A PRESTIGIOUS £7.4m development built at a fast-growing science and technology park has been officially opened.
Business leaders and local dignitaries gathered at the opening of the new Explorer facilities at the North East Technology Park (NETPark), in Sedgefield, County Durham, which are designed to house innovative, fast growing companies operating in high-tech, global markets.
Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham, received £3.2m investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund towards the cost of the Explorer development, which already houses two new tenants, x-ray imaging specialist IBEX and electronics firm PragmatIC.
Brian Archer, managing director of Business Durham, which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “NETPark offers a dynamic environment for high-tech companies wanting to make a big impact in global markets. The exceptional facilities at the Explorer development only strengthens its offering to companies wanting to grow and locate here going forward.”
NETPark is the only science park in the UK with two Catapult centres – High Value Manufacturing, the catalyst for the future growth and success of manufacturing, and Satellite Applications, which supports companies by opening up opportunities using satellite data and technology.
The Explorer building was officially opened by Stuart Martin, chief executive officer of the Satellite Applications Catapult, who is in the region on a two day visit and will be speaking at a prestigious space conference in Durham today (March 22).
“Space is a growing sector in the North East and the Explorer development provides even more opportunities for companies to access the facilities and support they need to excel in this market,” he said.
“The Centre of Excellence at NETPark, has engaged with more than 350 businesses in the region, exploring the potential for space technology and data to grow their companies. Since the Centre launched, ten new space-based businesses have been created, providing over 80 new jobs.”
Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “NETPark is already home to some of the world’s most innovative businesses and the Explorer development will open up even greater opportunities for companies to grow and flourish here.
“This expansion demonstrates our commitment to creating a bright future for people who live, work and study in County Durham and we are confident these new facilities will attract further investment to our region.”
Helen Golightly, executive director at the North East LEP, said: “This is an exciting time for the North East as we work to grow our economy and we’re delighted that we’ve been able to support Business Durham to bring forward the new Explorer facilities on NETPark.
“NETPark has been a major focus of our innovation investment programme and is a premier location for product research and development, enabling the creation of more and better jobs.”
The Explorer 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.
Ibex Innovations started its journey on NETPark as a virtual tenant, then took incubator space before moving into offices in the Discovery 2 building. It now has custom-designed office and laboratory space in Explorer to support ambitious five-year growth plans to double its workforce and transform it into a multi-million pound business.
Chief executive of IBEX, Dr Neil Loxley, said: “The quality of the facilities at NETPark and the attitude of staff is first class. It has a really dynamic, innovative atmosphere.”
Pic caps: From left to right, Neil Loxley CEO of IBEX, a new tenant at Explorer, Brian Archer, Business Durham’s MD, Stuart Martin, CEO of Satellite Applications Catapult, Coun Bill Kellett, chairman of Durham County Council, and Ken Williamson, chief operating officer of PragmatIC, another new tenant at Explorer.