HOPES have been raised over new jobs after a centre helping firms tap into the space sector secured a programme extension.

The North-East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, based at NetPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, now has funding to continue for another three years.

Bosses say the move will build partnerships to win funding and contracts to support more than 300 businesses, create or safeguard 100 jobs and attract more than £5m of funding to the region.

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They added it will focus on identifying opportunities to use satellite data and space technology to develop services and improve safety across areas, such as infrastructure and the food chain.

The extension will be cofunded by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Agency.

The centre is one of only five in the country, and was established three years ago by a consortium led by Business Durham, Durham County Council’s business division, and funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult.

It has already drawn together and set up a cluster of companies, which are now taking advantage of the space market, while also securing further EU funding to promote research and innovation.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, added: “Developments like the centre of excellence are helping to improve lives and make exciting advances in technology.

“Through our work with Business Durham, we strive to shine a light on the opportunities available here, showcasing Durham as an ideal county in which to live, work, invest, study and visit and we are proud that such exciting developments as this continue to be created here.”

Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth at the UK Space Agency, said the backing will help deliver the next wave of companies.

She said: “I am delighted that the UK Space Agency is supporting the North-East Centre of Excellence – they have developed a vibrant space community in the region and the next phase of funding will build upon and strengthen this network, delivering new collaborations and bringing further new players into the sector.”

Professor Nick Veck, head of strategy at the Satellite Applications Catapult, added: “The North-East centre has made a significant impact in helping to develop and expand the space sector.

“We are delighted to be able to extend their funding.”

NetPark officials previously signed off work to extend the site in the £7.4m Explorer development.

The scheme will house facilities such as laboratories, clean room space and offices for firms to scale up work, with businesses expected to move in early next year.