A MICROELECTRONICS firm aims to double its workforce in a major expansion, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Compound Photonics, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, wants 100 highly-skilled staff to support growth into new markets.

The semiconductor maker, whose products are used in radar equipment for military planes, aims to extend its presence in the high-resolution projector market.

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The move comes as the firm, which employs 107 workers and is making Newton Aycliffe its global headquarters, looks to build on a successful first year in the region.

Last July, it bought the RF Micro Devices (RFMD) plant, in Newton Aycliffe, which was the world's most advanced microchip factory when it was officially opened by the Queen in 1991.

Richard Jackson, Compound Photonics’ vice-president, said the company was committed to growing in the region.

He said: “Things are going very well and the first 12 months have been good.

“We started with 77 people and are now at 107, but have vacancies and hope to get that number to 115 by September.

“We’ve invested in equipment and are benefiting from that, and we are working on new technology with more customers are coming to us.

“We work on the semiconductors for the radar appliances in aircraft, and also in high end cars, like Audi, BMW and Volvo, as driver aids.

“But we are working on new projector-based technology and building up the know-how and technology for that, and we expect 2015 is going to be the year for release.”

Mr Jackson said the firm could have moved work to the US or Asia, but chose Aycliffe because the factory was tailor-made to its needs, allowing its specialist staff to begin work immediately.

He added: “The factory has been here for a number of years and so have its people, who have that great North-East attitude and put a lot of hard work in.”

Compound’s arrival in Aycliffe came after RFMD quit the region and moved production of its mobile phone semiconductors to the US.

At the time, Dr Jonathan Sachs, Compound Photonic’s president and chief executive, said the undisclosed investment was a fantastic opportunity.

He added: “The high level skills of the workforce, the growing electronics cluster and the quality of the research in Durham University in our area of technology were major reasons behind our decision.”

The plant was started by Fujitsu, but the Japanese electronics company closed it in 1998, axing about 600 jobs.

It was bought in 2000 by Filtronic, now based at Sedgefield’s NetPark, with RFMD taking over in a £12.5m deal in 2008.