AN investment scheme which helps small and medium sized businesses in County Durham to grow is celebrating after putting more than £500,000 into three businesses in its first ten months.

County Durham Growth Fund helped three companies secure a sizeable investment to purchase new equipment, increase their capacity, improve efficiency, expand into new markets and create more than 60 new jobs between them.

The three-year fund, established in April 2019, is a £4.9m investment scheme – with money from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 – which provides funding to SMEs across the county to accelerate their growth.

The fund overseen by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, is delivered in partnership with UMi, whose advisors help with initial eligibility checks and funding applications.

The successful businesses include engineering firms Bignall Group Ltd and Dyer Engineering and large format print supplier Design X-Press Ltd.

Bignall Group, in Shildon, secured £35,000 to help modernise and update its current machine shop, as well as buy new milling machinery to increase the firm’s capacity and help it expand into new markets.

Dyer Engineering received a £475,000 investment to purchase a fibre lasing profiling machine and robotic welding units and cranes at its Annfield Plain premises to help increase its manufacturing capabilities to access new markets.

Consett-based Design X-Press plans to use its £50,000 investment to buy new print equipment to increase its capacity, improve efficiency and offer a broader range of services.

The investments are creating new full-time job opportunities at each business – eight jobs at Bignall Group , 54 at Dyer Engineering and four jobs at Design X-Press.

Sarah Slaven, Business Durham’s interim managing director, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund these three businesses’ capital investment projects and help each of them to grow and achieve their ambitions.

“It is inspiring to see the County Durham Growth Fund attracting businesses which can help bring investment not just into the county, but the region as a whole. Each of these companies can make a real impact on our local economy and help boost job creation.”

Mark Coatsworth, group commercial manager at Bignall Group, said: “The grant has been gratefully received by Bignall Group, enabling our Shildon Manufacturing Company (SMC) brand to secure additional work through increased machine capacity. This has secured our position with a key customer and enables us to continue supporting our internal projects as well as new and other existing external customers, further contributing to the growth of the North East region. We work closely with the UTC in Aycliffe and are delighted, on the back of this investment, to engage another level 3 apprentice from there. Our machine supplier has also offered additional training, allowing us to continue our investment in local skills, and commitment to develop the next generation of engineers through continual employee development.”

Karen Jones, senior project manager at UMi, said: “The fund is really starting to make a difference now and it’s great to hear from businesses what the impact from the grant means for them as well as the boost to the county.”

For details call UMi on 0191-7161006 or visit