A COATINGS company has unveiled £10.7m plans to bolster operations at a North- East research hub.

Dulux maker AkzoNobel says it is bringing together more than 100 scientists to work on next generation products.

Bosses, who have refused to rule out further job creation, say the team will operate from the firm’s existing base in Felling, Gateshead, and focus on applications to protect steel and concrete structures from corrosion, abrasion and fire.

They added the plant, which is due to start operations in late 2018, will feature testing areas capable of analysing coatings’ performances in extreme environments and house more than 100 scientists as well as 170 technicians.

The company was eyeing locations in Singapore and the Netherlands before settling on the North-East.

Conrad Keijzer, AkzoNobel’s executive committee member responsible for performance coatings, said the development has the potential to revolutionise the business’ product range, saying it will strengthen its position in the energy, mining, infrastructure and oil and gas sectors.

He said: “Work at the lab will have an important impact on our most critical industries.

“More than 100 scientists and technical experts will be working on future solutions that will offer essential protection to a wide variety of products for our customers.

“They will reproduce conditions similar to those of the North Pole, the effects of acid erosion, or a fire on an oil rig.”

The investment is part of a wider commitment by AkzoNobel to its North-East operations.

The business, known for its Cuprinol, Hammerite and Polyfilla brands, has also spent millions on a new paint making factory in Ashington, Northumberland, which will create an initial 120 direct jobs and Ton Büchner, Akzo- Nobel chief executive, said the business valued its bases in the region.

He added: “What we’re trying to create in Felling is a research and development hub for the world, delivering incredibly technologically demanding products for these coatings.”

The development has been praised by Middlesbroughborn Business Secretary Greg Clark, who said it will be a major fillip for the region’s industrial landscape.

He added: “AkzoNobel’s investment in establishing a new innovation hub underlines the growth we want to see and support in our local economies.”

Back in 2015, the company revealed plans to spend about £1m on a pilot plant for coatings in the North-East, saying it would provide resin samples for product testing that could be scaled up to manufacturing.