The North-East Technology Park, or NETPark, provides science, technology and engineering companies with the type of world-class laboratory, clean room and office space that can take businesses from a small start-up to a global AIM listed company by providing the on-site facilities, infrastructure and expertise to scale up, prototype and manufacture on-site.
NETPark is the only science park in the UK with two Catapult Centres, in addition to three national innovations centres on the County Durham site, which is home to more than 32 innovative companies employing around 450 highly skilled personnel.
Here you will find a cluster of highly progressive businesses developing their innovations at NETPark, technologies that they hope will improve the lives of people across the globe. We chatted to two of those companies to find out more about their business and why NETPark is the perfect place for their business to grow.
Twelve months ago, High Force Research, an independently owned chemical research and development company, took over 3800sq.ft of office and laboratory space in NETPark’s Discovery 1 building.
The move made sound common sense for its research team, which had expanded out of the company’s main headquarters just down the road at Bowburn. Their HQ is Bowburn. They moved their operations at Wilton to NETPark.
Department head Dr Neil Sim said: “One of the main attractions was that NETPark could offer us as much room as we wanted, allowing us to design and build a laboratory which was fit for purpose.”
“In addition to our headquarters at Bowburn, we also had a base at the Wilton Centre, for a while, but NETPark has much more of a science/technology park feel to it, with like-minded companies that are a good fit with the technology and expertise we offer.”
Those other companies include Northumbria Pharma, whose strong track record in formulation sits well with High Force’s expertise in synthetic chemistry, and CPI’s printable electronics, with whom High Force have done a lot of work with over the years.
When High Force Research was established, in 1988, the bulk of its work was the manufacture and supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
While it does still operate in that field – the company is MHRA certified for the supply of materials for both phase one and phase two clinical studies – much of its business today is focused on the development and production of low-volume, but high-value materials used in technologies such as diagnostics and medical devices.
Helping new enterprises bring their ideas to market is key. “Often new technology products don’t require a lot in the way of physical chemical material, but the synthetic route to these compounds is generally very complex,” said Dr Sim.
“We tend to get involved at an early stage, becoming their partner and supporting them throughout their journey to manufacture.’
“Much of what we do is about ensuring quality, compliance and sharing the risk in order to accelerate routes to market.”
Magnitude Biosciences, a Durham University spin-out, moved into its new suite in NETPark’s Plexus 2 building, in May of this year, in the middle of lockdown.
The pandemic had proved decisive for the company that specialises in providing a Caenorhabditis elegans research service for scientists working in academia and industry alike.
Chief executive Dr David Weinkove, who is also Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Biosciences, said: “We had long thought about moving to NETPark or somewhere similar, to give us the space and facilities to expand – we are pretty ambitious in that respect.
“The facilities here have allowed us to be productive at a time many companies aren’t and to put the delivery of our service on a very professional footing.”
“Moving from the University has been a really good decision for us, in particular due to NETPark remaining open during the COVID-19 lockdown which allowed us to continue operating.
At the university, the C. elegans Research Laboratory studies a model system of nematode worms in pursuit of greater understanding of basic human biological processes.
Over at Magnitude Biosciences, the resultant knowledge is used to facilitate drug discovery research into ageing and neurodegenerative disorders and in the fields of microbiome and toxicity.
“We are looking for signs of middle-age decline in movement, so by using C. elegans, we can conduct our research within a couple of weeks.”
“We are getting our data back quickly and relatively cheaply, while being able to control the conditions in which the experiments are carried out very carefully.”
Significant investment over recent years means NETPark is able to offer 120,000 sq ft of high-spec laboratory, office and clean room space including over 43,000 sq. ft of dedicated incubation space in NETPark Plexus to accelerate the success of knowledge-based companies into global markets.
Growing businesses will find no shortage of room to expand. Buildings include Discovery 1 & 2, in addition to the most recent additions on-site NETPark Explorer 1 & 2 offering grow-on space.
For companies looking to develop bespoke premises, NETPark Phase Three provides 26 acres of land for development speculative buildings perfect for businesses that need larger space to prototype, scale-up and manufacture on site.
County Durham itself is a great place to base your business. The air, rail and road infrastructure in the region ensure excellent access across the UK, Europe and rest of the world. The closest airports are Newcastle International and Teesside International Airport.
High speed trains run frequently between London and Edinburgh stopping at Durham. Travel time to Durham by rail is less than 3 hours from London and only 2 hours from Edinburgh.
The A1M and A19 provide the main north-south routes to the rest of the UK and commute times are among the lowest in the UK. County Durham is an excellent launch pad to the EU and the UK, in addition to being in a time zone well-positioned to do business with the rest of the world.
To find out more about NETPark visit
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