THE region could be a hub for the UK space industry in just two years, according to county chiefs.

Dozens of technology firms across a range of sectors have moved to the North-East over the last two decades, attracted by the prospect of land to set up shop and expand later when needed.

And now bosses at Durham County Council have revealed their ambition to see their corner of the North-East become a leading hotspot for the types of companies usually associated with Oxford, Cambridge or Silicon Valley.

“Who would have thought that we would have some of the world leaders in space technology based in Sedgefield?,” said Carl Marshall, the county council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, who called the site the county’s ‘jewel in the crown’.

“It’s fantastic, the work that they’re doing down there, we’re looking to develop a space hub at NETPark by 2023, and trying to secure a £20 million investment to allow that sector to grow.

“A lot of these businesses are homegrown, spinouts from the university and homegrown entrepreneurs from the region who are looking at developing their business model here, which is great.”

Since it was opened by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004, NETPark, or the North East Technology Park, as it is also known, has become home to more than 70 firms.

One of the first to move in, Kromek, is currently working on technology to detect dirty bombs.

One of the newest additions, RHEA Group, which provides security services for the space sector, among other offerings, took the keys to its new offices last year in October 2020.

The involvement of Durham University has been a key factor in attracting businesses to NETPark and then keeping them there.

And county bosses expect the relationship with the university, as well as fintech firms already attracted to Durham, will be vital to developing their next major project at the Durham city Aykley Heads site.

But Cllr Marshall is also adamant that Durham County council itself needs to be leading efforts to attract jobs.

He added: “If a business is going to locate to Durham, they need suitable sites and they need to be available at the right time.”

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