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Exploration & Testing Associates Aiming High with Third North East Fund Investment

A market-leading North East ground investigation and materials testing business is aiming to break through the two million pound turnover barrier in 2022 with the help of a third investment from the North East Growth Capital Fund Supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Exploration & Testing Associates (ETA) operates a state-of-the-art laboratory at its Durham headquarters that supports its materials testing service and ground investigation service which operate from its offices in Durham, Coventry and Altrincham.

Having originally aimed to secure around £1.4m in revenue in 2021, it is expecting to actually record a turnover of more than £1.6m and has doubled its workforce to 30 people since the start of last year.

The ETA management team has previously worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure two investments from the Growth Capital Fund to help support its growth ambitions.

And it has now gone back to NEL for a further £50,000 Growth Capital Fund investment, which will be used to bring in additional equipment and supporting the business’s ongoing recruitment needs.

More North East jobs are expected to be created through ETA’s plans to provide ground investigation services at the Bowburn site, while it is also currently looking at options for opening a fourth UK office, this time in South East England.

ETA predominantly works with clients in the construction and development sectors and is aiming to eventually establish a UK-wide network of regional offices which offer ground investigation, on-site and laboratory materials testing, along with geotechnical and geo-environmental advice and reporting.

It was founded in 2019 by chairman Ken Marsh, who has more than three decades’ experience of working in the ground investigation industry and has been central to the growth and success of several of the sector’s best-known names.

He says: “Our focus on building a reputation for reliability, innovation and delivery is enabling us to bring in new and repeat business from high quality clients, with the enduring relationships we’re securing being central to our success.

“Clients need to know that they can rely on us to deliver the services we provide to the highest possible level while they focus on all the other aspects of what are often massive infrastructure projects, and once this level of trust has been established, it regularly leads to further opportunities and repeat business.

“Bringing in the right calibre of experienced staff is key to our progress, and we’re continuing to build a high-quality team that can help to deliver both the high calibre work required by our clients and our own commercial goals.

“Investing in our North East capabilities is central to our growth strategy for next year and we’d expect to see more regional jobs being created as a result.

“The working relationship with NEL has remained strong and fruitful for both sides and we’re very pleased to be extending it with this latest investment.”

Jonathan Armitage, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “ETA has achieved some very impressive results over the last year and has a robust strategy in place for making further progress through 2022 and beyond.”

The North East Growth Capital Fund has been designed to create around 790 jobs in more than 70 regional firms over the life of the programme and offers unsecured investments of up to £500,000 to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.

The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses across Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.

For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit or contact the investment team on 0345 369 7007.

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