More Than 50 Local Firms Boosted Thanks To £826,000 Business Challenge

Business & Invest | Published on: 21st February 2023

Schemes to help tackle the ongoing cost of energy crisis, research into carbon capture and even mental wellbeing in the workplace have all benefitted from investment as part of a new pilot.

The Tees Valley Business Challenge, which ran from December 2021 to September 2022, saw the launch of an Innovation Challenge to bring together large organisations and small local businesses and social enterprises to help develop solutions to challenges faced by these bigger companies.

Of the 20 projects put forward, five were awarded grants of up to £45,000 from Tees Valley Business to help them develop solutions with challenge holders including P&G, AV Dawson, St John’s Ambulance and North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.

Projects included a manufacturing challenge to capture carbon dioxide from boilers, a new device to help tackle mental wellbeing in the workplace, a digital dashboard to improve company efficiencies and an improved approach to hospital working.

Hartlepower CIO, a charity with the twin goals of helping combat poverty in Hartlepool and building the resilience of its voluntary sector, was one successful organisation, using the Social Enterprise challenge to help tackle the cost of energy crisis. It worked with National Energy Action to establish insights and understanding around the roots of the crisis and how it could be alleviated to help and support communities.

The scheme involved the installation of energy efficient heat pump, solar panels and new radiators at a property in Greatham belonging to resident Alexander Matthews, who has been dealing with boiler problems. This created a test model to better understand the financial and other benefits of such schemes.

Alexander has since found the house considerably warmer, demonstrating a positive impact on his thermal comfort, as well as saving him time and reducing stress in controlling the system. This project will now inform new services that the National Energy Action can offer to more homes and communities across the UK.

Hartlepower CIO Chairperson Peter Gowland said: “Alexander wouldn’t have been able to afford these changes without the Business Challenge and what is benefitting one individual directly is a valuable learning exercise for us at Hartlepower and our partners at National Energy Action.

“Like Alexander, we’re delighted at the result and hope to replicate this project’s success at another property soon, giving the dual benefits of reducing energy bills and protecting our environment.”

A second phase of the Challenge aimed to connect supply chain SMEs in the region with large organisations and market opportunities. This saw 32 SMEs sign up for the programme which led to 16 revenue grants awarded to help businesses achieve accreditations relevant to the sector and implement other systems to help them grow. Also part of this strand was as a successful Showcase Tees Valley event including 250 delegates.

A third strand also provided an understanding of five SMEs could access NHS market opportunities and the scope of opportunities available across the health innovation landscape.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our brilliant local businesses have a wealth of talent and expertise with out-of-the-box thinking that can clearly benefit even the biggest companies and organisations.

“This Business Challenge was all about highlighting our offer to large firms, forging new relationships and making sure SMEs across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can learn about emerging opportunities. By taking advantage of these, they can grow even further and create good-quality, well-paid jobs.

“These schemes that are being taken forward with our help will also benefit much more than just the businesses involved – at a time when it’s needed more than ever, Hartlepower and NEA’s scheme will help people to cut fuel costs and become more energy efficient. Others will assist employees’ mental health and help cut carbon emissions, all while boosting our region’s profile in innovation.”

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