Work is underway on the £61m expansion of one of the UK’s premier science parks following the appointment of a contractor.
Led by Durham County Council, the development of phase three of The North East Technology Park (NETPark) at Sedgefield has begun, after Kier was chosen to deliver the project. The county council is funding the expansion of the park with support from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).
Phase three has the potential to create 1,250 skilled jobs and to be worth £625m to the local economy over the next ten years. Plans are also in place for a fourth phase of NETPark with potentially more to follow, with additional land designated for development that would take the number of jobs at the site to between 3,000 and 4,000.
Leader of the council Cllr Amanda Hopgood said: “It is really exciting to have started work on the third phase of NETPark and to have appointed Kier to deliver the project.
“We are delighted to be making a significant investment in the expansion and grateful to the North East LEP for its support, which is in recognition of the fantastic employment opportunities that NETPark presents our region.
“The prospect of the further 1,250 skilled jobs worth £625m, and the potential for NETPark to ultimately host 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in total, is proof that we are delivering on our ambition to create more and better jobs for our residents, as set out in our Inclusive Economic Strategy.”
The new phase of what is the region’s premier science park will include up to 232,000 square feet of new laboratory, office and production space, and will cover an initial seven hectares of land, rising to 16 hectares. It will also provide facilities for both existing tenants to expand and to enable future inward investment.
As well as the potential 1,250 new direct jobs, the expansion stands to provide an additional 2,200 in the supply chain. Skilled jobs will be created across a broad range of specialties, such as scientists, technicians, administration, accounting, marketing, IT and logistics.
In addition to the council’s investment, the North East LEP is providing funding that will enable sustainability and low-carbon measures in phase three. This is on the back of a previous Local Growth Fund grant, also from the North East LEP, which allowed highway infrastructure to be put in place to open up the land for development.
Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “NETPark has undoubtedly been one of our region’s biggest economic success stories. Home to three national innovation centres, as well as a community of science and technology companies that have helped grow key sectors across the North East, NETPark has proven its ability to secure investment into our region and create jobs.
“The expansion of the science park will bring further business growth to the North East and create more than 1,000 highly skilled jobs in emerging and growing sectors of industry including health and life sciences, space, engineering, and technology.
“The North East LEP has supported the growth of NETPark through the Local Growth Fund since 2015, and this latest investment has ensured work can now progress on phase three; helping to deliver more economic growth and more jobs for the North East.”
The appointment of Kier to deliver the expansion builds on the work the company has been doing as ‘pre-construction partner.’ Daniel Doherty, Regional Director of Kier North and Scotland, said: “This is an exciting project for Kier which represents the ongoing importance of the North East as an area of growth for us, as well as our commitment to delivering outstanding projects in the science sector. We are looking forward to delivering a project befitting of Durham County Council’s vision and which will leave a lasting impact on the local community for years to come.”
NETPark opened in 2004 and is part of a strategic ambition of the council to grow the economy. The park has gone from strength to strength over the years and is now home to 40 companies, including significant private sector employers such as Kromek, Filtronic, IBEX Innovations and PolyPhotonix.
In all, NETPark employs more than 700 people in specialist sectors. These include advanced materials and manufacturing, nanotechnology, X-Ray technology, semiconductors, defence, electronics, photonics, robotics, pharmaceutical and space/satellites.
Development of phase three is expected to be complete by early 2025. Looking beyond that, a further 44 hectares around the site has been designated as development land, paving the way for a fourth and potential further phases of NETPark and the site ultimately hosting 3,000 to 4,000 high-value jobs.