A niche business acceleration programme in the North East has just helped its 400th company and is looking to a self-sustaining future.
NEPIC’s Business Acceleration for SMEs (BASME) programme has been working with process industry linked firms since April 2012.
The programme was launched with £1.5m Regional Growth Fund money and its success in using mentoring to effect change in the process industry supply chain has made programme leader Felix O’Hare confident of its longevity.
Speaking to The Journal following the recent milestone, Mr O’Hare, a former process engineer, said: “The process industry has recognised that a strong SME supply chain benefits the whole industry.
“A lot of issues are so big they need collaboration, and that’s why BASME has become such an important component of the cluster in this region.”
BASME works with a broad range of business from HR service providers through data analyst specialists to engineering consultancies. All sell services into the process cluster – an umbrella for petrochemicals, specialty chemicals, polymers, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and renewables producers.
The programme is somewhat of an experiment in targeting business acceleration measures at a niche market. BASME draws on a pool of over 300 executives within the process industry to provide mentoring support to SMEs that have a specific hurdle to overcome in pursuit of growth.
Mr O’Hare added: “The concept of mentoring is much abused in the business world. It’s easy to say you’re providing mentoring without being clear about the nuts and bolts of it.
“When it comes to mentoring you need to provide evidence of its effectiveness. Through BASME we have access to a huge amount of industry experience, meaning we can pair up suitable executives with firms to provide real insight and technical understanding.”
In the first 18 months of the BASME programme, more than 200 SMEs passed through the process, creating an estimated 170 jobs. Now having reached the 400 company milestone it launched to achieve, Mr O’Hare is hopeful the programme will extend beyond this.
The plan is to finance BASME through NEPIC – encouraging SMEs to become paid-up members of the industry network.