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A Government minister has visited the North East’s premier science and technology park as it looks set to expand through a £50million investment.

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was at NETPark (The North East Technology Park) in Sedgefield today.

The business park will be extended with a new third phase after Durham County Council’s Cabinet agreed to £49.6m being used to finance the development.

The new phase could generate up to 1,250 skilled jobs, helping to deliver the council’s ambition to create more and better jobs for residents, and be worth up to £625m to the County Durham economy.

Mr Freeman was shown first-hand the work going on at the park, which was developed by Durham County Council and is managed by the council’s business support service Business Durham. It is the region’s only science park, home to 40 science and technology companies, employing over 600 people.

Mr Freeman was accompanied on his visit by Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, Cllr Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, Cllr Richard Bell, the council’s deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance, and Cllr James Rowlandson, Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets.

During his visit, Mr Freeman met with representatives from the North East space community including Filtronic to hear about their work as well as leaders from Durham University and CPI (Centre for Process Innovation).

The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence is based at NETPark.  Led by Business Durham and supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Agency, it has played an important role in the growth of the region’s space sector, championing space opportunities within the region and connecting businesses to bring new expertise into the sector.

The minister heard about plans to develop the North East Space Hub on Phase 3 at NETPark to further develop this growing sector.

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: “As new Minister for UK Science, Research and Innovation one of my top three priorities is harnessing Innovation for Regeneration: to invest around the whole country – not just the Oxford Cambridge London ‘golden triangle’.

“That’s why I’ve come here to the North East in my first week to signal our support for the world class cluster of science and technology businesses from Teesside through County Durham to Newcastle and Northumberland. NETPark is a cluster of world class innovative businesses creating new jobs, opportunities and prosperity for Durham and UK plc.”

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, said: “We’ve been delighted to welcome the minister to County Durham today and show him the exciting progress that is being made at NETPark.

“We believe that this the new package of investment will create up to 1,250 jobs and boost the County Durham economy by more than £600million, delivering on our plans to create a wide range of new jobs for our residents.”

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, said: “In my visits to NETPark the businesses I talked to have asked me to promote NETPark as a place to invest and work.

“Following the recent visit of the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy I am absolutely delighted that I have been able to encourage the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman MP to follow in his steps. I am very happy that he has joined us in his first week in post.

“A key part of our discussions is the proposal for investment in NESH, the North East Space Hub. This builds on the proposal passed last week by Durham County Council’s Cabinet to invest nearly £50million in NETPark 3. NESH is providing the UK’s next space innovation gateway to stimulate and grow the space sector in the region and with the imminent release of the Government’s Space strategy his visit could not be more timely.”

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