Inovation

Growth Hub Advisers

Alan Smithson

What was your background before becoming an adviser and what industry experience do you have?

I worked for 30 years in Engineering and I’m a Chartered Mechanical Engineer. Most of my career was in research and development, I started with an apprenticeship in Barrow then worked in sub-sea and oil exploration areas.

I moved to Carlisle and worked at a company making, designing and developing seatbelts, airbags and pre-tensioners for the car industry. I was made redundant from this business in 2004 so I moved over to the North East and spent time working in renewable energy. During this time I started working as a business adviser for Business Link Cumbria.

Areas of specialism/interest

New things! Growing businesses who want to do something new, or are developing new ideas or new products, and crucially business who need money. I’m interested in getting grants for businesses in particular that have a lot of funding work involved with lots of different governments funding streams to assist businesses.

This ranges from Growth Hub subsidy starting at £1,000 up to grants of many millions. Hopefully that’s resulted in some growth in Cumbrian businesses.

How long have you been an adviser/self employed?

I’ve been advising businesses since 2004, but became a self-employed business adviser since 2011.

What do you most enjoy about the role?

The main thing is that you meet so many different people. Everybody that looks for help with their business is of a positive disposition and looking to improve and grow, and they’re great people to work with no matter what kind of business it is.

This job is about people, it’s not so much about the business itself or its finances. It’s about working with people and building a relationship with them and that’s the most enjoyable part of it.

Your biggest success to date as an adviser?

My biggest numerical success in this role is working with a team to get a research and development grant for a Cumbrian business which was several million pounds for working in new areas and harsh environments – areas like deep sea and outer space so they could create a robotic system which can work in those areas.

What type of businesses have been able to support and what support did you offer?

I’ve worked with people just starting out, to multinationals. I think the main thing I enjoy is developing a relationship with these businesses to look at what they want to do, not just from an engineering or financial point of view but from a personal point of view.

3 interesting facts about you

  • I’m on the leadership team of a local.
  • I’m into playing music, I play the trumpet, the bass and the acoustic guitar – not brilliantly!
  • I like my motorbike.