MEP backs lift-off for hi-tech scanner

AN INNOVATIVE technology firm could be held back by a lack of co-ordinated security at European airports.

AN INNOVATIVE technology firm could be held back by a lack of co-ordinated security at European airports.

North-east MEP Fiona Hall is lobbying the European Commission for a single set of rules governing security of liquids on aeroplanes following a visit to Sedgefield-based Kromek, which is developing X-ray imaging equipment that can detect explosives in liquids.

She claims the technology could lessen the inconvenience of passengers in transit, who at the moment are faced with confiscation of duty free liquids when they pass through a European airport.

She also believes it could help to alleviate security fears once the ban on liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) - due to expire in April - is lifted.

However, she said different rules across EU member states was making it harder for the firm to bring the technology to market.

“For Kromek to get this innovative bottle scanner fully on the market there needs to be one clear set of EU rules and not 27 different member state regulations.

“I will push the European Commission to come forward with proposals to provide a clear framework as a matter of urgency.

“The aim is to deliver freedom to travellers while improving security. Kromek’s technology allows this.”

She said this was a classic case of “needing more Europe” - a single European market for scanning technology that could help the development of local firms and bring more jobs to the North-east.

Established as a Durham University spin-out in 2003, Kromek has spent the majority of its time conducting research and development into areas such as security and medical - and now is ready to take its products to market.

Now Kromek is gearing up for a rapid expansion that will see 100 staff recruited in three years after winning a $4m contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Under the agreement with the DoD, the company will supply equipment that can detect emissions from nuclear materials.

The firm is simultaneously planning full commercialisation of its X-ray imaging products in the medical, security, industrial inspection and defence markets with domestic airports a key market for its anti-terrorist equipment.

Kromek’s turnover in the year to April 2009 was £500,000 - but that figure is expected to run into millions over the next 12 months.

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