The national offshore wind programme consists of over 40 projects with an estimated investment value of £80 to £100bn.
Dominic Brown, head of GROW:OffshoreWind, commneted: “SMEs have realised that – with the right support and funding – they can easily take their expertise and manufacturing capabilities into a sector that is finally beginning to move towards realising its potential.
“Investment decisions by major wind farm operators in 2014 have strengthened the attitude to getting involved and we are seeing an increasing number of firms asking us for help with breaking into the sector for the first time.”
GROW’s grants typically cover 10 to 30 per cent of projects, with a funding cap of £500,000. This is made available for new operations and extensions to existing facilities, including the extension of production lines or new product development, tangible and intangible assets, and employment costs.
Southampton-based Blade Dynamics secured a £500,000 grant under the Process Technology Innovation Fund to develop its advanced blade tip. The product increases annual energy production and reduces costs incurred through downtime.
The innovation fund offers 50 per cent matched funding for manufacturers to improve processes, including high-performance machining, high-value assembly, composite materials and manufacturing technology, structural testing and design and prototyping.
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Theo Botha, Blade Dynamics co-founder, said: “The project is a great example of funding being provided for technologies that can have a substantial positive impact on the British economy and environment by nurturing sustainable, knowledge-based, domestic manufacturing in the vitally important offshore wind energy sector.”
Norfolk-based Seaglaze made a £1m investment to re-shore its manufacturing, including installing one of the UK’s most advanced ceramic printers. The manufacturer of specialist windows, door and hatches for the marine industry took the decision after experiencing delays and shortages from international suppliers.
Support from GROW:OffshoreWind and the Manufacturing Advisory Service helped Seaglaze secure a 20 per cent capital grant for the expansion within weeks.
“We’d been working with MAS on business mentoring and lean production techniques for a number of years, always finding it a great sounding board. The organisation quickly understood what we were trying to achieve and signposted us to the GROW:OffshoreWind service,” explained managing director Alastair Clayton.
Seaglaze’s turnover from is expected to grow from £2m to £3m over the next two years and the workforce will be increased by 20 per cent to 50 staff.
GROW is delivered by Grant Thornton and programme partners the Manufacturing Advisory Service, Renewable UK and the University of Sheffield. It is funded by the Regional Growth Fund.
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