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Home » North East Deals Of The Week: Key Contracts, Investments And Acquisitions

North East Deals Of The Week: Key Contracts, Investments And Acquisitions

New skills bootcamps centred on advanced manufacturing, business and education will be rolled out in the North East after a £7.4m Government funding award.

The funding has been awarded to the North East LEP by the Department for Education, following on from the success of a series of ‘green skills’ bootcamp programmes launched last year, which saw nearly 800 people aged 19 and over take up the training. The latest wave of bootcamps sees the number of training providers in the region increase from 11 to 18, as well as the addition of employer-led training, with businesses including Nissan and Unipres signed up to deliver training.

New College Durham, Gateshead College and Education Partnership North East are also part of the consortium of partners involved in the bootcamps’ delivery. Michelle Rainbow, skills director at the North East Local Enterprise Patrnership (LEP), said: “The first wave of skills bootcamps focused on ‘green skills’, equipping people with the knowledge and skills they need to work in renewable energy, or with electric vehicles, for example.

“Now, we’re rolling out an expanded programme of training which includes more green skills and also training in advanced manufacturing, business and education – areas where we know there are opportunities for people in our region.

Paul Gordon and his wife Penny hope to create up to 60 new jobs over the next three years with the expansion of The Fish Tank. (Image: Chris Booth Photos) County Durham family firm The Fish Tank announced it was splashing out with plans to invest £3.5m into regional expansion.

The Newton Aycliffe-based business first opened for business in 2020 to provide swimming lessons, parties, and open swim sessions for local families with babies and young children. Run by husband and wife team Paul and Penny Gordon, the firm last year added more investment to offer interactive indoor play and sensory rooms at their popular Newton Aycliffe site.

Now the couple has appointed property specialist @retail to acquire new sites across the North East, targeting locations including Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Tees Valley and North Yorkshire. Mr and Mrs Gordon plan to plough £3.5m into the company, creating up to 60 regional jobs over the next three years, by transforming sites into family-friendly swimming pools, kitted out with specially designed changing rooms, coffee shops, play areas and sensory perception spaces and free car parking.

Mr Gordon said: “Our toasty warm pool has been designed with babies, toddlers and parents in mind while our sensory room provides a stimulating, safe environment for youngsters up to three years old to enjoy. We also support businesses with our cafe, stocking a range of locally sourced products. With specific sector experience, @retail are on board to help us develop our operations further.

“Thanks to their expertise, a number of potential new locations are already under consideration, which is great news as we look to bring our unique product to many more communities in the next few years.”

3D Bio Tissues recently said it had created two full-scale fillets of cultivated pork. (Image: 3D Bio Tissues) North East life sciences firm 3D Bio-Tissues (3DBT) announced it is targeting the pharmaceutical sector, after linking up with a Fortune 500 global leader. Newcastle based 3D Bio-Tissues (3DBT) has made headlines with its lab cultivated ‘steak’, grown from its patent-protected supplement called CityMix, a supplement which directs cells to grow in a skin-like manner, accelerates the process, and also removes the need for the use of animal serum.

The team behind the supplement is also working with fashion companies, having revealed how the same process can be used to create leather in the laboratory, which could eventually be used to make shoes and other goods by manufacturers, essentially creating animal ‘skin’ without the need for animals.

Now the scientific engineers at the company – a Newcastle University spin-out owned by London Stock Exchange listed BSF Enterprise plc – has told how it is partnering with those working in gene therapy, stem cells and regenerative medicine, life science companies, and academia.

It said: “The company has partnered with Benzol – a world leader in the science distribution sector – to help commercialise and act as a distributor of City-Mix across Germany. Biozol is the leading distributor for some of the leading global pharmaceutical companies, engaging with 14,000 companies across the industry. This partnership forms part of the company’s strategy to use an indirect sales model for the biotech and life sciences markets and partner with appropriate distributors across Europe and the US.

“3DBT has also engaged directly with one of the leading global suppliers to pharmaceutical companies. The Fortune 500 company is a world leader in providing solutions for cellular analysis and synthetic biology. The company has currently purchased several vials of City-MixTM for evaluation to be used in its media formulation and help reduce costs. ”

Richard Gibbs, CEO of Filtronic (Image: Chris Booth for Filtronic) Telecoms tech firm Filtronic secured a £3.2m contract to design a “next generation” space communication systems for the European Space Agency.

The County Durham and Leeds-based firm said the work will see it create a system that can deliver broadband between low Earth orbit satellites to receiving ground stations. In an update to investors, Filtronic revealed how the contract is part of the Advanced Research and Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme for “space deployment of 5G/6G and sustainable connectivity”.

Work will begin immediately on the project in which Filtronic engineers will develop and design concepts and prototypes of a series of products that use millimeter wave (mmWave) technology – a high frequency process. The final hardware will be delivered by the end of March 2025.

The ARTES programme – a long running push to develop satellite communications products – will use Filtronic’s existing intellectual property along with recently developed advanced solid state power amplifiers. Filtronic said ARTES is supported by the UK Space Agency and aligns with the UK Government’s ambitions to get UK suppliers to play a significant role in future global telecoms infrastructure.

The firm also said satellite operators are turning to new technologies to get the ultra-high bandwidth data links needed for low Earth orbit communications – used for everything from earth observations to logistics and geo-location. Filtronic is targeting customers that need adaptation of existing telecoms technology that will be manufactured at volume.

A CGI image showing how the Emerald Duchess will look once completed. (Image: Neptune Marine) PD Ports is investing £23m in a 71m-long dredger, which has already been named the Emerald Duchess following a competition among the port operator’s employees. The vessel is being pieced together at a Polish shipyard by Dutch shipbuilder Neptune Marine to PD Ports’ specifications, designed for work on the Tees.

It will replace the Cleveland County, which the PD Ports’ conservancy team has used for 50 years. It is expected to undergo trials next year and will be capable of carrying 2,500 tonnes and holding up to 2000 cubic metres of dredged material.

Neptune is building a number of future proofed features into the dredger, including a power management system that will mean it can swap between power from a battery pack equivalent to 10 Tesla cars and fuel made from hydrotreated vegetable oil. Hatches created about the boat’s engine room will also allow power units to be changed for modern fuel cells as technology advances using methanol or ethanol fuel.

Frans Calje, chief executive officer of PD Ports, said: “The Emerald Duchess represents a major investment in our conservancy operations as SHA and shows our high level of commitment to the socio-economic development of the River Tees and the wider region. The vessel is a step ahead in terms of crew safety and sustainability and will strongly support our commitment to becoming a Carbon Neutral operation, using low emission fuel and an innovative layout to make it more fuel efficient.