Published February 28, 2017 2.38pm
The next phase in ambitious plans to attract more high-tech, fast growing companies to one of the country's leading science parks gets underway today.
Local dignitaries and business leaders were at a special ground breaking ceremony at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham, for the new £7.4m 'Explorer' development - being built by Interserve, the international support services and construction group.
NETPark is home to some of the world's most innovative companies and the development forms part of the 10-year strategy for NETPark, which includes creating 3,000 jobs and adding another £400m to the region's GVA.
It is already home to Durham University's Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, two of the Government's Catapult centres - the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence and High Value Manufacturing, and four national technology centres: Printable Electronics, Formulation, Graphene Applications and Healthcare Photonics, all managed by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).
Business Durham, which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, received £3.2m investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership's Local Growth Fund towards the cost of the two new 'Explorer' buildings, which will create additional space for research and development companies who need room to prototype and scale up to manufacture on site.
Councillor Simon Henig, Durham County Council leader, said: "It's exciting to see the first stage of this expansion going ahead and is another example of our commitment to creating a bright and prosperous future for the businesses and people of this county.
"We are striving to shine the spotlight on Durham as a county that provides a uniquely innovative and supportive atmosphere for investors and as a vibrant place to live, work, invest, study and visit, which we hope will attract further investment here. We look forward to seeing the growth of those companies that will be based in the 'Explorer' buildings in the future."
One of Explorer's first tenants will be Ibex Innovations, which started with a virtual office at NETPark and is now at the forefront of x-ray imaging technology with 17 employees. The firm's technology is being used in industries such as medical, food and industrial imaging.
Dr Neil Loxley, Chief Executive at IBEX, said: "NETPark has proven to be a great environment for a technology start-up such as IBEX, providing high quality facilities that have been well-matched to our changing needs at different points in our growth.
"However, it is the quality of support and the friendly can-do attitude of NETPark staff that really sets NETPark apart from other business parks. We are really looking forward to our move into one of the new Explorer units, which will provide us with the space and facilities to accommodate our next stage of development."
The first tenants are expected to move into Explorer as soon as the buildings are complete early next year. NETPark's dynamic and supportive environment will help accelerate their growth and tap into global markets.
Simon Goon, managing director of Business Durham, said: "This exciting next phase in NETPark's expansion will open up possibilities for growing companies wanting more space, be they existing businesses on the park or companies who want a presence here.
"Many of NETPark's existing companies have expressed a desire to expand on the park as they know it's a great place to grow and get the right support to reach global markets. We've also had interest from companies outside of the region."
Hans Moller, innovation director at the North East LEP, said: "NETPark's expansion with the creation of 'Explorer' shows that science parks have a key role to play in the region - not only are they the go to place for people and companies with great ideas and ambition, but they play a key role in creating more and better jobs for our workforce.
"I look forward to seeing Explorer's tenants flourishing and to more science parks being developed in the North East with NETPark as a fantastic role model."
The project has received funding from the North East LEP as part of the North East Growth Deal from the Government. The Local Growth Fund is a key element of the funding, and supports major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport across the North East LEP area.