A ground-breaking initiative led by Teesside University has helped hundreds of businesses in the Tees Valley to unlock their potential and innovate and grow.

Grow Tees Valley worked with ambitious small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to support them to improve or develop a product, embed a new service within their organisation or enter new markets.

The programme, which was funded by the European Regional Development Fund, was launched in 2019 and since then has worked with more than 250 companies through a variety of different interventions.

These included:

Growth Spark: a scheme to support companies with up to 50% of the costs associated with procuring expertise and specialist equipment to develop ideas, products and services

Growth Associate Programme: providing up to 50% of the cost of a graduate to implement a specific project or initiative

Leadership Forge:  Helping business leaders enhance their leadership skills to help their company and people grow.

The programme has been deemed an overwhelming success, working with 257 companies, against an original target of 206.

Highlights of the programme include:

  • Grants totalling more than £1.2m awarded to 122 SMEs (original target 106)
  • Private investment into SMEs totalling almost £1.275m (original target £1.18m)
  • 175 new jobs created (original target 95)
  • 143 new products or services created (original target 100)

A special event held at Wynyard Hall to mark the conclusion of the programme and celebrate its successes saw approximately 50 business and community leaders share their experience of the Grow Tees Valley programme.

Stephen Southern, Managing Director of Southern Asset Management, was supported with a Growth Spark Voucher to help it purchase new technology for its construction machinery.

He said: “The best thing for me was getting the right advice from the right people.

“I knew where I wanted to be with my business, but I didn’t know what I needed to get there and Grow Tees Valley has been a massive benefit in that respect.

“It’s enabled us to grow massively, and we’ve now secured contracts which will keep the company secure for the next five to seven years.”

MCD Systems was supported through the Growth Associate Programme to part-fund a graduate to help it develop its new hospitality software.

Lyle McCalmont, the managing director, said: “Trying to grow a new business can be difficult when you’re having to cope with the daily grind.

GrowTeesValley - Lyle McCalmont

“So having Teesside University as a central hub to bring people together and help us through it was extremely helpful, and we wouldn’t be where we are with its support.”

Sophie Bishop, Deputy CEO of Going for Independence CIC, and James Hopper, CEO of TeesstrHive CIC, were supported through the six-month Leading Growth programme.

Both joined the programme to learn and share knowledge with likeminded peers. Although they live in the same area, they had never connected through their businesses.

Since joining the programme, and beyond, they have supported each other’s businesses and Sophie, through her experience, has helped James and his team build robust internal processes to assist with the business growth.

James said: “Meeting the team behind the Leading Growth programme and the support from peers who also attended made a huge difference to how TeesstrHive CIC looked at many aspects of its delivery and understanding of the market.

“We made some long-term relationships that have been beneficial to both the business and on a personal level.”

Suhail Aslam, the Grow Tees Valley Project Director, said: “We are delighted that Grow Tees Valley has made such an impact on the business landscape of this region.

GrowTeesValley - Suhail Aslam

“It was incredibly rewarding to hear how the programme has been able to support so many ambitious businesses realise their potential, and I shall look forward to watching their continued success.”

More information about business support at Teesside University: www.tees.ac.uk/business