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Innovation In County Durham

Matching what's needed with what's possible.

CPI and Business Durham: A partnership driving innovation

CPI is a UK technology innovation centre that helps companies to scale up their research ideas and turn them into high value manufactured products. CPI began operations in 2004 and, in the 11 years since, the company has established a track record of delivering major impact and high value for its clients and for the UK.

CPI’s continuing work with Business Durham has been a major factor in CPI’s growth. Business Durham manages NETPark, a science park that is home to an elite innovative group of science and technology organisations with global ambition, transforming innovative ideas into products with worldwide social and economic impact. CPI currently has two UK National Centres at NETPark and has further expansion plans approved in a number of strategic areas.

CPI’s involvement with Business Durham began very early on in NETPark’s existence with the planning, build and launch of CPI’s National Printable Electronics Centre. Since then the two companies have partnered across a host of themes supporting innovation in the UK. Listed are some of the highlights.

Growth of CPI’s Printable Electronics Centre

Opened in 2009, CPI’s Printable Electronics Centre at NETPark has grown from an initial team of 10 to a team of 60. The centre has continued to expand over the last seven years and now hosts over £60m worth of assets alongside some of the best scientists and researchers in the world. CPI is working with a number of companies of all sizes in the commercialisation of their new product concepts. Some examples include BAE Systems, Ford Motors, Audi, Unilever, PolyPhotonix, PragmatIC, and Applied Nanodetectors.

CPI and Business Durham help PolyPhotonix to bring their sight saving sleep mask to market

Based at NETPark, PolyPhotonix is a healthcare photonics company developing light therapy treatments for macular eye disease as well as other medical conditions. Working closely with CPI and Business Durham, PolyPhotonix has grown from one employee with an idea to a team of 25 people manufacturing a phototherapy eye mask (Noctura 400®) that treats one of the most common causes of blindness in the western world. The company has graduated from CPI’s incubator facilities and is located in its own custom facilities at NETPark.

Science park collaboration with Kromek

Being located in the science park offers many opportunities for potential collaboration with neighbours. One example is CPI’s work with NETPark company Kromek to develop a conformable radiation detector using Kromek’s expertise in radiation detectors and CPI’s knowledge of printable electronics. The primary application is for breast cancer screening, where the technology will have a number of advantages over current technology, including making the experience a lot more comfortable for women.

CPI’s establishment of the National Formulation Centre in NETPark

Located at NETPark, CPI’s National Formulation Centre is an open-access innovation centre for advanced formulated product design and manufacture. The Centre provides the environment for companies to increase productivity and accelerate the commercialisation of their next generation formulated products.

Formulated products are all around us and vital to our everyday lives, from the food we eat, to the household cleaning products we use, to the oils in our cars, to the paints we use to decorate our homes and the pharmaceuticals that we use to maintain our health. Effective formulation directly impacts product performance and influences key product features such as stability, delivery of active components and sensory perception. Sales of formulated products by UK companies amount to £180bn per annum.

The National Formulation Centre is currently located in the Discovery Centre at NETPark and is supported by specialist graphene and formulation laboratories. Expansion plans are in place to further strengthen CPI’s capability in formulation with the build of a new 4,500 sq m facility at NETPark set to start in 2016.

Graphene Applications Innovation Centre

In 2015, CPI established the UK’s Graphene Applications Innovation Centre to assist companies to develop, prove and commercialise products using graphene technologies. Graphene is tipped to transform many products. Its electrical and thermal conductivity, optical purity and mechanical strength could be used in high-capacity batteries, flexible screens, ultra-fast transistors and other electronic components, super-bright lasers and materials from sports equipment to aircraft wings. The facility is also located in the Discovery Centre and offers specialist capability in the development of graphene materials, technology scale up and applications integration.

CPI’s Healthcare Photonics Centre to be built in 2017

Healthcare photonics refers to the application of light for a range of healthcare applications including therapies, diagnostics, imaging and surgical interventions, and is an exciting and rapidly growing area across the globe. One example of which is the PolyPhotonix Noctura400 sleep mask. CPI and Business Durham are currently establishing a new National Centre for Healthcare Photonics at NETPark to help industry and academia translate their early research into commercially viable products. Building work is due to start in 2017.

“There has been a long association between CPI’s National Centre for Printable Electronics and Business Durham. CPI has developed a specialist offering to support SMEs looking to develop their printable electronics applications and our partnership with Business Durham has been instrumental in attracting several SMEs to locate here in the region. Indeed, the relationship between CPI and Business Durham has proved to be synergistic, creating further expansion opportunities on NETPark that will ultimately lead to the creation of even more high quality business development opportunities and jobs for the region.”

- Dr Jon Helliwell, Director of Printable Electronics, CPI

“CPI is an important partner in our plans to grow NETPark and achieve our ambition of being the global hub for materials integration by 2025.The combination of technical expertise and unique equipment acts as a real attractor for companies looking to scale up and launch products to market and our shared understanding and knowledge of that innovation journey has led to a long-term collaborative partnership. We look forward to helping many more companies, working closely with CPI.”

- Catherine Johns, Innovation and Business Growth Director, Business Durham

To find out more about NETPark, please visit www.northeasttechnologypark.com or connect via @netparknet


  • Romag, the oldest manufacturer of bespoke glass and solar products in the North East, transform traditional architectural spaces with beautiful modern coloured solar panels which utilise light to create clean energy
    Read the case study
  • The first light from the European Extremely Large Telescope designed by the European Southern Observatory is due to take place in 2024, but much of the work on its optical technology has already started here in Durham.Read the case study
  • Durham teachers are being inspired with ideas on how to engage children with light and smart materials in their lessons.
  • A new £18m National Centre for Healthcare Photonics is being created at NETPark in County Durham. Planned to open in 2017, it will be one of the world's most exciting places where businesses, academia, entrepreneurs and investors come together to develop new technologies using light to diagnose and treat medical conditions and illnesses. Read the full story
  • A bit of clever robot weld programming has come from local innovator, Andrew Turner, at NETPark – the science park just a few miles from Durham city. A former Senior Engineer for a major car parts manufacturer, Andrew drew from his own experience to solve a costly welding problem in automotive welding. Read the case study
  • Orcalight, in Stanley, County Durham is a diving light maker helping renowned documentary makers capture stunning images of the world.Read the case study
  • Secondary school pupils all over County Durham are asked to reimagine their future through the Future Business Magnates competition in 2015. They were challenged to come up with new ways of using light.
  • Lumiere, the biggest light festival in the UK with 175,000 visitors, happens every two years in Durham. It returns in November 2017.
  • Thorn Lighting is a major employer in County Durham and makes modern, energy efficient lighting for work and leisure uses.
  • Using ultra-stable lasers, Durham physicists are cooling atoms to the point at which they hardly move. This is important to create atoms that will enable quantum computing using light, computing power beyond what we have today.
  • Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is working to use organic light emitting diodes to create a whole new generation of windowless airplane fuselages. This will transform how you see your flight from inside the plane, and also help reduce fuel consumption significantly.
  • Kromek uses its patented digital colour X-ray and gamma ray technology in a range of products that deal with liquid based threats in aviation security and border control, as well as the security and industrial inspection markets.
  • Durham University’s Centre for Advanced Instrumentation builds instruments for major telescopes, enabling us to observe the universe in new ways.
  • Durham University is using photophysics to develop new ways of tackling counterfeiters and to monitor what actually takes place in your dishwasher or washing machine at a microscopic scale.
  • Using technology originally developed at Durham University for Europe’s Extremely Large Telescope, researchers are also applying these methods to advance optical microscopy which is being used to study live zebrafish to help understand heart disease.
  • The University is home to the former Astronomer Royal, Sir Arnold Wolfendale, who carries on the proud tradition of Durham and astronomy.
  • Thomas Wright, the astronomer, was the first to describe the shape of the Milky Way. He was born in County Durham in 1711.
  • Ibex Innovations created and now offers low dose, high contrast X-ray imaging which delivers higher safety and efficiency through improved visibility of defects.
  • Optical communication uses light to carry information. Located here in Durham is aXenic, a global technology leader in optical communications components and subsystems for high-speed voice, video and data communications for networking, storage, wireless, and cable TV applications.
  • Durham University’s Biophysical Sciences Institute has developed a use for infrared to treat dementia and detect early dental disease.
  • Multi-award winner Polyphotonix has developed a non-invasive organic light emitting diode treatment for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the developed world with a potential customer base of 320 million worldwide and saving the NHS £1BN a year

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Useful Events

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Commercial Property In County Durham

See map below for Business Durham’s commercial properties.