Stan Higgins, chief executive of the Wilton Centre-based North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), provides his own epic list of local businesses Teesside should be truly proud of…
When asked by Tees Business to write about “Teesside Companies that the world should know about”, my initial list quickly grew until I had 11 that had to be included. It seems fitting that, as football’s transfer window closes, I list a football team’s worth of 11 great Tees businesses we should be proud represent us on the world stage.
Whilst considering my list, I asked colleagues and friends which companies they would nominate. The conversation would invariably go along the lines of: “You know that company that does so and so…” and I would reply “Oh yes! I had forgotten about them…” or “Is somebody really doing that from here on our doorstep?”
Even for someone who has written more than 200 business articles for magazines around the world, compiling this list has been something of an adventure and an education.
So here, in no particular, are my 11 Teesside companies the world should know about:
1 CatalySystems. Based in Middlesbrough and having grown up here on Teesside, CatalySystems is a company that has developed new technology to purify water with challenging contaminates, cost-effectively reducing TOC and COD, as well as treating pathogens, bacteria and viruses. Their technology is now being implemented around the world and NEPIC is proud to have helped them in a small way. As their CEO Irene Alcroft pointed out: “CatalySystems have undertaken two market visits under the leadership of NEPIC. Both have been focused and to the point regarding real business opportunities with the right level of contacts. Making the connections so early on with key decision-makers has been beneficial for us, opening up contacts which, we as a company would have found difficult to penetrate in the same timeframe.”
2 Water treatment definitely has significant undercurrents in our region, and Biochemica of Billingham has grown to specialise in water and wastewater treatment services such as boiler water, cooling water and heating systems to prevent corrosion and control diseases such as legionella. They operate nationwide from Teesside, providing a bespoke and comprehensive water treatment services.
3 Exwold Technology is another success story with two manufacturing facilities in Haverton Hill and Hartlepool. They are contract manufacturers, specialising in particle technologies. Many other companies use their expertise in granule production, powder processing, particle size reduction, liquid formulations and specialised packaging.
4 Fujifilm Dyosynth Technologies seems like a right mouthful but behind this facade is a fascinating hi-tech business that was born in Billingham. It operates world class bioprocessing facilities from there. The firm has developed from its early days as Avecia, then briefly as a division of pharmaceutical giant MSD, before it was taken over by Japanese company Fujifilm. The company now has product, process development and manufacturing sites in Billingham, North Carolina and Texas, employing over 1,000 staff – more than half of them here on Teesside.
5 & 6 Everyone appreciates that modern medical research is moving at an ever increasing pace, with important new discoveries announced on what feels like a weekly basis. This is down to the capabilities of medical researchers, who themselves rely on expert suppliers. Antibodies are essential tools in many of the laboratory techniques and in diagnostic and therapeutic products. They are vital to answer basic medical and biotechnology research questions. Here on Teesside we have TWO outstanding companies that provide them in commercial quantities to leading research centres. Cambridge Research Biologics in Billingham and Absolute Antibody of Wilton have both become highly regarded suppliers to the world’s researchers.
7 From high end research to more basic but equally important services – waste management. In Darlington we have Total Recycling Services who provide a total waste management service, focusing on recycling and hazardous waste recovery for the commercial and industrial sectors. The company recycles large quantities materials including papers, metals, cardboard, plastics and drums. They recently won a £6.7m Business Growth Fund (BGF) investment to accelerate their growth and explore new opportunities to further expand operations.
8 The oil and gas industry all over the world relies on products and services of Teesside-based Tracerco, part of FTSE 100 company Johnson Matthey. They provide the oil and gas and chemical process industries with highly specialised services such as radiation monitoring, process diagnostics, subsea technologies, reservoir characterisation, radiation protection and analytical services. They specialise in nucleonic measurement, which uses radioactivity for level, limit level, density or mass flow measurement which is particularly important in extreme operating environments. Tracerco originated in 1958 as a small research team within ICI in Billingham and now has 30 offices and 500 people across the world.
9 Tomlinson Hall was founded by Alfred Tomlinson and Frank Hall in Stockton in 1919 and is today based in Billingham. It has been a key supply chain company for the chemical process industry, specialising in pumps, power transmission equipment and engineering supplies. Tomlinson Hall was also named Distributor of the Year in the Pump Industry Awards in 2009/10, 2011, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in the category in 2008, 2013 and 2015. This company topped the Small Business category in the North East Business Awards 2015 and was named Small Business of the Year in 2015’s Teesside Business Awards. Last year Tomlinson Hall was also awarded the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) SME of the Year title.
10 PX Limited is certainly under the radar of most people and yet this is one of Teesside’s hidden gems. I often recommend this company to investors, particularly those with little or no real experience of operating process plants. Today Stockton-based PX Group provides integrated infrastructure solutions, can take over management of manufacturing units and deliver improved operating performance in engineering, operations and maintenance, and also energy trading. Operating for 25 years, it has 1,000 employees and contract staff. As an example of their work, PX recently signed a long-term deal to operate and maintain the St Fergus Gas Terminal and Frigg and SIRGE offshore pipelines.
11 Finally, there is a company that everyone can see and yet very few know. This is Chemoxy International, the company whose distillation columns and pipework can be seen from the A66 as you drive through Middlesbrough, close to Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium. Chemicals have been made on that site since the late 1800s and the town has since encroached upon it. Chemoxy is now a global operator, providing custom chemical processing, speciality performance products and specialised solvent recovery.
Then there is my own organisation, NEPIC. Our role is to help businesses like those mentioned in this article. They are businesses where specialist knowledge is needed to support and grow them. I leave you with a note from Ian Stark, CEO of Chemoxy, which I think explains what we do:
“Dear Stan, NEPIC has helped our business in many ways. On the business development side of things, your team’s understanding of our business enables new opportunities be identified for us. Joining in your trade missions has helped us identify new business areas and customer opportunities. Our technical staff have also participated in a number of knowledge transfer seminars and activities that NEPIC has created. Crucially we received advice on the services and systems we needed to make our management buyout and investments a success. Your team has the grit of industry under their finger nails. That’s what makes the Cluster so successful.”
So there you have it. I hope this has revealed something you did not know about some of Teesside’s GREAT businesses. Now I had better go and wash my hands. Where is that nail brush?