THE North-east's bid to become a hotbed of industrial innovation has received a £3m investment boost that will lead to new jobs.

The Materials Processing Institute in Middlesbrough has received the cash from the Tees Valley Growth Deal through regional investment body Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU).

The Institute founded 70 years ago has evolved to become the research and development arm, firstly of British Steel and more recently Tata Steel. It is now recognised as the UK’s centre for industrial materials research and has opened its doors to companies outside of the steel sector to make use of its top class research and development facilities.

After returning to independent ownership in November, the organisation is welcoming contracts from across the globe.

Chris McDonald, the MPI managing director and chief executive said: “Being awarded this grant is fantastic news, it shows we are open for business and will open doors for SMEs to come and work with us.

“It took around four or five months to pull it all together, but we have had superb support from TVU and look forward to working closely with them in the future, not just to benefit the Tees Valley but SMEs across the UK.

“The grant will allow us to create 14 new positions, as well as supporting jobs in the high-value manufacturing supply chain.”

Stephen Catchpole, the managing director of TVU, said: “This will strengthen Tees Valley’s reputation and ability as a leader of innovation and invention in the UK.

“The extension of MPI’s first-class services to a wider audience will be of particular benefit to SMEs, which, while having the knowhow and determination to create new products and processes, often do not have the resources to carry out the necessary research and development.”

The Institute collaborates with partners such as Harsco, CPI and Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

And it will also be opening up its services to SMEs, where it hopes it can add real value to smaller players in sectors such as recycling and waste, construction, automotive, oil and gas and nuclear.

While the organisation still undertakes a substantial amount of project work for Tata Steel, hopes are high that its independent not-for-profit status will benefit the wider economy.

Dr Gerard Stephens, Director of the SME Technology Centre within the Institute, said: “This money will allow us to fund the infrastructure to move us beyond supplying one service to one company.

“It gives us the opportunity to supply services to different sectors including materials, materials processing and energy.

“It also helps us to build a SME technology centre which will attract business from nationwide SMEs into the Tees Valley region and overall offer a support package to the whole industry.”

Dr Stephens led the bid, and had to put forward a business case covering strategy, economics, commercial, financial, legal and management cases to satisfy the Tees Valley Investment Panel who determined whether or not the fund application was successful.

He worked closely with a team of consultants to prove that the application would deliver good value for money.

He added: “A total of 14 jobs will be created straight away, but long-term there is a projection that the benefits should go way beyond that.

“For every pound we spend from this grant over the next 20 years, we can expect to get £2.31 in return.”

The cash, which will be paid to the Institute in instalments over the next two years, will also help to renovate existing offices into more modern facilities for SMEs as well as setting up a demonstration area, creating improved hospitality facilities and upgrade the site’s disability access.

There will also be an investment in new specialist equipment, as well as safeguarding the existing workforce.

“This is the platform which we can build on for the future,” added Dr Stephens.

“It is the first time we have bid for money in this way, and we are aware that European Structural Funds are available later in the year so this gives us the impetus to go and apply for that.”

The MPI is also in partnership with several universities including Teesside, Sheffield, Durham and Newcastle, providing doctoral training for PHD students.