A TRAILBLAZING fund that supports North-East firms bidding for work has made its first loan, helping to secure contracts worth £10m.

The Tees Valley Catalyst Fund, spearheaded by Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) is the first of its kind in the UK, helping primarily small and medium- sized companies to bid for large contracts.

The first to benefit from the scheme is Process Control Equipment (PCE), based in Thornaby, near Stockton, which specialises in the supply of industrial valves, actuators and controls for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

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Managed by fund manager FW Capital, the £10m funding pot is backed by the Regional Growth Fund, and provides loans for performance bond guarantees – a financial guarantee to a client that a supplier will deliver on time and to standard.

TVU hopes the catalyst fund will unlock nearly £700m of additional work and support 1,440 Tees Valley jobs over the next ten years.

PCE has secured three contracts, worth more than £10m, to supply the multi-billion dollar Sadara project, which involves the construction and operation of a chemicals complex in Saudi Arabia.

The Thornaby firm been awarded a performance bond loan worth £1.1m.

Barry Jackson, the PCE’s managing director, said: “This fund is a boon for businesses as it opens up opportunities and removes barriers. The loan means that we have not had to tie up a substantial amount of our working capital and as a result we will be able to be more adventurous and ambitious as we bid for future work.”

Barclays Bank and accountants Clive Owen and Co LLP advised on the deal.

Stephen Catchpole, managing director of TVU, said: “This first investment shows how a trailblazing scheme which we developed to fulfil a pressing business need, can make a tangible difference to Tees Valley companies.

“TVU is committed to helping overcome barriers that prevent local companies from securing work that allows them to grow, take on new staff and expand their customer base.”

The fund was devised following feedback from companies which highlighted that while technical expertise led to shortlisting at tender stage, a lack of cash reserves prevented them from setting up the required bond and progressing through to final contract.

For details, visit fwcapital.co.uk/catalystfund or call 01642 343 494