An £18m centre designed to lead the way in the one of the most innovative and fastest-growing areas of healthcare is to be established in the North East.
Healthcare photonics involves the use of light to diagnose and treat medical conditions, with applications ranging from cancer care to neurology and ophthalmology.
The region is already home to a number of SMEs making significant strides forward in the field, including PolyPhotonix at NETPark, County Durham, which has manufactured a sleep mask for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Now, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership has asked the Centre for Process Innovation to create a new National Centre for Healthcare Photonics at the Sedgefield-based site.
Due to open in 2017, the centre will combine facilities and expertise that can be accessed by companies of all sizes, helping them develop their technologies and bring them to market.
The Government has allocated £10m to the project as part of the North East Growth Deal expansion, with an additional £8m being sourced from industrial partners and other competitive grants.
Roy Sandbach, innovation lead for North East LEP, said: “It is great news that we have been able to work with CPI and other partners to secure this investment.
“Our Innovation Strategy is designed to ensure that the North East has world class facilities that support businesses bringing new products and services to market and enable to them to achieve sustainable, long-term business growth.
“The creation of the National Centre for Healthcare Photonics will position the North East as a leading location for this exciting healthcare sector, and add further to our strong reputation for the development of treatments and technologies which improve the lives of people here in the North East and globally.”
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is part of the Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, mixing applied knowledge in science and engineering with state-of-the-art development facilities that enable clients to develop products and prove processes with minimal risk.
The CPI will both establish and manage the new centre, which will build upon existing regional expertise, helping SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia and industry to accelerate the commercialisation of new and improved healthcare products.
It will see clinicians and medical specialists collaborate with experts in photonics, biochemistry, and engineering, and will host both prototyping and pilot scale facilities to enable production of a high enough quality and consistency to enter early and late-stage clinical trials.
A key focus area of focus will be around health economics and regulatory aspects, which are critical in bringing such products to market.
CPI chief executive Nigel Perry said: “This is an exciting area for CPI and solidifies our plans to address key areas within the healthcare sector.
“The new centre will provide both large and small companies with open access facilities to prototype and scale up their research ideas, thereby reducing risks associated with product and process development in this growing global market.”
Richard Kirk, chief executive of PolyPhotonix, added: “We are delighted that the National Centre for Healthcare Photonics is to be located here in the North East of England.
“The Centre will assist PolyPhotonix with continued research into treatments for devastating diseases such as Macular Eye Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy, improving the quality of life for patients whilst reducing costs of national care systems around the world.”
Dr Simon Goon, managing Director of Business Durham, which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “We welcome this news as the field of healthcare photonics is an incredibly exciting one, not just for the technologies that are being developed but because of the very real impact these technologies have on people’s health and wellbeing.
“Coming so soon after the announcement of the National Formulation Centre for NETPark, it is a further endorsement that NETPark, County Durham, and the North East is a world-class location for hi-tech companies.
“We look forward to working with CPI to bring many more companies like PolyPhotonix to NETPark.”