TUCKED away in Sedgefield is one of the UK’s fastest growing science parks.
Home to a host of cutting edge businesses, the North East Technology Park (NETPark) is paving the way for the growth of this exciting sector, which it is thought could contribute to the creation of thousands of jobs in the future.
The park has seen significant expansion over the last few years, and work is currently underway on a £6.5m extension which will see the addition of two new units at the site.
Stewart Watkins, managing director of County Durham Development Company (CDDC), which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, believes that the key to the park’s growth has been the tailored support it offers to high-tech businesses.
He said: “By their very nature, science and technology businesses have highly specialised needs. The space that we have created at NETPark is developed specifically for businesses operating within this field.
“I believe it is this that has made the park the preferred location for growing science businesses.”
Each business unit within the park comprises laboratory space and office space. However, the park is able to adapt its space to meet the needs of its tenants.
“Science businesses often need adapted space and we work with our tenants to make sure that the facilities are suitable for them.
“There are a number of businesses that have approached us with quite specific requirements and we have done everything possible to help them.”
Mr Watkins believes that science parks have a vitally important role to play in the development of the high-tech sector in the region.
He said: “We honestly believe that science and technology represents a huge opportunity for the county and the North-east, and NETPark is helping us to stimulate growth and attract inward investment.
“Durham County Council’s investment in NETPark represents a commitment to growing this sector and I think that is really attractive for technology businesses looking to find premises.
“We believe that science and technology offer a genuine opportunity for the North-east, and NETPark will go some way to helping us drive forward the science and technology agenda for the future.”
The support network that businesses can tap into at NETPark is also proving to be a draw for fledgling science businesses.
As well as the NETPark Incubator, which is designed specifically for start up and spin-out technology companies, the science park is home to the UK’s flagship Printable Electronics Technology Centre (PETEC), a design, development and prototyping facility for the printable electronics industry.
Steve Clements is managing director of U2T, a business which produces innovative technology allowing the high speed transmission of data across large geographical areas.
The company is based at the NETPark Incubator.
Mr Clements said: “Being based here at NETPark has allowed us to quickly get into our office and laboratory space and concentrate on the business.
“ To have use of NETPark’s facilities, as well as access to information and equipment from Durham University’s Research Institute and PETEC has been an extremely valuable support mechanism.”
The business, like others at the park, is able to share use of facilities and gain easy access to a host of organisations - from PETEC to university departments - in order to help develop their business.
“Being part of a wider science community is one of the reasons many businesses choose to come to a technology park like ours,” said Mr Watkins.
“To have likeminded businesses for neighbours is really attractive for many science companies.
“Our tenants like the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves.
“They like that NETPark is a forward thinking and innovative community, that is growing with them, but that can still help them grow too.
“Momentum is definitely building and we seem to have found a formula which works, encouraging and nurturing high tech businesses and, at the same time, fostering a cross fertilising culture of innovation involving a wider community - and word is starting to get round about this.”