Despite the months of worldwide business stagnation brought about by the coronavirus crisis, companies at the Wilton Centre have more than weathered the storm.
Occupiers have been able to reveal significant steps forward and – for a group of students from Teesside – the pandemic has provided unexpected opportunities.
The Wilton Centre near Redcar is the North-East’s premier science park. It is home to more than 60 businesses and 750 people work there.
“Innovation is the driving force behind a great deal of the work that goes on here,” says the centre’s accommodation manager Claire Morton.
“It’s perhaps not a surprise, therefore, that businesses have found ways to keep operating – whether that’s with staff working from home or at the Wilton Centre, which has remained open throughout.
“In addition – and even in the most challenging of circumstances – we have seen several companies confirm exciting news about their future.”
At the start of June, for example, Techconsult UK announced that it had been bought out by its managing director Steve Guest and finance director Sarah Taylor.
The recruitment company, originally part of Norwegian firm Techconsult Norway, specialises in technical and engineering roles.
Mr Guest said the management buyout would provide a springboard to create new jobs and expand its services.
Around the same time another Wilton Centre occupier Applied Graphene Materials (AGM) issued details of a new distribution deal with the Greek company Dichem Polymers SA.
It means AGM now has similar agreements with local expert chemicals and coatings distributors in Italy, South Africa and Japan as well as Greece.
Its CEO Adrian Potts said: “We are pleased to be able to offer our standardised product offering to the global market through a strong distribution network across a growing number of countries.”
AGM was founded in 2010 by Professor Karl Coleman with its operations and processes based on technology that he first developed at Durham University. Its commercial-scale production facility was established at the Wilton Centre in 2012.
Absolute Antibody twice made headlines. First, after revealing that it was working on a treatment for Covid-19 and then at the beginning of June it said it had recruited six Teesside science students to help with its all-important work.
One of the students – Ella Smithyman, from Middlesbrough, who has just finished a degree in Biomedical Sciences – told BBC Tees: “It’s amazing that we’re able to contribute in any way that we can.”
Second year chemistry student Dominic Scott, also from Middlesbrough, said: “I jumped at the chance to be involved in the fight against Covid-19.”
Absolute Antibody’s chief operating officer Dr Catherine Bladen said: “You go into science because you want to do something that counts and matters. From a young scientist’s point of view it’s a phenomenal thing to put on your CV.”
With the company’s expertise much in demand it has required more space at the Wilton Centre as well as new staff.
“We’ve just taken on another lab upstairs and again that flexibility is really what sets Wilton apart from everywhere else. If we need to expand we can do it very quickly,” said Dr Bladen.
As the lockdown restrictions started to ease one of the Wilton Centre’s newest occupiers, Process Group ECI – which provides engineering solutions within the chemical process and similar industries – announced that it was moving to a bigger office.
Another recent arrival, Projex Solutions – a multidisciplinary engineering design and project management company – reported how delighted its growing team was to come back to the Wilton Centre.
On its return, Lynas Engineering ensured that the tape stuck on the floor to measure social distancing was the same shade of orange as its corporate colour.