A marine environmental survey business in Norfolk has more than trebled its staff and is to let space to start-up businesses three years after a grant catalysed its plans to expand.
Benthic Solutions began life more than 15 years ago in a cramped building in Hoveton, near Norwich, with just eight employees, but now has state-of-the-art facilities across four buildings and 27 staff.
A £240,000 grant from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Business Fund proved the catalyst for the expansion back in 2018 and the company has just signed off on completion of the second phase of its ambitious development.
“We were in a small, aged building which was restricting the growth and development of the business,” said Simon Redford, the company’s commercial manager.
“The company had acquired some land seven years earlier, but we had not found a way forward. Once we successfully obtained the grant, we commenced the build process. The completion of the first phase of the build enabled us to expand our services in terms of the number of people we employ, and the inventory of equipment we hold because we now have excellent facilities to store and maintain it.”
Benthic Solutions is a specialist environmental consultancy and service provider, delivering environmental survey and consultancy services to a wide range of marine industries. Its team of dedicated scientists have considerable experience in both shallow and deep-water survey operations having been involved in hundreds of projects around the world, working for oil and gas, renewables, utilities, aquaculture, engineering and government clients.
Construction of the first phase of expansion was completed in April 2019, allowing the 12 employees at the time to move from the old ‘shed’ to a new purpose-built eco facility, enabling expansion to the current 27 people. By then Covid-19 had struck, and the new premises meant employees could adhere to social distancing regulations in combination with remote working.
Work on three further buildings was held up for three months by the pandemic, but finally finished in June this year. These include an eDNA laboratory, analysis, data processing and reporting facilities, and space for start-up companies to develop with synergistic support.
Mr Redford said the Growing Business Fund grant provided a “big impetus” for the company. “The grant was £240,000, which was 10 per cent of the original budget of £2.4m for the build. We now have four buildings on our site, one of which has four self-contained office units which are going to be let out to start-ups, so it will be helping other businesses get established in the region.”
The Growing Business Fund has awarded £30.9m in grant to 294 projects, generating £238m of private matched funding and creating 3,358 jobs. New Anglia Growth Hub, part of the Business Growth Programme delivered by the LEP, administers the scheme.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “These grants are designed to support businesses with their growth plans and create jobs and Benthic Solutions is a case in point. So often we find that access to funding provides businesses with the motivation and ability to put their plans into action.”
To find out more about the Growing Business Fund visit https://newanglia.co.uk/grant/growing-business-fund/