Knowsley-based specialist manufacturer SolidTek are celebrating a spate of award wins, after becoming the first company globally to develop an NSF approved inhibitor, and the first in the world to achieve ISO1401 for its environmental management system for its solid chemical products.
SolidTek manufacture innovative products for water treatment, which includes its leading solid paste chemicals and the UK’s most environmentally friendly chemical system. The company secured an initial investment of £80,000 from NPIF – GC & River Capital Microfinance, which is managed by River Capital in partnership with GC Business Finance as part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund in 2018.
This was then followed by a second round of investment direct from River Capital of £50,000 in 2020 and since then the company has seen exceptionally strong growth.
The achievements follow a spate of ‘firsts’ – it is the first and only company in the UK to produce a solid paste chemical water treatment and the first and only to produce and supply its own dissolver. The credentials cement its position as a UK manufacturer that is disrupting the traditional and often inefficient methods of water treatment through its safe, easy to use, and sustainable solid paste chemical range.
Sustainability plays a central role in the business, and its push to use solid paste chemicals. It is safer for operators to handle, cheaper and more efficient to ship, which in turn reduces its carbon footprint, and uses little to no plastic – all of which is recyclable.
Funding from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) has aided the business in several facets of its operation. In 2018 the business was a fledgling start-up, and in recent years the company has developed better systems to improve facilities like its production equipment. It also paved the way to hire four additional staff in sales and production.
The second round of investment acted as a catalyst, taking the business from its newly established position to greater heights as it began to set and achieve its ambitious goals, including the development of its very own dissolving equipment.
Most suppliers of solid chemical products in the UK use third party suppliers for their dissolving equipment – a vital tool without which 60% of SolidTek’s product offerings would be rendered useless.
With the news that their own provider would be exiting the market, the company set about developing their own with the help of Liverpool John Moore University. Using 3D printing, the device could be designed and refined to fit the needs of SolidTek’s products.
This move not only gave the company greater independence, but shifted their dissolvers from being US manufactured, to products that are designed and manufactured completely in the UK.
Recent investment into SolidTek was directed into research and development, and its innovative products have borne fruit, bringing the company several accolades. In 2019 it won Micro Business of the Year at the Knowsley Business Awards, and it has been nominated this year for the Innovation Award after achieving NSF International CIAS certification (formally known as “Build Cert”) for its solid chemical inhibitor. The company also won a highly commended award for innovation at this year’s Northwest SME Growth and Innovation Awards hosted by Edge Hill University’s SME Productivity & Innovation Centre.
SolidTek is now setting its gaze beyond the UK’s borders. Much of its turnover comes directly from exporting its products to countries including Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic, and Germany. Having also sold its products in the UAE, the business is aiming to solidify and extend its international reach within the EMEA.
With projections of increasing revenue year by year, SolidTek will be able to drive its exports further, whilst growing its team in sales support and production. It is looking to venture into other sectors, including the commercial and light industrial sector, as well as heating and cooling equipment which will support its aims to expand its reach abroad to tap into the large and vibrant market overseas.
Steve Crick, Managing Director at SolidTek, said: “I’m very proud of how far the company has come over the past seven years. We have strengthened our product lines, grown our customer base domestically and internationally, whilst also improving our sustainability credentials.
“Support from MSIF and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund has been an integral part of our development story. I’d like to thank Sue Chambers at River Capital especially, who has coached us through the process and was a great help in the leadup to our application. Investment has been invaluable and without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today – exporting a specialist British-made product globally.”
Sue Chambers, Investment Manager at River Capital, said: “It’s been fantastic to witness the growth of SolidTek over several years as they continue to strengthen product lines and break into global markets.”
“Their progress showcases the impact that NPIF investment, alongside hard work and resilience, can have on local businesses. We are proud to have played a part in the success they are having both locally and on the world stage which is evident from the recognition they are now receiving and the business and innovation awards they are winning.”
“At River Capital, we pride ourselves on supporting businesses with significant ESG elements, and it’s great to see SolidTek incorporate sustainability within their product offering. We now look forward to their continued development and wish Steve and his team further success.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
Sean Hutchinson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “It’s great to see SolidTek progressing so well. The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund aims to support innovative regional businesses looking to export internationally and deliver new sustainable solutions to their market.
“We’re proud to work with River Capital and our other appointed fund managers. The measurable impact NPIF investment makes on business communities is evident, and we wish Steve and his team all the best in the future.”