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County Durham – a place to invest and grow

With significant investments and job creation plans augmenting the advances of existing hi–tech operators, County Durham is an ever–growing commercial hotbed. Here, Business Durham highlights some of the success stories, and why more prosperity is set to follow.

Durham County Council recently attended UKREiiF, a national exhibition designed to showcase the scale of development progress across the UK and profile future investment opportunities to investors, developers and commercial occupiers from around the globe.

With £2 billion of investment planned or underway, and an ambitious ten-year economic strategy, the council is keen to make the point that County Durham makes an ideal location for investment and development.

A hotbed of innovation, the county has seen its hi-tech sector go from strength-to-strength, along with growth in the up-and-coming UK space sector.

With a top 100 university on the doorstep, and four others in the region, it has one of the largest pools of talent anywhere in the UK.

Key to success is the quality of Durham’s strategic business sites, which provide the facilities and the environment to allow companies to grow and flourish, along with easy access to worldwide markets through excellent connectivity by road, rail, air and sea.

At the event, the team from Business Durham – the business support service of Durham County Council – highlighted the strength of hi-tech companies in the area, with the scores of thriving innovative technology businesses in County Durham setting a high bar.

The team showcased why Durham is a great place for businesses to locate – companies like radio frequency communications specialist Filtronic.

The company has ambitious plans to expand at NETPark where, since 2014, continuous innovation has seen it grow turnover, staff and footprint.

Fin Farrelly, marketing manager, says: “County Durham has a lot to offer, not least in terms of finance, such as capital grants, incentives and investment, along with access to a skilled workforce.

“Together with our own investment, it has meant we have been able to expand our manufacturing and testing facilities, so we can produce larger quantities enabling us to win work with other companies, accelerating our plans for growth.”

Filtronic is one of more than 40 companies based at NETPark, which together employ more than 600 people from university spin-outs, start-ups and more established companies.

Durham is also home to a growing number of space sector businesses along with the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence (NESACoE), which has been instrumental in putting the county firmly on the intergalactic map.

Led by Business Durham, NESACoE, also based at NETPark, was set up to deliver the region’s space strategy, and has engaged with more than 700 organisations and helped companies secure more than £10 million worth of funding.

One of those companies is the RHEA Group, an internationally-renowned security and space engineering company, which provides services to aerospace, security and defence companies across the world.

John Bone, RHEA Group chief commercial officer and UK vice–president, says: “It is easier to expand here than in some areas of the UK with the graduate programmes; there is the room to physically grow the company footprint and access to resources and people.

“There is a very collaborative environment, and we work closely with other space industry and hi-tech firms, who complement what we do, to make things happen.”

County Durham has an ambition to build a successful, sustainable future promising healthy and fulfilled lifestyles for all its residents through access to good housing and employment.

To achieve that ambition, £3.4 billion will be invested in creating jobs, attracting inward investment and building new homes.

Bigger projects include £200 million for the development of Aykley Heads; £400 million at Bishop Auckland; £58 million for the NETPark phase three expansion; £200 million at Riverside, Durham City; and £44.5 million at Jade Business Park, Murton.

It is expected the investment will generate 30,000 new jobs by 2035, and see 25,992 new homes built by 2035.

County Durham is also building a reputation in the growing low–carbon and renewables sector – earlier this year, the world’s first flexible solar manufacturing facility to use micro-groove technology opened in County Durham.

Power Roll opened its solar film pilot manufacturing plant at Jade Business Park in February.

It is the first facility in the world to produce low-cost, lightweight, flexible solar film using Power Roll’s patented micro-groove technology.

Located on a former colliery site, the facility carries on a long tradition of energy innovation in the North East, and is a milestone in the evolution of energy, producing next generation solar solutions to support the transition towards a sustainable energy system.

Neil Spann, Power Roll chief executive, adds: “Our mission is to dramatically increase the uptake of solar power worldwide, and our new facility is a huge step towards delivering our vision.

“Our technology can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change while improving the lives of millions worldwide, through access to low-cost clean energy.”

Power Roll’s pilot factory currently employs 34 highly–skilled workers, and heralds the start of a new generation of solar power, offering new opportunities for manufacturers to diversify into the burgeoning renewable energy market.

With opportunities for companies already here, and new ones looking to relocate or expand, the event is an opportunity to shout about all the county has to offer.

Business Durham

To find out more about current and future developments, as well as the support and advice available from Business Durham, visit www.businessdurham.co.uk

@_BusinessDurham