Small and growing firms that make parts or provide a service to the engineering and manufacturing sectors are being given a unique chance to be part of this year’s Oktoberfest.

For the first time ever, there will be a dedicated Incubator Zone for small companies and start-ups.

Organisers of the annual Oktoberfest event, which showcases the region’s world class strengths within the engineering and manufacturing sectors, have teamed up with Business Durham’s Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) to offer companies a mini exhibitor package which they hope will open the expo up to those companies who don’t have marketing budgets.

The package will mean they can have a presence within the show, with support provided to help prepare them for the exhibition and marketing materials such as banner stands and flyers designed and printed if they need them.

David Land, Chairman of the County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), which organises Oktoberfest, said: “We’re always looking to strengthen our offering to businesses and make our event appealing to them regardless of their size.

“Reviewing feedback and exhibitor statistics from the last few years, it was evident we could be doing more to appeal to those firms that are relatively new start ups, who perhaps want to raise their profile and meet potential new clients.

“We are aware that our existing offer could be quite daunting to businesses that fall into that category, so we have created an Incubator Zone within the main hall which is specifcially designed for those firms that have never exhibited at Oktoberfest before.”

Businesses must be able to demonstrate a link to the engineering and manufacturing sectors, whether that’s through the products they make or services they supply, or that their current client base includes employers within these sectors.

Businesses across County Durham who meet the criteria can book a space, with around 20 stands available within the Incubator Zone.

If you think you’re eligible email ben.gilhespy@cdemn.org.uk.

The Incubator Zone is one of a number of themed elements of this year’s Oktoberfest event – the tenth since the event was launched in 2008 – including an Education Zone for budding engineers to meet employers, the University of Sunderland AMAP North East Maintenance Forum and a rail opportunities session held in partnership with the Rail Alliance.

Ben Gilhespy, Operations Director at CDEMN, said: “The themed workshops were introduced last year in response to feedback from attendees and proved immensely popular.

“The event celebrates its tenth birthday this year and we’re pulling out all the stops to ensure it’s our best yet. Oktoberfest is the perfect platform to showcase the North East’s vast capabilities within the engineering and manufacturing sectors; introduce businesses to potential clients and suppliers; and through the workshops give them a unique insight into areas that could support their growth.”

Alongside Business Durham, global rail manufacturer Stadler has also come on board as a gold sponsor, and Nigel Wright Recruitment is an associate partner.