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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Coreena Ford

North East deals of the week: key contracts, investments and acquisitions

North Tyneside offshore specialist Kinewell Energy has signed a long-term global contract with Equinor for the use of its pioneering software.

The North Shields company’s KLOC (Kinewell layout optimisation of cable) software designs economically optimised inter-array layouts for offshore wind farms, playing ‘dot-to-dot’ to find the most cost-effective way of linking up turbines with cable to collect the energy generated. Kinewell, launched by Dr Andrew Jenkins in 2015, has collaborated with energy giant Equinor since its inception on a number of demonstration projects, working with teams in the UK, US and South Korea.

The North Shields company provided commercial consultancy services to optimise the cable layout of Equinor’s Beacon offshore wind project near Massachusetts, US, which will provide power to New York state. Now Kinewell’s KLOC system will be made available to Equinor in-house to support its worldwide offshore wind development pipeline.

Read more: North East business life - charity, community and award events

The partnership will also enable Equinor to use Kinewell’s recently launched Heatmap modules, which enable developers to improve the seabed surveying process during the planning phase of offshore wind farms, saving significant time and money. Kinewell Energy now employs 10 people in the region, whose jobs will be supported by this new contract.

Dr Jenkins, CEO and founder of Kinewell Energy, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have entered into this global partnership with Equinor, which will enable our software solutions to be deployed on major offshore developments the world-over.

The Port of Tyne has signed a new 10-year contract with European Metals Recycling (EMR) (Port of Tyne)

A growing metals recycling company signed a new 10 year deal with the Port of Tyne to anchor the business in the North East.

European Metals Recycling (EMR) is a global leader in sustainable material with sites around the country, including its South Tyneside base, and it has been a key customer of the Port for the past 25 years. EMR has invested more than £1m into its Port of Tyne facility in South Shields, where it employs around 30 transport, operational, and commercial staff. The company plans to develop the site further to provide greater operational flexibility to manage global challenges.

It said the new 10 year agreement anchors the business in the region, driving growth for its own business and the broader regional supply chain. The contract will significantly increase the annual tonnage of ferrous and non-ferrous metals processed and shipped from the port to several global locations for reuse.

Matt Beeton, CEO of the Port of Tyne, said: “It’s great to embark on a new chapter with a leading industry player in recyclable materials like EMR. The company’s market-leading position on sustainability issues, alongside its important role in the circular economy in support of the region’s growth industries like renewable energy, automotive and electric vehicles, is aligned with our business and ESG strategies as we look to grow our clean energy cluster.”

The Magnitude Biosciences team (Magnitude Biosciences)

A North East biotech company that spun out of Durham University has sealed a six-figure funding deal to ramp up its work.

Magnitude Biosciences Ltd, based at NETPark in Sedgefield, uses nematode worms as a faster and cheaper way to carry out early pre-clinical drug development and academic research. The company, which was founded in 2018 by biosciences expert Dr David Weinkove and physicist Dr Christopher Saunters, has now secured £500,000 to accelerate its research, which could slow ageing or treat age-related diseases.

It has secured a Future Economy Investor Partnerships grant of nearly £250,000 from Innovate UK, which will be matched by an investment from the North East (ERDF) Innovation Fund Limited Partnership, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Northstar Ventures Limited.

The North East (ERDF) Innovation Fund Limited Partnership is currently an investor in Magnitude Biosciences, having closed a fourth round of investment to accelerate the scaling of its business last November in response to rapidly growing customer demand for its services.

Port of Tyne has received the commitment from the UK Infrastructure Bank (Port of Tyne)

The Port of Tyne secured a £50m boost from the UK Infrastructure Bank to power its expansion and regeneration plans.

The finance deal from the bank – which is wholly owned by HM Treasury but operationally independent from Government – will enable regeneration and redevelopment of land at the port that will provide a base for the growing number of companies in green industries in the area, including offshore wind.

The port’s CEO Matt Beeton said the projects will help it move towards a cleaner and greener future, while also ensuring the 12,000 jobs it provides can continue to be supported. He said: “The Port of Tyne is the catalyst for the North East’s green economy and essential in supporting the UK in the green energy and the automotive transition. This investment will help us accelerate our internationally ambitious plans to ensure the port, the region and the UK have a firm foothold in these critical markets for generations to come.”

Dr Arnab Basu, chief executive of Kromek (handout from Recognition PR)

Radiation tech firm Kromek sealed a $1.5m deal in the civil nuclear market.

The Sedgefield business has been awarded the contract to supply a new product for civil nuclear applications by one of the group’s distribution partners in Asia, and it will supply three new end customers in the region over the next 15 months.

The firm has outlined to shareholders how more importantly the deal represents an order for a new product, based on the group’s existing technology, with the development of the product having been funded by the distribution partner. The product is designed for applications including the detection, identification and analysis of radiological sources.

Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek Group, said: “It is great to have received our first order for this new product line as we commence the commercialisation phase. It reflects the strength of our business model as another example of customer-funded development work transitioning to a product delivery phase. It is also indicative of the increasing interest that we are receiving in our CZT-based technology in the fast-growing Asian markets. We look forward to receiving additional orders for this product line and continuing to expand our reach in Asia.”

From left: David Nixon of Maven, Cllr James Rowlandson of Durham Council, Michael Vassallo of Maven, Peter Rippingale of Business Durham and Michael Dickens of Maven. (Maven)

Investment firm Maven Capital Partners secured a new contract to continue managing the £20m Finance Durham Fund for Business Durham. It marks a continuation for the fund manager, which was originally appointed by Business Durham, Durham County Council's business support organisation, in 2017. Maven says it has already Maven invested more than £12.5m and raised an additional £65 million in private sector leverage.

Investees include County Durham's Roman Shower which secured £1.5m funding from Maven to purchase new machinery and materials to meet its growing customer demand and Dyer Engineering, which expanded its market reach and created new jobs on the back of support. The Fund has also backed solar innovator Power Roll's growth the forthcoming expansion of chip manufacturer Pragmatic Semiconductor.

Michael Dickens, investment manager at Maven, said: “Maven is thrilled to extend its long-standing commitment to County Durham and the North East and to continue working with Business Durham and Durham County Council in attracting and retaining leading businesses to the region. We now have one of the most active investment teams across County Durham and reaching our recent £12.5m funding milestone is a testament to the appetite for investment in the North East.

"We are proud to have backed so many ambitious, growth-focused companies in 2022 and look forward to engaging with many more businesses in need of growth funding, to see how we can support.”

LightOx's CEO Sam Whitehouse (right), said the process to secure the Innovate UK funding was rigorous. (LightOx)

A North East firm pioneering new treatments for early stage mouth cancers secured a £1.1m grant from Innovate UK to bring its drugs to patients.

Newcastle-based LightOx has developed a drug it calls LXD191 which is applied to cancerous legions inside the mouth. When light is applied to the drug it causes toxicity, killing off cells in a way the firm says gives clinicians more control over the impact of chemotherapy. It can also reduce the effects on nearby healthy tissue.

LightOx will now work with Liverpool Head and Neck Centre, University of Liverpool - Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to finalise the drug formulation and clinical trial plans in a bid to ready the drugs for patients. The funding will be used to deliver a "chair-side" treatment for patients which the firm says is a minimally invasive alternative to surgery.

Dr Sam Whitehouse, chief executive officer of LightOx Ltd, said: "We are delighted to have been successful in winning the Biomedical Catalyst grant from Innovate UK. This scheme is hugely competitive, and we have been through rigorous peer review and interviews over the last year in order to secure the funding. Our technologies, manufacturing processes, route to market and commercial development plans have all been scrutinised through the scheme and we are delighted that Innovate UK and the reviewers agree with our strategies.

"We feel that this is a great endorsement of LightOx’s world-class research in the area, and our plans to help oral cancer sufferers using new drugs and techniques. This is the next step in our journey to the wide-scale treatment of the disease where there is currently no medical intervention other than surgery.”


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