A DELEGATION from Prague visited the North East to discuss the use of cutting-edge photonics technology in space, as part of an exchange under the European STEPHANIE project.

The EU-funded Interreg Europe project sees partners from seven countries focus on photonics– technology using light– to help address challenges including health and wellbeing, climate change and security.

STEPHANIE encourages members to share knowledge and good practice to influence public policy to deliver real benefits from space technology.

Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham, is the project's UK partner and as such hosted delegates from the Czech Republic recently.

Elaine Scott, business engagement and opportunities manager at Business Durham, was part of a North East team that went to Prague in November.

She said: “After our visit, this was a great opportunity to welcome them to our region and show them the work being done here. STEPHANIE partners already share good practice thanks to the internet, but the visits enable them to see it in action and give them the opportunity to meet the people who run projects in their selected fields.

“The North East not only has world-leading expertise in photonics technology, but is also one of the most forward-thinking regions when it comes to ways of turning space research and technology into applications that can help solve real-world problems.”

The party visited NETPark in Sedgefield, the UK base for STEPHANIE, where they met Professor John Girkin, director of Durham University’s Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, and then to Durham University where they met Dr Victoria Money, senior impact and engagement manager, Dr Heather Allinson, technology transfer manager and Professor Andy Monkman of the Department of Physics.

At County Hall they met Claire Williams, funding and programmes team leader, and Steven Bowyer, incomes monitoring co-ordinator.

Before flying back via Newcastle they met with Alan Welby, innovation director at the North East Local Economic Partnership (NELEP) and James Davies, programme manager at the NELEP.

Delegate Jan Stachura, project manager at the ELI Beamlines research centre of the Institute of Physics, said: “The NETPark location is similar to that of ELI Beamlines, albeit Beamlines is in a smaller local area. Consequently, we felt that there were some parallels for our infrastructure. Additionally, we benefitted from meeting leading academics at Durham University where we shared best practice which could benefit us at the Institute of Physics in Prague. We hope this exchange will lead to further collaboration.”

During their visit to the Czech Republic, North East delegates learnt about smart city projects, problem solving using satellite data and visited a laser research facility.

Delegate Michala Kudrlickova said: “It is great to get to know how European Funding in the field of innovation and research works in a different country. Our visit to the North East of England has enabled to us to interact with experts and to get inspiration for Prague.”