Barrnon began trading 10 years ago this month in Appleby, manufacturing gear to trawl the seabed for scallops.
Andy Barr, the founder and managing director, is a metals specialist, proficient in 3D CAD, who has more than 20 years’ experience in product development.
He oversaw an unlikely diversification into nuclear decommissioning.
He said: “In 2012 we received an enquiry from Magnox who were looking for dredging equipment to remove stratified radioactive sludge held in contained ponds at nuclear sites around the UK.
“That made us realise that we could adapt our technology for applications in nuclear decommissioning.”
Magnox is the subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority responsible for the safe dismantling of the UK’s first-generation Magnox nuclear power stations, which include Calder Hall in Cumbria and Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway. It was a potentially lucrative customer.
Having an idea is one thing, developing it is another, but Barrnon left no stone unturned in securing the help that it needed.
Since 2014 it has utilised support from the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub, Britain’s Energy Coast Energy Opportunities Supply Chain Project, Growth Accelerator and Eden District Council.
Business adviser Alan Smithson played a key role. He is a chartered engineer and a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers who worked in industry for 25 years, mostly in R&D, before moving into business support. He is now an adviser for the Growth Hub.
Alan helped Barrnon apply for a grant from Innovate UK, a government initiative to drive productivity and growth by supporting businesses to develop new technologies and ideas, and make them a commercial success.
Andy said: “Alan honed our application to the point where it was successful, and we might not have been able to do that by ourselves.
“It enabled us to secure a £184,000 grant, which helped get us into a global market worth £100m and put us on the map.
“The skills and ideas we’ve developed in the fishing industry have given us a major advantage in tackling the problems faced by nuclear decommissioning and that’s led to the ability to deploy innovative solutions that we know from experience will work.”
The company also received support from Innovus, which helps SMEs wanting to commercialise innovative technologies by providing access to academics and technical experts, and it has worked closely with the National Nuclear Laboratory.
Barrnon’s Bladecutter technology is designed to remove radioactive sludge in large ponds on historic nuclear sites.
Bladecutter and its improved successor, Bladecutter 2, were used in the decommissioning of Hunterston nuclear power station in Ayrshire.
Barrnon has since developed a complete suite of innovative nuclear decommissioning equipment, incorporating emerging technologies such as robotics and virtual reality.
It now works alongside engineering giants such as Atkins, Toshiba, TEPCO and IHI Corporation to tackle environmental threats at nuclear sites worldwide including Sellafield, Fukushima in Japan, and Hanford in the US.
The business, which employs up to 19 people, has been certified as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 compliant for the supply and repair of nuclear decontamination equipment.
It has outgrown its premises in Appleby Business Park and is working with Alan Smithson and Eden Council to identify a suitable location for a second site in Penrith.
Councillor Kevin Beaty, the leader of Eden Council said: “Barrnon are a good example of an innovative company that will deliver higher-paid jobs in Eden, which is exactly what we need.
“Our masterplan, Eden Vision, is about growing Penrith to drive higher wages across Eden, so Barrnon fits well with that agenda.”
Eden Council was due to submit plans for a new business park at Stoneybeck, near M6 junction 41, this week.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, added: “Eden Council is absolutely right to nurture high-value, technology-oriented businesses such as Barrnon, and we’re delighted to be working with them to secure the new site.
“It’s businesses like these that raise productivity and increase prosperity. The Government has realised this, hence all the recent emphasis on raising productivity, so in many ways Eden Council with its Eden Vision strategy is ahead of the game.”
Does your business need help in bringing an innovative product or service to market? Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help.
For more information call us today on 0844 257 84 50 or click here to visit the Cumbria Business Growth Hub web site.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce