TECHNOLOGY firm Kromek has won a £12.3m cash injection which will inevitably mean more jobs for the North East, it claimed.
The Sedgefield-based company has attracted worldwide interest by developing a scanner that can be used in airports to detect explosives or narcotics in bottles without opening them and has just raised the money from private investors in exchange for shares, bringing its valuation to £52m.
Chief executive Arnab Basu said: “We’ve grown pretty consistently over the past three years and we expect to carry on at the same pace and even accelerate that process. It will inevitably mean more jobs and development within the company.”
The £12.3m will be pumped into covering the lease at its expanded facility at the NETPark science park in Sedgefield and generating working capital to pay its growing development workforce, as well as allowing it to target potential buyers in the medical, defence, industrial inspection and security sectors.
Late last year Kromek said it would be adding 100 staff over the next three years after winning a £2.4m contract with the US Department of Defence to supply equipment which can detect emissions from nuclear materials.
Kromek was set up as a two-man operation called Durham Scientific Crystals in 2003 and specialises in the security market, although its products have uses in the medical and industrial inspection fields.
Dr Basu said the company had received inquiries for its Kromek Bottle Scanner from Asia, America and the Middle East. The scanner uses digital detectors to compare a liquid with a saved template, allowing security to confirm if it has been tampered with in under 30 seconds.
It is undergoing testing in the US by the Transportation Security Administration, set up in response to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.
Dr Basu said: “Our market has always been global and our major contracts have always been from America. However, the North East has been a very good place for us to be.”
Kromek’s scanner is ideally placed to take advantage of changing legislation covering the transport of liquids on airlines. By April 2011, passengers will be able to carry duty-free liquids between transit areas in airports and screening will be fully in place by 2013. Kromek is working with duty-free sellers to save “signatures” for every product sold in their shops, such as whiskys and perfumes, for future comparison.
However, Dr Basu said Europe ran the risk of lagging behind the rest of the world as it had yet to agree a single set of specifications for a product suitable for use in all airports.
International medical technology investor Amphion Innovations invested close to £1m in the company in 2005, and added a further £200,000 in the latest round of fundraising. While its original stake was 28%, the new round of investment diluted its holding to 17%.
Chief executive Richard Morgan said: “We were originally interested in the medical application of Kromek’s X-ray products. Everything changed in 2006 with the conspiracy to put bombs on planes using liquid explosives.
“We’ve been going through a protracted process of testing the bottle scanner in the TSA labs in America to make sure it meets the specifications.”