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Innovation In County Durham

Matching what's needed with what's possible.
North East hosts Czech delegates on European STEPHANIE space project

North East hosts Czech delegates on European STEPHANIE space project

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.

STEPHANIE is an EU-funded Interreg Europe project involving eight partners from seven countries focused on photonics to help address challenges on the ground including health and well-being, climate change and security.

Photonics, technology using light, is considered one of Europe’s areas of key industrial competences and STEPHANIE encourages sharing knowledge and good practice so that public policy delivers real benefits from space technology.

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

Elaine Scott, business engagement and opportunities manager at Business Durham, was part of a North East team that travelled to Prague in November to meet staff working on STEPHANIE, which is part of the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence.

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 delegates were Michala Kudrlickova, project manager of the Priority Axis 1 at Operational Programme Prague – Growth Pole of the Czech Republic; Ivo Svejkovsky, head of International Cooperation Office at the Institue of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences; and Jan Stachura, project manager at the ELI Beamlines research centre of the Institute of Physics.

During their stay, they 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.

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 saw the Operational Programme Prague – Growth Pole of the Czech Republic, where they are developing smart city projects primarily with ICT operators. Then the delegates went to the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency where they saw how the agency is engaging with stakeholders on solving problems using satellite data and then to ELI Beamlines to see their laser research facility.

Michala Kudrlickova, project manager of the Priority Axis 1 at Operational Programme Prague, 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.”