Science park expansion given the go ahead

THE rapid expansion of the North East’s premier science park is set to continue apace after approval was given for two more buildings, capable of housing 120 staff, to be built.

The latest phase of development at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) will further enhance its growing reputation as an international hub for groundbreaking science and technology.

Plans for the two buildings, providing mixed office, laboratory and production space at NETPark in Sedgefield, County Durham, have been approved by Durham County Council’s planning committee.

The County Durham Development Company, which is responsible for developing, managing and promoting NETPark, applied for permission for the buildings as part of its plans to expand the scope of the science park to not only cater for fledgling companies, but also to encourage growing firms and major investors to locate there.

The expansion is part of NETPark’s Grow on Space project, which comprises three new buildings on the site, to ensure there are suitable premises available to companies which have developed at it’s the Incubator and are ready to expand.

The aim of providing the new buildings at NETPark is to support the science and technology sector right through from having an idea and starting a company in its Incubator, to expansion and continued growth, so that talent, skills and business are retained in the North East.

The Grow on Space scheme has already born fruit with the successful expansion of Kromek at NETPark from the Incubator into the first of three new state-of-the-art facilities.

The company, which produces cutting edge imaging technology for the security, medical and industrial sectors was the first occupant of NETPark’s Incubator facility. It grew so quickly that much larger premises were needed relatively quickly.

The two additional new buildings will be suitable for major investors in the science and technology sector, looking to create international headquarters at the successful science park. Alternatively, they are designed so they can also be sub-divided to provide four smaller premises should demand call for this.

Stewart Watkins, Managing Director of CDDC, said: “Kromek’s growth at NETPark is proof not only of the strength of its products, but also of the potential NETPark has as a place where science and technology companies can access the right support and facilities to blossom.

“We want to replicate Kromek’s success with other companies. To do that we must ensure we have the capacity at NETPark to support them – that means having the right premises.

“If we can offer our fledgling companies larger premises when they are ready to expand, it makes the transition easier and helps to ensure we retain the successful businesses we have helped. This will boost the region’s economy, create more jobs and enable the North East to become an international hub for science and technology.”

David Cramond, Director of Capital Development at One North East, said: “This new development will ensure the continued development of NETPark site as a key science and technology business park in the region. NETPark is already providing major opportunities for the North East, building on the strengths of our universities and process and electronics industries.

“We also welcome the planned facilities at this site for electric vehicle charge points, and would encourage other developers to approach the Agency for the match funding that is available to help our region develop a comprehensive charging infrastructure.”

All three buildings are being developed with funding from Durham County Council, which invested £4m, £5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2007-13 and a further £1m from One North East’s Single Programme.

Durham County Council is looking to award the contract for construction and associated works in November. Work is expected to start on site after Christmas, with the development completed in October 2011.

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