Building strength through a strong supply chain

Building strength through a strong supply chain

Small and medium businesses have significant impacts on value chain performance, taking the roles of suppliers, producers, distributors, and customers. The backbone of the UK economy, they drive growth, open new markets and create jobs

competition and bringing fresh ideas that challenge the norm – and in turn, incentivise others to adapt. Put simply, the contribution of small businesses is vital, and we should encourage them to thrive.

And many are. Confidence in an improving and positive economic outlook sees flourishing ambitions for growth. The road to recovery is most certainly paved with opportunity.

At NEPIC, we understand the importance of SMEs and the vital role they play in the long-term success of the region’s chemical industry. That is why the success of these businesses remains at the fore of our interest.

A very large and extensive supply chain supports the Process Industry in North East England and essentially underpins the sector. The key strengths of North East supply chain companies are their long-term competency and knowledge, combined with a real understanding of the chemical industry’s needs.

As a true supply chain cluster, NEPIC actively engages with the entire value chain and has recently witnessed an increased desire from the major manufacturing companies within the region to spend more of their budgets locally.

In 2012, the cluster set upon a path to further develop the SME community by providing the incentive to advance their businesses, in turn bringing about economic benefit and reinforcing the North East as a region of excellence and innovation. The Business Acceleration for SMEs programme was subsequently rolled out and, via the mentoring of 500 companies, generated £50 million in new sales and over 1,000 new jobs for North East small businesses.

Never happy to rest on our laurels, NEPIC is continuing this work via two further programmes – Innovate Tees Valley and SME Growth. Through Innovate Tees Valley, we are assisting companies to innovate by improving their goods and services and sharpening their business processes. And through SME Growth, we are working to give firms a competitive edge, strengthen their pitch, support exporting efforts and obtain new customers in the sector.

Accelerating growth from ideas

More specifically, Innovate Tees Valley has been established to help Teesside’s vibrant small business community achieve growth through service and product innovation. Assisted by the programme’s network of experts, NEPIC and our programme partners, are helping businesses to take their ideas forward, whilst also overcoming growth barriers to achieve success here and overseas.

Innovation remains a long-standing debate within the SME sector, however, one thing is definite – innovation is a crucial element within the SME ecosystem that is here to stay. Every SME needs to create an innovative environment to foster growth and success.

“Our knowledge of the process industry will allow us to provide intelligence and introduce companies to markets both in the Tees Valley and outside the region. The world is changing and NEPIC can help SMEs understand global challenges and opportunities in the process industry and across other sectors,” said programme lead, Joanne Rout.

Joanne, a former ICI research scientist and product development manager, added: “So far more than 50 companies have signed up with NEPIC for innovation support. Over the project’s three-year duration, NEPIC will help many SMEs with ambitions to develop new products and processes, along with these seeking better ways of doing business.

Joanne concluded: “If change is afoot in your organisation or market environment, no matter how big or small, we can support you on the way.”

Helping small businesses achieve great things

In addition to this innovation focus, NEPIC is also continuing its generic growth support via the SME Growth Programme. The programme, launched in spring 2017, supports businesses in Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland to become established suppliers within the region’s chemical processing industry.

The programme, which is a direct spin-off from NEPIC’s highly successful Business Acceleration for SMEs project, utilises the cluster’s extensive knowledge and network to mentor companies into new business.

The NEPIC project team is assisting a diverse range of SMEs operating in areas such as engineering, biotechnology, environmental, chemical, consultancies and support services, all of which can be sold into the NEPIC network of businesses.

However, this support extends beyond NEPIC’s experienced team and includes senior managers from within the Cluster’s extensive membership base, whom have all pledged their time to support the programme and mentor businesses into growth. Furthermore, our participating SMEs also benefit from a full sales and marketing training programme.

SME Growth programme manager, Philip Aldridge, said: “Industry’s message is loud and clear. They want to buy locally from a strong regional supply chain that can support a growing sector long into the future – and they are prepared to put the leg work in to achieve it. Through their support of this programme we offer invaluable knowledge and advice, coupled with direct access to an established network.

He continued: “The model is simple, yet highly effective. We work with companies to understand their business and offering. An access approach is agreed and industry mentors assigned. Once in place, companies then work with their mentors and the team at NEPIC to develop everything from positioning and pitch, right through to product placement and exporting. Companies also gain access to the Cluster’s established network of businesses and likeminded contacts.

Philip concluded: “There are no catches. This is a fully funded programme designed to arm local suppliers with the skills, approach and contacts that will enable them to play a strong role in the success of the sector and ultimately help them achieve business growth.

“We urge businesses to get in touch today, find out more and tap into this vital free support.”

For further information regarding supply chain and SME support provided by the NEPIC core team and that of the Innovate Tees Valley and SME Growth programme, please contact the office directly via 01642 442560 or visit

innovate TEES VALLEY and SME Growth via Facilitated Market Access & Energy Management are both three-year, part-funded European Regional Development Fund projects.