Aiming for the stars

As County Durham prepares to host a national space conference this week, Amy Harhoff, Durham County Council’s corporate director for regeneration, economy and growth, explores the crucial role the sector is playing in inspiring the next generation of innovators.

County Durham has always been a place of ambition. From our multi-billion-pound investment programme, dynamic entrepreneurs and vibrant communities to our bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 – the sky is the limit when it comes to what we can, and do, achieve.  This is certainly the case for our growing space sector. Whether it is Durham University’s pioneering astronomical research or County Durham businesses developing advanced components for satellites, we are a force to be reckoned with.

According to the Government’s National Space Strategy, the space sector is worth more than £16.4 billion a year to the UK economy. In the North East, it is worth £88 million, with the number of organisations operating in the industry here increasing by 50 per cent in 2021. It’s exciting, it’s exponential and it’s exceptional.

Many of these organisations are based at NETPark, the region’s premier science and technology park near Sedgefield in County Durham. This includes the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence (NESACE), which is led by Durham County Council’s business support service, Business Durham, and drives opportunities in the region.

I’m delighted that on Wednesday 2 March, NESACE will host The New Frontier: North East Space Conference at Radisson Blu in Durham City, bringing together key players to discuss current priorities for the sector. It will also explore how science and technology can be a catalyst for economic prosperity, a belief we firmly support at Durham County Council.

Creating skilled, well-paid jobs and quality training opportunities is crucial for levelling up the region. Not only does it encourage our young residents and graduates to stay in County Durham, but it enhances our investment appeal. And it is not just us saying this, delivering more and better jobs is a key theme emerging from our Big Econ-versation, which was launched in January and asks residents and businesses to share their economic ambitions and priorities for County Durham.

The space sector offers highly skilled jobs and a chance to be a part of something with universal implications. What’s more it captures the imagination of young people from all backgrounds, highlighting the importance of creating inclusive opportunities. The idea that the child who daydreams about spaceships and far away galaxies could go on to pursue a career in the space industry right here in County Durham is something we should be very proud of.

This is also why our bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 includes Lightyear, a year-long programme celebrating our region’s 1,300-year history of astronomy and space science.

Ultimately, it is about raising aspirations by showing young people in County Durham the exciting work taking place on their doorsteps – work that they too could be a part of one day.

To find out more about New Frontier: North East Space Conference 2022 and to register attendance, visit:

News source: Business Durham

Sarah Slaven, Business Durham's managing director and Amy Harhoff, Durham County Council’s corporate director for regeneration, economy and growth

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The North East Technology Park provides a dynamic and supportive environment to accelerate the growth of ambitious, innovative, high tech companies into global markets. NETPark encourages collaborative multidisciplinary links, driving innovation, enterprise and economic prosperity.
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It fits perfectly for us that we’re surrounded by like-minded companies at NETPark. There are a number of highly skilled people in the area who can help us grow our business. The facilities and services offered by NETPark are first class, they make office life simple and engaging.

Stuart Wilson, - CEO, Ascarii

The quality of the facilities at NETPark and the attitude of staff is first class. It has a really dynamic, innovative atmosphere.

Dr Neil Loxley, - Chief executive, IBEX

CPI has developed a specialist offering to support SMEs looking to develop their printable electronics applications and our partnership with Business Durham has been instrumental in attracting several SMEs to locate here in the region.

Dr Jon Helliwell, - Director of Printable Electronics, CPI

Access to quality facilities was one of the main drivers for deciding to locate the business at the NETPark. We have been able to use this as a launch pad to link into support from CPI and world-class expertise from Durham University.

Steve Clements, - Managing Director, aXenic

The proximity to the universities and the infrastructure are very important factors. Ultimately having a presence in Europe is very valuable to us and we intend to stay at NETPark for many years to come.

Dr Arnab Basu, - CEO, Kromek

We initially came because of the printable electronics centre but access to a highly skilled semi conductor workforce in the North East has been a key factor in us staying and growing here, as well as the value for money office space and the access to funding.

Ken Williamson, - COO, PragmatIC Printing
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