£89,000 grant helps Norfran future-proof for exponential growth

New machinery purchased with the support of the North of Tyne Growth Fund is driving efficiencies and attracting more work for diecasting foundry and machine shop, Norfran.

Looking for additional capital funding to help the business continue its growth, Norfran’s General Manager Mark Smith and Company Accountant Karl Walker were referred by a contact at their local council to the North of Tyne Growth Fund, a £4.6m investment programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supported by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA).

Serving blue chip companies within the electronic and white goods industry, Norfran’s £89,000 grant has part-funded a machining centre and diecasting machine that has recently helped the company win work with a major industrial goods manufacturer.

“To fund the capital outlay was a considerable amount of money, so the North of Tyne Growth Fund helped us make the project more viable,” Mark explains. “It has allowed us to be more flexible and automated, so we’re future-proofing Norfran.”

The investment is also driving efficiencies in the North Shields-based business, increasing capacity and upskilling the workforce.

With international supply chains at increased risk due to world events, Norfran is poised to strengthen its market position in its existing sectors of automotive, streetlights, white goods, electronic and industrial parts, in the UK and abroad.

Mark explains that around 30% of Norfran’s products are exported. The efficiencies could prove crucial to the company’s future growth, enabling it to compete on the world stage.

“The investment is allowing us to compete on cost with Eastern European and Chinese sources,” Mark says. “Everyone is starting to look at areas of risk with what is happening in Ukraine and with the Shanghai lockdowns, which is a massive manufacturing hub. We are seeing people bringing work back in from China.”

Despite the labour-saving efficiencies, the company’s growth has led to the creation of 14 new jobs.

For other companies thinking about making capital investments to help grow their business in the long-term, Karl recommends speaking with the the North of Tyne Growth Fund team, which draws on the expertise of UMi project advisers and UNW LLP, a Newcastle-based chartered accountancy and business advisory firm, to guide applicants through the grant process.

“I fully recommend working with the team, the paperwork requirements are quite considerable – however, these are relatively straightforward to complete,” Karl says. “I was guided through the process efficiently and received expert advice when required.”

He continues: “Receiving the funding went without fault and all funds were received when expected without any complications.”

“My advice to others considering applying for the fund is to ensure that your project has a clear objective, is well planned and executed to ensure all elements run smoothly throughout the application process.

“I would strongly encourage any company to get in touch and look at any kind of help made available to them – especially in the current climate.”

Metro Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “Small businesses like Norfran are the backbone of our local economy. Yet, too often, the deck is stacked in favour of corporate behemoths. That’s why we set up the North of Tyne Growth Fund, to help small and medium-sized enterprises, across our region, to grow and create jobs. It’s great to see companies such as Norfran thrive with support from North of Tyne funding.”

Mike Baker, Senior Project Manager of the North of Tyne Growth Fund, added: “Norfran exemplifies UK manufacturing at its finest – embracing innovation and with a healthy appetite for growth. We invite companies that have similar ambitions to get in touch to see how we can support your capital investment projects.”

Neville Bearpark, Head of Grant Services at UNW LLP, said: “We are delighted to have helped deliver the grant funding for Norfran. This investment has allowed them to buy new machinery, which in turn has brought more work and continued their impressive growth. It’s great to see a business setting up for the future and creating new jobs in the process.”