A SCIENCE and technology park has reached a milestone after the first firm to be based there moved into larger premises.

Until now Kromek, a twoman research spin-out from Durham University, has been housed in the business incubator facilities at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, which provide space for startup science and high-tech companies.

The company’s new, larger headquarters, which will be opened today by the Duke of York, reflect its rapid growth into an international commercial operation.

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The company, the first to be based at NETPark following its opening in 2004 and now employing about 60 people, is best known for pioneering an airport scanner that can identify liquids in bottles, including explosives, alcohol and narcotics in less than 20 seconds.

It will now be based at one of three new buildings on the site, developed at a cost of £10m, to house the global headquarters of science and technology companies.

It comes as the North-East positions itself as a hub for new technology-driven businesses, ranging from sciencebased industries to electric vehicle production.

Dr Arnab Basu, Kromek’s chief executive, said: “We are moving from a development facility into a much more commercial set-up.

“Ourselves and NETPark have grown together. It was the next natural step.

“We have developed a whole range of technologies and capabilities.

We are still developing technologies and doing a lot of research and development, but in that mix, production and commercial facilities are becoming very important.

“We expect to continue to grow over the coming years and this facility allows us to meet those needs.”

Dr Basu, who described Prince Andrew’s visit as a great honour, added: “We have expressed our continued commitment and intent of growing in the North-East.

“The North-East has been our home, the technology originates from this region and we have a lot of skilled people from this region.”

NETPark is managed and developed by County Durham Development Company (CDDC), Durham County Council’s business support arm.

Stewart Watkins, managing director of CDDC, said he was delighted that the first tenant of the new premises was a company that had grown at NETPark.

He said: “Its rapid expansion is proof of the expertise that lies within our region, and to have this recognised by royal attendance at this opening is very satisfying.

“The county council has developed NETPark to provide both an impetus for economic development in the county and also to provide jobs for local people, so the success of firms like Kromek demonstrates that.

“I believe that the North- East has been very bold in implementing a strategy of new technology, almost leapfrogging over other more established areas.

“As far as economic development is concerned we are not trying to play catch-up, we are at the forefront of technology.”