A SPECIALIST engineer plans to launch further industry-leading technologies after securing a second investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund.

Leading independent engine reconditioning and repowering firm Smiles Engineering North East works with some of the transport industry biggest names to re-engineer buses’ existing power systems at a far lower cost than replacing the whole vehicle.

Based in Newcastle, and led by experienced engineer Gordon Mockett, Smiles is able to provide fuel savings of up to 40 per cent, compared with diesel on its latest engine integration systems.

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It is also aiming to further develop its relationship with Darlington-based Cummins, the world's largest designer and manufacturer of diesel engines, and is aiming to achieve Cummins Service Level Dealership status in the near future, which will open up a range of new commercial opportunities.

In February last year, Smiles worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a six-figure investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund that it administers to invest in a range of new equipment, staff training, software and systems requirements.

And it has now secured a second similar sum to provide the working capital required to implement the latest phase of its development plans, which include upgrading its design capabilities and enhancing its diagnostic software.

Smiles is looking to bring more of its engineering and analytical activities in-house, and it is aiming to build on the six new jobs it has created over the last year, which has taken the total workforce to 29.

Mr Mockett said: “Modern buses are obviously very expensive to buy, as is the fuel that they use, and the industry-leading repowered systems we develop provide operators with substantial operational and environmental benefits that also make a real impact on their cost base.

“Our relationship with Cummins is already strong, but strengthening it further with the new dealership and strategic bus engine repower agreement that we’re aiming for will give us the opportunity and credibility needed to target a wider range of operators that use their equipment, including several based within the North-East.

“Widening the range of work we undertake ourselves and improving our in-house skills set through strategic recruitment and training will also mean we’re able to keep more revenue within the business, and will give us even more control over the detail and quality of the work we do.

“Market conditions remain challenging, but we’ve made good progress over the last year, and remain excited about the business’s prospects over the next few years, both at home and overseas.

“The NEL investment team has been very helpful and supportive over the last year, and we couldn’t have achieved what we have so far without their involvement.”

Simon Johnson, senior investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, added: 

“Having follow-on investments available to forward-thinking businesses like Smiles who want to keep making progress is essential to the long-term health of the North-East economy.”