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A network built to bring opportunities

As the region’s largest and best engineering and manufacturing show – EMCON – ticks ever closer, Engineering & Manufacturing Network assesses the event’s importance, while highlighting its own value to the sectors.


Taking an idea from initial spark to reality is something many of us struggle with. 

There are numerous reasons, from simply having the time, through to know-how and resource.

In 2015, a group of business leaders, alongside Business Durham, sat down and discussed the lack of support for engineering and manufacturing companies in our region. 

There was, of course, focus on specific sectors but nothing that encompassed the wider scope covered by the businesses in our great region. 

And so an idea was formed.

Seven years on, and Engineering & Manufacturing Network has delivered on all of its initial goals, bringing together a truly collaborative network that shares business opportunities and initiatives, alongside finding support on very specific day-to-day issues that get in the way of our normal nine-to-five routine.

David Land, chairman since the very beginning, says: “We are incredibly proud of what has been built, and are frequently informed we have created something very special with a unique ethos of trust and true collaboration.”

The network has been awarded many accolades over the years including, most recently, best in SME support services 2022.

Operations director Ben Gilhespy says: “This is a real testament to the businesses we work with, the region we hold dear, and the hard work of all of those involved, to not only have built such a solid foundation but to continue to evolve as our sector moves forward.” 

The day-to-day operations of the network are only part of the activity undertaken, which also includes delivery of the region’s biggest and best engineering and manufacturing show – EMCON.

EMCON has existed for 14 years since its inception as Oktoberfest. 

Engineering and Manufacturing Network took ownership of the show and has continued to support its evolution ever since, including its return in 2021, at which point it was the first show back following COVID-19 restrictions. 

The network itself continued to grow during the pandemic, supporting its members each and every day.

The resilience shown by members was staggering, and the desire to get EMCON back up and running in 2021 was evident by all who engaged.

Reports are still being heard about EMCON 21, including from returning gold sponsor of this year’s show Hexagon, a global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions.  

Hexagon increased its presence at the show in 2021 following previous attendance alongside partner the University of Sunderland, itself a member of Engineering & Manufacturing Network since its foundation. 

Hexagon’s attendance resulted in more than 

£1 million in enquiries from the day, a truly significant sum that highlights the quality of its service and the benefits of exhibiting.

Business Durham will also return as a gold sponsor, having been instrumental in the show’s delivery since inception. 

Its presence as the business support service for Durham County Council shows the importance placed not only in supporting our local economy, but also in the creation of more and better jobs, something which the current issues around talent retention and recruitment ensure are never far from the front of our minds.

The show attracts more than 100 exhibitors and between 800 and 1000 visitors across the day, this year being held on September 8 at Glow (formerly Xcel) in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

In addition to the exhibitors, there has been a tradition of providing excellent seminars on a wide range of topics. 

The last few years have seen presentations by Stadler Rail, Nexus, Heather Mills and the North East Maintenance Forum.

And this year will be no different, with an excellent line-up being prepared, which will be entirely relevant to our sector.

Kaye Collins stresses the importance of such shows to the sector. 

She says: “The ability to showcase your products and services in a relaxed yet professional environment is critical to support businesses into new markets and clients. 

“EMCON’s success is in part down to the way it is delivered, which is modelled on many of the big southern shows, with professionalism being the key word. 

“Every aspect is carefully planned and delivered to ensure all who attend realise their expectations. 

“The fact so many who have previously exhibited return year-on-year, or increase their presence with bigger stands or sponsorship, shows the value they find in being here.”

An example of such is Valuechain/Fitfactory, which specialises in making digital simple for manufacturers and removing potential stumbling blocks from engaging with the increased technologies we see around us.

It attended in 2021 as an exhibitor, having experienced the show before, and following on from that success immediately booked as a gold sponsor. 

It is joined by The Plastic Furniture Company, which, along with partner companies Apollo Plastics and B2B Injection Moulding, will be bringing experience of delivering all things plastic, irrespective of the volume required or manufacturing techniques needed.

That’s begs the question; why you should visit? 

Surely a better question is; why wouldn’t you? 

You could spend months travelling the UK looking for the type of opportunities you will find in just one concentrated day at EMCON. 

You will find suppliers, buyers, experts and undoubtedly old friends, in what is also a great day of networking with our region’s best.