PIONEERING firm Kromek says it will double its North East workforce to more than 100 and build a similar- sized US operation as it wins contracts for technology including scanners used by airports to find explosives.
The Sedgefield business, which was spun out of Durham University in 2003, has been building a range of products based on research into the uses of x-rays including analysing liquids in luggage to detect whether they are dangerous.
It has won millions of pounds of investment to develop products which can help detect cancer or radiation from nuclear material and won contracts with universities, governments and health authorities worldwide.
Chief executive Arnab Basu said that over the next couple of years it expects to double its 55-strong workforce in the North East and grow its 10- strong workforce in California to the same size as it steps up manufacturing and research and development work there.
“We are in a very strong position and have seen our business grow four times this year on last year. We will continue to grow at a very good rate in the future,” he said.
“We are getting a very good reception for the scanner and other products and we are looking at winning business in the US, Asia and Europe.”
Basu said details of many of the new contracts he was winning and the technology he was developing are under wraps because of commercial or security concerns. But recent deals include a £2.4m deal with the US government on its nuclear emission testing equipment.
The firm revealed its plans as it unveiled a deal with Durham Tees Valley Airport to trial the scanners before its owner Peel Airports decides whether to roll it out to its other sites, at Liverpool, Doncaster and Sheffield.
The technology will not only help to prevent terrorists blowing up aeroplanes but bring an end to passengers facing delays and having to ditch their drinks and shampoo before going through airport security gates.
Kromek won approval from EU safety regulators to sell its technology as the European ban on taking liquids on planes which was introduced in 2006 is lifted over the next two years.
Durham Tees Valley Airport manager Shaun Woods said: “In recent years security regulations have strictly controlled the ways in which liquids can be carried on board aircraft and also the need for checking materials.
“Currently we use checking measures which involve physically opening a container in order to carry out the checks, which is both time-consuming and can in itself involve safety considerations for staff.
“It takes up to two minutes to test liquids at the moment and this scanner can do the job in 20 seconds and is cleaner and easier to use.”