Technology firms bringing manufacturing to the North East

Jobs to come in pharmaceutical and technology markets thanks to North East innovations Vreo and Rokshaw

www.crestphotography.co.uk (left to right): Senior Investment Executive Michael Vassalo, Jonathan and Richard
(left to right): Senior Investment Executive Michael Vassalo, Jonathan and Richard

Hi-Tech jobs are to be created in the North East after two cutting-edge companies announced plans to bring manufacturing back to the region.

Wearside pharma firm Rokshaw is set to expand into its own laboratory and production facility with the backing of £425,000 investment, including a grant from The Journal’s Let’s Grow fund.

Meanwhile, technical design firm Vreo will be expanding on Tyneside after reaching global markets within eight months of trading.

The two firms’ expansions were last night described by a regional business leader as “fantastic news” which showed that the North East was leading the way in reaping the benefits of innovation.

Pallion-based Rokshaw, which was founded in 2012 by brothers Richard and Jonathan Hodgson, has secured £350,000 mezzanine debt investment from the North East Growth Plus Fund, managed by FW Capital, and a £75,000 grant through the Journal-backed Let’s Grow fund, to increase control of its manufacturing.

The cash injection will fund the creation of a 6,000sqft laboratory and production facility, with the funding also helping with the costs of the additional Home Office and Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency licences it will need before it can start manufacturing.

At least nine additional qualified staff will be taken on, including a production manager, pharmacists, a quality control manager and technicians – and future sales success is likely to see Rokshaw take on more staff.

Left to right - Karen Weech, Steve Murray and Mark Vernon of Vreo with Ross Embleton and Clare Haddon
Left to right - Karen Weech, Steve Murray and Mark Vernon of Vreo with Ross Embleton and Clare Haddon
 

Jonathan Hodgson, business development director, said: “This funding package will enable us to increase our control over our manufacturing and scale up our business.

“We’ll then be able to focus on improving our service and product quality and also increasing our market share by securing more business from hospital trusts and independent pharmacies.”

Vreo, which is based at Cobalt Business, designs electronics and optoelectronic circuits and also develops imaging systems using cameras as well as lighting and optics – products that can be used across a range of sectors including healthcare, fire and security, biometrics, night vision and intelligent transport systems.

Within months of setting up, company boss Mark Vernon had created Vreo Unity, a revolutionary interface that connects to a particular Sony miniature camera, making it easy to convert imagery to a USB stick. Other products are also being developed, meaning what started as a one-man band is set to grow substantially.

The Vreo Unity board that is being made by North Tyneside-base Vreo
The Vreo Unity board that is being made by North Tyneside-base Vreo
 

Current turnover will reach £210,000 in the first full year of trading, but it is forecast to more than double to £500,000 next year, with more growth predicted for coming years.

Mr Vernon said: “Being based in a region that is generating its own success story, I want to show that the UK has the engineering talent and the ability to capitalise on it in a global economy.”

Dianne Sharp, regional director of the CBI, said: “It’s fantastic news. The North East is an obvious place for people considering hi-tech manufacturing.

“We’ve got a long history of securing and developing in this area, we’ve got five universities and various catapults which continue to push our technology forward and it’s good to see that happening in other parts of the region too.”

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