Work begins on £1.4 university enterprise zone at NETPark

Work has begun on a £1.4m project which will provide a contemporary workspace for technology and science-focused businesses.

Orbit, run by Durham University, will be based within one of the University’s research institutes at the North East Technology Park (NETPark), a leading UK science park.

Orbit will give members access to office, hot-desking, networking, and collaboration space while receiving targeted business guidance, support, and regular sessions delivered by the University’s researchers on a range of subjects.

Jenny Taylor, Head of Economic Development at Durham University, said:

“We are so pleased that work has begun on fully repurposing and refurbishing part of our research institute at NETPark. Orbit will provide the space to help businesses to grow and innovate by supporting them to collaborate with our researchers and students. University research is vital to local economic growth, even more so in a time when many businesses have faced challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that Orbit will drive up levels of research investment in the region, promote productivity and support jobs growth.”

The project brings together several North East-based agencies, including VEST Construction, Space Architects, Identity Consult (development consultants) and Cundall (engineering consultancy).

Durham has worked closely with Business Durham and CPI who are supporting the project and will work collaboratively on delivery once operational.

Sarah Slaven, Interim Managing Director at Business Durham, said:

“Orbit will be a fantastic addition to NETPark and we look forward to seeing many more spin-out businesses coming out of the University and following in the footsteps of businesses such as Kromek who have gone on to enjoy huge global success. It is vitally important that we invest in providing the right infrastructure, assistance and academic expertise to support, encourage and facilitate innovation in the county. Alongside our strategic partners Durham University and CPI, NETPark provides the right ecosystem to support businesses throughout their lifecycle from concept to commercialisation. Orbit is a welcome addition to NETPark that will help us widen those opportunities to businesses and maximise commercial opportunities with Durham University.”

Sophie Walton, Group Director of Academic Engagement at CPI, added:

“We are delighted to be supporting this initiative from Durham University. Orbit’s membership model is very innovative, and businesses will not only be able to readily tap into world-class scientific capability but will also get support in achieving their commercialisation ambition – such as scaling up of their technologies, finding finance options, or refining their business propositions. We love seeing technology businesses grow and prosper and initiatives like Orbit can have a substantial acceleration effect on company growth, helping create jobs and supporting the regional economy in what is currently a very tricky business climate.’’

Expressions of interest in becoming a member at Orbit can be made to orbit.durham@durham.ac.uk

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