A FIRM which has developed mills to grind very hard minerals into fine powder has won £1m of export contracts for the machines in just six months.
Gateshead-based International Innovative Technologies Ltd (IIT) is selling its mills worldwide as the six-year-old firm works to grow its turnover to £20m and its workforce to 100 over the next three years.
The firm originally set out to make powder which could make power stations burn coal more efficiently but found there were no mills available to do the job and so they created their own. Now the mills are their main product and are expected to be used by companies in the construction, aggregates and recycling sectors.
They have only recently started finding customers for the fuel enrichment powder after six years of development. Managing director George Ord said: “People are talking about renewable energy but the reality is there are 3,000 or so power stations [internationally] running on coal and we expect coal consumption to increase by 30% in the next 30 years. It currently represents 30-40% of energy generation in the world.
“With fuel enrichment, we always thought it would give a 2-3% improvement in efficiency, which doesn’t sound much but is a £51bn a year market. It’s just a small change in efficiency but it’s big business.
“We thought there would also be a slight reduction in emissions but the reduction in NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions has been much more substantial. We’ve seen in trials a 20-25% reduction in NOx.”
He said the firm had been winning orders from Switzerland, the US and India and there are prospects worth £8m in countries including Portugal, Canada, Australia and Lithuania.
IIT currently has 25 staff and is now recruiting design engineers. Ord said: “We have predicted 100 staff and £20m turnover by 2015. The turnover at the moment is in the low millions but we have only just started to sell.”
The company was started by the four engineering experts behind the North East Innovation Centre in – a not-for-profit business which help people develop the commercial potential of their ideas. When the centre shut in 2006, the four men won £1m backing from investors YPIL to develop their own ideas.
And in 2010 it won £6.4m in funding this year from Dubai’s Millennium Private Equity using the UK’s first Islamic bond to build its new plant. The bond or sukuk is a way of allowing institutions to invest in companies without breaching Sharia principles.
Ord said: “For normal businesses, it imposes no burden whatsoever on the company. The guys in the Middle East are very good and knowledgeable supporters of the business. It’s surprising it hasn’t been taken up more in the UK.”
Dubai-based Millennium Private Equity are the sole investor in the sukuk, which is listed on the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange and pay out 10% a year until 2014. The deal is hoped to highlight a new funding stream for other UK firms.