Drive through Onchan, and set a few metres back from the road on your left you will find a very unassuming industrial unit. The understated frontage hides thousands of square feet of state of the art aerospace manufacturing equipment and a large team of highly skilled staff.
Chris Allen, General Manager and Island resident since 1999, describes the history and truly global nature of the business Triumph Actuation Systems, an aerospace manufacturing company, now conducts from the Island.
'The facility we have here has a long heritage. Our business can trace its origins right back to the 1930s. We have been at this particular site since 1965…
We specialise in landing gear hydraulic systems. Our components fly on a number of aeroplanes all around the world. We boast applications on Boeing and Airbus and some of the major airliners. Our systems are generally used for extending the undercarriage leg, retracting the undercarriage leg and opening and closing the under-carriage doors.'
In 2014, American owned, Triumph Group Inc. bought the high-tech facility in Onchan and the business has gone from strength to strength, aided by funding support from the Isle of Man Government. High levels of investment are needed to support Triumph’s continued growth and the strategy that allows Triumph to compete globally requires this.
'The kind of work we do here is very high technology and very capital intensive. We have to purchase expensive equipment. Some of the machines we have bought recently have been half a million pounds each! We get a good level of support from government with that.
Success is based on a working partnership with government that aligns what business wants to achieve with what government is able to help with.'
'Our business is in a phase of growth and we have had significant support from the Isle of Man government with regard to new plant, equipment and new facilities. Some of the programs we are supporting, particularly Airbus and Boeing, are selling really well at the moment. We have had to invest in new equipment to match the new demand and uplift in volumes for those. We approached Government for support and we have had some great success.'
Chris talks about the process involved in applying for funding, meeting with Government and filing a business plan.
'The process itself is very easy. We produced a business plan and talked to the team at the Department for Enterprise, explained our project and what sort of support we might need. Generally, equipment investment requires a lot of upfront cash. Often businesses need support to get them over that initial hurdle.
There are a number of pieces of paper you have to fill out, but they are very easy to follow and there is a level of support offered by the DfE team themselves. Generally you’d need a few meetings with them to discuss and agree what you are looking to achieve. You then have to wait for a review of that proposal. The government will consider it and come back to you with an offer of support. If that meets with your joint agreement then you move forward. Then there’s some legal paperwork to finalise the deal.'
'The support on offer in current schemes varies depending on the size and maturity of the applying business. Triumph, in this case, received a grant which helped to offset the cost of new machinery. They were also able to utilise the funding beyond start-up capital costs.
The funding Triumph received also covered training, support, any infrastructure support … and first time expenses associated with the establishment of a project.'
Chris stresses, 'It’s not just a capital plan, [the funding] supports the investment and resources we needed to get that new project started.'
'Government support has enabled us to deliver our expansion plans in the timescales we wanted. We may have expanded anyway, but generating the right level of funds to support growth is always a difficult prospect for a business. With the support of government we have been able to do that and we have been able to support our customers in a timescale that suits all parties… That has actually increased our opportunity for growth. Government support is essential and beneficial in our ability to respond to some of the challenges we’re faced with.'