THIS week’s headlines in The Northern Echo have been thrilling: “System claims it is able to detect Covid-19 in the air” and “It could be a game-changer”.

They were about local firm Kromek, based at NETPark in Sedgefield, trialling a biological threat detection system, at Teesside International Airport, that can identify trace levels of all Covid-19 within 30 minutes. It is an example of the sort of innovative high tech businesses we have on our doorstep.

This isn’t just great news about a way we can beat the pandemic but it is a shining light for how science and technology are thriving industries in our region and can be a real catalyst in the levelling up work.

I have visited the North-East technology park, NETPark, many times since becoming the local MP, and I have developed a strong working relationship with a number of businesses there and facilitated ministerial visits. I am deeply excited by their research, innovation and developments which include contributions to space technology, advanced circuitry, radiation and virus detection.

Recently, the Prime Minister announced his plans to ensure the UK’s world-leading science and ideas are turned into solutions for public good, as part of our ambitions to become a global science superpower. NETPark’s collaborative network in science and technology is impressive and can link into several national and international networks. It can access potential global partners at more than 450 other science and technology parks through its active participation in the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) and the United Kingdom Science Park Association (UKSPA).

This cluster of companies believes in building business connections and community connections aimed at long term growth and stability for themselves and supply chains within the region. This is a ‘game-changer’ and I want to shout from the rooftops about the potential for further growth at NETPark and across the North-East.

We have businesses that can grow and embed so they stick in our region.

Historically, companies have been tempted to invest in our region by financial incentives. At the time this seemed like a great way of attracting world-known brands in the hope of building long term education, employment, and career development. Some of these companies got what they wanted and then ran to the next tempting offer, leaving white elephant industrial complexes and unemployment in their wake.

Investment is best steered towards the long-term goals for the region including the needs of the community, education, career development and secure employment. The development of industrial clusters with embedded supply chains is one way to deliver this.

I have spoken with ministers from BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), International Trade, and Education as well as the Levelling Up policy unit in Number 10. We agree that the way forward is keep growing a core skill base within the region.

I have this week written to the Prime Minister, and other ministers, extolling the virtues of the North-East as exemplified by the collaborative companies at NETPark, and making the Cabinet team aware that there are multi-level benefits for investors who will appreciate the assets and the unique core skill base in this region.

Within the “levelling up” agenda, the ecosystem/hub of this region is creating educational stimulus, long term career progression and community growth. It is this we need to put rocket boosters under.