Businesses in the North West’s chemical sector and related industries are being encouraged to bid for a share of the £7.5 million Catalyst for Growth Fund.

This multi-million pound scheme – financed through the fourth round of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) and led by the University of Chester – is stimulating business growth and job creation by helping companies with capital investment in buildings, plant and equipment, and production operations.

To date, 24 companies in the region are already benefitting from a £3.2m share, and a further £2.7 million is set to be awarded in the coming weeks.

With up to £1.6 million still available, eligible private sector companies can apply for grant funding from £5,000 up to £500,000.

Amongst those companies already making the most of the support from the scheme is Cheshire-based ESL Fuels, which was awarded a grant of £199,200 towards costs associated with creating a hydrocarbon recovery plant at its Stanlow Oil Terminal in Ellesmere Port.

A blender and supplier specialising in the manufacture of innovative fuel products, ESL Fuels currently provides a full range of fuels developed specifically for the road, heating, heavy duty haulage and marine markets. It also offers storage and processing solutions.

Phillip McEvoy, Terminal Manager, explained: “The Catalyst for Growth Fund is allowing us to refurbish 15 bulk storage tanks and add a distillation unit and filtration plant so that we can use ‘off spec’ oil from UK refineries to create new fuels.

“This type of refining process will enable our business to manufacture fuel at a lower cost, without compromising quality and will help us to use the Stanlow Terminal to its full capacity, providing further opportunity for business growth and development.”

Manchester-based Hockley International Ltd has also been awarded a £31,192 grant towards the purchase and implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the appropriate staff training.

Tommy Gill, Director of Commercial Operations, said: “The company has grown significantly over the past few years, now employing 20 people. In order to develop, the company needs to implement an ERP system to help manage efficiency and productivity, safeguarding the business for the future. This funding support has enabled us to bring forward the implementation of this system and continue to grow the business.”

Also benefitting from the funding is Knowsley-based UK Renewable Fuels (UKRF) which has received a £287,000 grant towards design and construction of a £1m liquid bio-fuel production plant. Using a new and innovative process developed by UKRF, this new plant will produce bio-fuel for the commercial heating boiler market.

John Neild, Managing Director, was delighted to hear that his application was successful.

He said: “Without the funding we would not be able to proceed on this project in the short or medium term. The installation of the new facility will secure the future of the company, and create 14 new jobs over the coming months.”

As the scheme continues to process and approve a steady stream of applications, Catalyst for Growth Scheme Manager, Janet Morris, is urging eligible companies to apply for a share of the remaining funding.

She said: “Current applications already in the pipeline are set to bring the total figure awarded to £5.9 million, meaning there is still a healthy £1.6 million available.

“We want to ensure that this money remains in the region for the benefit of the chemical sector and its related industries, and I would encourage interested companies to visit our website at or email for information on how to apply and deadlines for application.”