GLOBAL leaders in research, including a company working on a cure for common causes of blindness, are to benefit from major investment in North-East innovators.

Entrepreneurs in the region have been promised an additional £180 million to create the technologies of tomorrow by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond.

He also plans to expand ‘catapult centres’ as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, supporting work in high-tech labs, cutting-edge factories and advanced training centres.

PolyPhotonix, at the North East Technology Park (Netpark) at Sedgefield, County Durham, is on the verge of revolutionising treatment for degenerative sight-threatening conditions caused by age and diabetes.

Mr Hammond, said: “We are backing innovative British companies to grow and create jobs, as we build an economy fit for the future.

“It is by backing innovative British companies to grow and create jobs that we will continue this progress and build an economy fit for the future.”

The £180 million funding will go to the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Blyth, Northumberland, £73 million, and the Centre for Process Innovation in Redcar, £107 million.

The funding for Teesside, over the next five years, will help to increase CPI's work in markets such as healthcare, electronics, energy, aerospace, chemical processing, food and agriculture, transport and construction.

In Blyth, SMAR Azure has developed products used by 200 organisations in 29 countries, specialising in creating lighter, more efficient blades for offshore wind turbines that create more energy than existing offerings.

It is now developing a new test rig at its world-leading centre to validate and demonstrate a section of the blade prototype.

Mr Hammond said: “The £180 million investment for the North-East will support innovators across the region to create the technologies of the future and the better, highly-paid jobs we all want to see.

“We are working hard to build a stronger, fairer economy, dealing with the deficit, helping people into work, and cutting taxes for individuals and businesses.”

The catapult network is designed to support sectors and technologies that are going to be in high demand in the years ahead.

It aims to bring together the best of UK business, science and engineering to work side by side in research and development to ‘catapult’ products from ideas to market.

It helps remove barriers to growth, which often can include access to finance, inadequate facilities or skills shortages.

A mask developed by PolyPhotonix, the Noctura 400, is worn at night to deliver a precise dose of light therapy to patients while they sleep, whereas current treatments include injections and laser therapy.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “We are a nation of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, backed by the largest investment in research and development 40 years, we are boosting growth, creating new highly skilled jobs and helping change people’s lives for the better.

“This Government wants to make the UK the most innovative nation in the world and the investment in our world leading catapult network will play a key role in building on UK strengths, bringing new ideas and products to market and helping drive local economies across the UK.”

Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK, said long-term investment meant the ‘catapults’ can help UK raise investment in research and development to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027.

He said: “This significant announcement means our world-class network of catapults can build on their success and continue helping thousands of businesses across the UK to undertake innovative research and development.”