron out any kinks in RDS Engineering’s internal processes.

RDS managing director, Rob Bone, backed the SAM Project as a vital weapon in the armoury to combat the impact of the COVID19 pandemic has had on manufacturing businesses.

“There are businesses that are going to need all the support available to them as we emerge from lockdown and begin the process of restoring normality,” said Rob. “Projects like SAM are essential to help firms, like ours, take that next step and begin operating on another level.

“We probably would not have been in a position to invest in the new scanning equipment if it weren’t for the support of the SAM Project. However, having done so, and gained new knowledge and understanding via the workshop, we have massively reduced our inspection timescale – in most cases turning weeks into days, which has been a huge manhours saving for the business.”

As well as the new scanner, SAM helped fund a new Hwacheon Vesta 1000+ vertical CNC machine, which has been installed at RDS Engineering’s Washingto HQ.

Established in 1991 by Rob and David Bone, RDS Engineering is an independent supplier of precision engineered components and tooling. Having established a reputation for rapid response and high-quality products to the oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and defence, medical and power generation sectors, the company has set its sights on the pharmaceutical and rail sectors as potential growth areas.

Jess Houston, RDS Engineering office manager, added: “Like every business, our immediate priority is making sure we emerge from the pandemic in a positive way and see no reason that, with the speed we can now accomplish inspection, we can’t expand into new sectors to win business.”

SAM offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “RDS Engineering is a prime example of a company operating successfully in a sector in which our region has particular traditional strengths. However, what sets them apart from many is the desire to drive forward progress and keep improving and streamlining its processes.

“As we look beyond the economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, we want businesses to know that we are here for them – ready, willing and able to lend our support to the major effort required to get the UK economy back on its feet and moving in the right direction.”

As well as its comprehensive suite of support, the SAM Project also launched an adapted grant scheme to help SME manufacturers looking to pivot during the pandemic, and the organisation is urging eligible businesses to apply for funding before time runs out.

The fund provides support to companies that have had to diversify or adapt in order to stay in business and operational during and after COVID-19, with match funding grants of up to £10,000 available, as well as its normal funding stream to support businesses looking to diversify, or improve products and processes in order to grow.

Applications can be for new capital equipment or external expertise – excluding working capital, salaries, rent or rates – to help their company survive, adapt and sustain themselves through and after the crisis. Companies looking to innovate and grow are still encouraged to apply even if their capital investment is not specifically as a result of COVID-19.

This could include buying capital kit to help diversify income, bringing outsourced processes and parts manufacture in-house, such as re-shoring parts made overseas to safeguard supply chains, improvements required in manufacturing operations as a result of social distancing measures and government guidelines, or any manufacturing and production specific capital investment to help the company diversify, stay afloat or take advantage of changes in market conditions. Grants are offered at a 50% rate in County Durham and 40% rate in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. The current grant fund ends in September 2020.

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing is a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and University of Sunderland, that was set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes. It was funded with a £2.6m commitment from ERDF and £2.5m from the University of Sunderland, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees), with an annual turnover of less than €50m (£45m approx.)

To find out more about SAM, visit www.samprojectuos.co.uk or contact sam.project@sunderland.ac.uk

Images: Jess Houston, RDS Engineering office manager and Rob Bone, RDS Engineering managing director.