Oxford
Tom Keighley

Member Article

Brighter future for Blyth solar business

Employees at a Northumberland manufacturing company which faced going out of business less than a year ago will receive a share of the profits if the firm’s new growth strategy proves successful.

Solar Capture Technologies specialises in the research, development and production of photovoltaic systems, harnessing sunlight to provide sustainable energy for a range of end-uses.

The future looked bleak for the Blyth-based firm when its Swedish parent company went into administration earlier this year. However a local businessman with a career in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy stepped in and immediately set to work on establishing a new commercial focus for the business.

Steve Caseley bought all of the shares in what was previously trading as Narec Solar and relaunched the business as Solar Capture Technologies in April 2013.

Steve said: “The business and its workforce had gone through an incredibly difficult period of uncertainty and while I knew we still faced great challenges ahead, my first task was to secure the employment of our best people.

“The nature of our work demands a team of highly intelligent physicists, chemists and operators and while we always had these, we were clearly lacking commercial focus so I looked outside of the business for support.”

Steve turned to Oxford Innovation, the UK’s leading provider of specialist business coaching, which has recently established a base in Ashington from where it will deliver the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme.

This £1.35m programme, jointly funded by ARCH, The Northumberland Development Company; Northumberland County Council and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), offers businesses in the county with support in reaching their full growth potential.

Programme manager, Mike Jobson had an initial meeting with Steve to understand the history of the company and the barriers it faced on the pathway to growth.

Mike said: “It was very clear to me from our first meeting that Steve was a very driven and focused businessman with strong commercial acumen on a personal level.

“Our task was to help him spread that focus across the business.”

Mike worked with Steve to develop a strategy to improve Solar Capture Technologies’ approach to customer relations by aligning the business more closely with its target markets.

Steve said: “We’ve long been regarded as world leaders in R&D but we spent too much time and effort looking inwardly towards our own sector and not reaching out to our target markets. As a result, we weren’t able to maximise our sales revenue and that was significantly undermining our prospects for growth.”

With Mike’s guidance, the company has now identified key target markets and applications for its innovative product range, including road-side signage, rail network maintenance, mobile and remote communications and off-shore oil and gas.

“As well as coaching me and my team, Mike has really challenged all of us to review the way we worked individually and collectively and we’re already seeing the benefits with a much healthier looking order book and plenty of leads to follow-up,” said Steve.

For Mike, the key to this strategies’ success will be in achieving buy-in from across the workforce, as he explains: “Solar Capture technologies is a much leaner organisation now so everybody in the team has a key role to play.

“We’ve engaged with all of the employees throughout this process to ensure they have a sense of ownership of their own destiny and we’ve built into the new vision of the company a commitment to share the profits of a successful business with the team that made it happen.”

Solar Capture Technologies now employs 14 people at its site in Blyth and the company is planning further recruitment in order to meet the increasing customer demand.

Oxford Innovation’s methods have proved successful elsewhere in the UK, where the organisation has worked with over 2,500 high growth businesses. And despite the challenging economic circumstances of the last three years, Oxford Innovation has helped its clients across the UK access over £100 million of funding, creating or safeguarding more than 400 jobs.

Anyone wishing to find out more about the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme and how Oxford Innovation can potentially support their business should call 01670 528403 or email northumberland@oxin.co.uk.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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