The opportunities for South West businesses to engage with the Hinkley Point C (HPC) supply chain are still very much available as work continues on Europe’s largest construction site on the Somerset coast. That was the overarching message to come out of Insider’s Hinkley Point C breakfast.
The event, held at the Macmillan Theatre in Bridgwater, saw more than 120 business leaders of companies large and small, gather to hear about the ways they can still engage with tiers two and three of the HPC supply chain.
The breakfast, sponsored by Jelf, NatWest Lombard and Sedgemoor District Council, heard from Jamie Driver, senior supply chain engagement manager, from EDF Energy, which will run the new nuclear power plant to provide low-carbon electricity to six million homes when the site goes live in 2025 – representing seven per cent of the UK’s electricity.
He said the £18bn construction project will create 25,000 employment opportunities in the construction phase alone – more than 3,000 workers are already on site every day.
“The bottom line is that it’s putting £4bn into the regional economy over the lifetime of the project,” he said. “That’s putting £1.5bn into the region during the construction. We still have around 30 tier one projects to place. Some people think that there are no opportunities left – that’s very wrong. Although most of the tier ones have been determined, or are in the later stages of procurement, there are still huge opportunities for tier two and tier three suppliers.”
Sam Evans, head of Hinkley supply chain engagement at Somerset Chamber, which manages the supply chain on behalf of EDF Energy, said: “It’s still not too late to register on the portal if any businesses are interested, because although the tier one opportunities have mostly gone, there are still substantial tier two and tier three contracts out there and we’re only just scratching the surface of what can be delivered.”
She added: “Through LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) funding, as part of a collaboration with SWAMAS and Business West, we’re also now able to go out and offer more personal support to businesses that aren’t quite ready to get the contracts at HPC yet.”
Greg van Laun, managing director at Portishead-based Astron Fire and Security, is one of those businesses already benefitting from being part of the HPC supply chain. It was after attending an Insider breakfast in 2016 that he took the opportunity to pitch for and win a contract.
“From that point it was just a process of engaging with the client, and tailoring our services to fit what EDF required to make sure we could deliver the security maintenance on the accommodation blocks.”
He added: “It can be intimidating at first, but in terms of getting all you ducks in a row, it’s important to engage with the right people who can help you.”
Mike Morgan, managing director, at Bridgwater-based electrical engineering business MMES, has also experienced the process of scaling up to meet the demands of the contract.
He said: “We received an enormous amount of support from the chamber in showing us the way forward. We had to learn a lot because we hadn’t worked on this scale before. But we’ve taken every opportunity to upskill our own people and have been very lucky to get ourselves involved in the construction utilities team, which brings together a number of smaller companies like ourselves, with a large tier one company that we’ve been able to grow with.
“It’s moved us from a small local firm – we’ve been here many years – to this great opportunity. We have traditionally held about 12 staff, and at the moment we’re running on 80 members of staff.”
But it’s not just about small businesses engaging with the project. John Chaplin director of external affairs at Bristol Port, explained how it has also scaled-up to meet the demands of the HPC project.
“Bristol Port is one of the UK’s major ports. We’re a family business. We directly employ 550 people, but across the dock estate of 2,500 acres 9,000 people are employed. We have been selected by EDF as the muster port for the construction of the HPC site. The services we provide relate to navigation, cargo handling and storage. We provided an area, for example, for the construction of the jetty to handle aggregate – that jetty is now on site. We have also enabled certain tier one contractors, such as Balfour Beatty to occupy parts of the port for things like the construction of head units – these are 5,000 tonne concrete units that will be taken down to Hinkley by sea and sunk three kilometres off the site.”
But what of the ongoing legacy for the area after the initial construction phase? Doug Bamsey, strategic director at Sedgemoor District Council, said the council has always been determined there should be a transformational legacy for the area.
“This was always going to be a very important project,” he said. “The key though is to make sure it transforms business right through the community. So we’ve been very keen to support the work of the supply chain initiatives, to make sure for example that we see the housing market respond positively. We’ve facilitated seven hotels. You’ll see those developing. We’re also embracing those that want to invest in the locality in terms of business space. There are some really significant projects, such as Gravity, which is the redevelopment of a depot at Puriton, which will be a premier employment site.
“Hinkley is really important, and we’re making sure we play our part in making the most of it – because it’s about much more than Hinkley itself.”
Full coverage of Insider’s Hinkley Point C breakfast event will appear in the May issue of South West Business Insider magazine.