• NETPark – A Jewel in the region’s business crown

    NETPark – A Jewel in the region’s business crown

    North East Technology Park (NETPark) is a globally significant science park where innovation is the order of every day. It is where thinkers go to think, inventors go to invent, and doers go to do.

    In the almost 20 years since it opened NETPark has become a jewel in Durham County Council and the region’s business crown and is home to 40 science, engineering and technology companies.

    Businesses provide high value jobs and create high value products that leave their mark in terms of worldwide social and economic impact.

    Owned by Durham County Council and managed by Business Durham the council’s business support service, NETPark is a value-adding proposition that any firm operating in these areas should know about before choosing a location or considering a move.

    Funding for Phase Three confirmed

    The first two phases provide more than 600 jobs and the Council have recently confirmed phase three to double the size of NETPark will go ahead, with £61m funding confirmed.  The expansion will accommodate both new companies and the growth of firms already based there.

    Phase three will include 232,000 sq ft of laboratory, office, production and storage space with potential to create 1,250 new jobs and support 2,200 more in the supply chain. It is expected to break ground in Spring with the first units ready for occupation in November 2024.

    Amy Harhoff, Corporate Director Regeneration Economy and Growth at Durham County Council said: “We have now been able to announce that the funding for Phase Three has been approved which is great news.

    “With over 40 companies in specialist science, engineering and technology sectors at NETPark now, the foundations are already in place and Phase Three cements County Durham’s leading position in these exciting and growing industries.”

    Janet Todd who is project director at NETPark will steer the way through phase three. In her previous role as the science park manager she made sure the science, engineering and technology mix was never diluted in order to secure the high tech, high value jobs now based there.

    She said:  “It is a huge project that is both exciting and challenging.  We are very keen to keep the campus feel – NETPark is a very collaborative community of businesses that complement each other, have open access and work closely together and we want to maintain that.

    “NETPark has been fully occupied for three years and it has been difficult to accommodate the many firms that want to grow. The larger units in phase three – up to 35,000 sq ft – will allow that to happen while freeing smaller sites elsewhere.

    “Although the build is speculative we have a waiting list of firms that are interested – some of which have grown over the years from starts ups to now employing 200 people.”

    Dyman – a journey of growth at NETPark

    One company which has grown on the park is Dyman Advanced Materials which is working on the production of high-quality synthetic diamonds for use in industry, medicine and the jewellery sector.

    As an idea that had been in Gary Gibson’s mind for 30 years, Dyman was set up in 2018 when Gary moved on from Ibex, another company at NETPark he also founded.

    He felt the time was finally right to take on the challenge he’d set himself as a student so many years ago – to create synthetic diamonds.

    “We are actually ready to start selling products – so it has been a very fast move to market. We plan to start very quietly exporting to a diamond distributor in the EU and gradually ramp up production.

    “The first products will be for industrial use but there are lots of industries the diamonds are used in – for drilling in the oil and gas industries, cutting tools in the automotive industry, as scalpels in medicine and in high end electronics.”

    Dyman has had quite a journey of growth at NETPark and Gary hopes to be in a position to move into phase three when it is ready next year.

    “NETPark is perfect for high tech companies and their staff – the physical environment with the green spaces and walks, the well-designed buildings with plenty of parking. It all gives the right perception of the businesses based there and helps with staff retention,” said Gary.

    Sectors covered at the site include advanced materials and manufacturing, nanotechnology, X-Ray technology, semiconductors, defence, electronics, photonics, robotics, pharmaceutical and space and satellites.

    Unparalleled collaborative working

    With so many future-thinking companies based on one site the opportunity to work as a collaborative innovation community is unparalleled. It is where a networking event with neighbours could spark a genuinely world-changing idea.

    The park also operates high level stakeholder partnerships with technology innovation catalyst CPI and with Durham University, adding a next level of prestige, support and success.

    Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University said: “The Orbit University Enterprise Zone brings science and technology companies together to network, share knowledge and make the most of opportunities for growth by connecting them with Durham University’s world-class facilities, equipment and research expertise.

    “With an outstanding reputation in space science and an array of world-leading partners, our Centre for Advanced Instrumentation has manufacturing, integration and test facilities for space instruments and optics.”

    The first ever building, the NETPark Research Institute, which opened in 2004 now houses the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation and Orbit – the University Enterprise Zone which is home to a thriving community of science and technology-based businesses.

    CPI is a social enterprise and innovation catalyst for advanced technology and manufacturing solutions that benefit people, places, and our planet.  It operates three national innovation centres at NETPark, serving industries including pharmaceuticals, health technology, materials, energy storage and AgriFoodTech.

    Frank Millar, CEO at CPI, said: “NETPark in Sedgefield is a remarkable story of transformation, where once there was a dilapidated hospital there is now a vibrant  strong regional deep-tech innovation cluster, supporting local businesses, talent and driving economic impact.  With over 500 highly skilled jobs and close to £300 million of private investment to date, the opportunity to extend into new sectors and to build on this success is truly compelling.”

    And NETPark remains the only UK Science Park with two National Catapult Centres – High Value Manufacturing Catapult,  of which CPI is a founding member,  and North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence (NESACoE) managed by Business Durham.

    The list of businesses based at NETPark, from University spinouts to established names, reads like a Who’s Who of innovation – from aXenic, Evince, Filtronic, IBEX, Kromek, Pragmatic and Wootzano.

    Home to growing regional space sector

    While NETPark provides a fantastic opportunity to deliver innovation-led growth for County Durham the region also boasts a growing space cluster and is set to be a vital part of the UK’s space industry.

    Space-based businesses across region work closely with, and receive funding from, the UK Space Agency (UKSA), and Satellite Applications Catapult, showcasing the strengths of the region’s space sector to international investors.

    NESACoE was set up to deliver the region’s space strategy and has worked with hundreds of organisations and helped companies to secure many millions in funding.

    Several space focussed companies also happen to be based at NETPark, including aXenic, a leader in the design, development and production of optical modulators for communications and sensing, specialising in semiconductor design.

    aXenic recently won a contract from the UK arm of top international aerospace, defence and security company Leonardo for the supply of custom optical modulator devices.

    Based at Aykley Heads Business Centre, Northern Space and Security Ltd (NORSS) specialises in identifying, tracking and monitoring the behaviour of objects in space.

    NORSS provides expert advice on technical, operational policy matters regarding the sustainable use of space and has grown rapidly thanks to contract wins with the UK Space Agency and with the support of Business Durham.

    Durham City recently hosted the North East Space Conference organised by NESACoE with more than 160 delegates looking at the future and priorities of the space sector.

    Speakers included Harshbir Sangha, Director of Growth at UK Space Agency and leader of Durham County Council Councillor Amanda Hopgood highlighting the county’s place at the forefront of North East space technology.

    *To find out more about the companies and opportunities at NETPark visit the website www.northeasttechnologypark.com