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National Horizons Centre will drive economic growth in STEM industries

National Horizons Centre will drive economic growth in STEM industries

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth has formally launched construction work on a new £22.3 million research, teaching and training facility set to drive growth in the regional and national bioscience industries.

The National Horizons Centre, which is being built by Wates Construction on behalf of Teesside University at Central Park in Darlington, will concentrate on developing the technical, innovation and management skills and knowledge needed for the sector to continue to grow and generate jobs and wealth in Tees Valley and the UK.

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Jake Berry joined Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Teesside University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Paul Croney to mark the start of the build programme, due to be completed in spring 2019.

The National Horizons Centre is being established to support the bioscience sector, which includes biologics, biomedical sciences, industrial biotechnology and digital.  It will play a key part in driving STEM skills and economic growth in the Tees Valley, through industry-focused education and training and collaborative research and innovation.

It has been financially supported by the Local Growth Fund, via the Tees Valley Combined Authority, and the European Regional Development Fund.  The Local Growth Fund contribution of £17.5m represents the single biggest investment by the fund in the Tees Valley.

The centre will house academics and business development staff from Teesside University, working in partnership with regional, national and international industry partners, including the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Fujifilm Diosynth, to provide specialist education and training for the current and future workforce, and to promote industry-focused innovation and research.

Its imaginative design includes an exciting blend of teaching, learning and collaboration spaces, together with hi-tech laboratories and a state-of-the-art computing suite.

Together with CPI’s adjacent National Biologics Manufacturing Centre and the University’s Centre for Professional and Executive Development (CPED), the centre will be at the heart of a cluster of excellence on Darlington’s Central Park.

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Jake Berry said: “I was delighted to be here celebrating the start of the build of the National Horizons Centre today, which has received £17.5m government investment.

“This is the Northern Powerhouse in action because this Centre will not only be of regional importance but will be a nationally significant asset too.

“It will train our young people to become the scientists of the future and continue to drive forward the Tees Valley as a leader in research, science and innovation in the UK and the world.”

The £22.3 million investment in the National Horizons Centre is part of Teesside University’s ambitious campus masterplan, which will see £300 million spent over the next 10 years in transforming its estate to continue to provide an outstanding student and learning experience.

Professor Croney said: “The National Horizons Centre is the result of significant work with industry and our partners, to identify how best the bioscience sector can reach its full potential through provision of the right education, training and collaborative innovation. 

“A key priority of Teesside University is to help drive the knowledge economy, by growing the high-level skills base, building partnerships with industry and the professions, and creating graduates with the knowledge, aptitude and mindset to add real value to business.

“Our investment in The National Horizons Centre is an example of this in action. It will play a vital role, providing first-class facilities and programmes to grow knowledge and research in sectors that are set to transform the UK economy.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is the single biggest investment we have made so far. The new National Horizons Centre will be a beacon of all we are good at here in the Tees Valley.

“Our rich history of innovation, research and development is set to continue thanks to this state-of-the-art facility in Darlington. I’m pleased the Northern Powerhouse Minister has come up today to launch this exciting project.

“The new economy will be built on biologics and digital - key sectors we need to support. This massive £17.5million commitment is testament to the importance we have placed on securing jobs for the future.

“Helping Teesside University to achieve academic excellence is a major strand of my wider education and training plans. I look forward to continuing to work with the university and its partners as they deliver the high-quality skills training needed to build a Tees Valley fit for the future.”

Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “Darlington Central Park is one of our flagship developments, where business, residential and learning sit side by side.

“We are particularly excited to see the National Horizons Centre complement the National Biologics Centre and our own Business Central, which both opened in 2014, to create a place where science and innovation can flourish.

“STEM skills are top of the agenda and this first class facility will give our young people fantastic training opportunities in the future.”

Paul Dodsworth, Business Unit Director for Wates Construction Yorkshire and North East, commented: “As a national company with a Darlington office, we welcome this huge investment in the local area, and we are honoured that Wates is to play such a pivotal role in this landmark project for both the Tees Valley region and the bioscience sector across the UK. Our excellent North East team is in place to deliver the National Horizons Centre, and we look forward to working closely with our partners on what is set to be a fascinating project for all involved.”

Kirsty Thirwell, Chief Executive at Aura, who are providing quantity surveying services on the project, said: “Aura has successfully supported the University on a number of projects over the last five years and we are delighted to have been chosen to work with them on such a prestigious initiative as the National Horizons Centre.”

Growing plumbing firm benefits from council support

Growing plumbing firm benefits from council support

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A plumbing supplies company that has seen sales increase by 46% in a year is hoping for further success after securing a new site.

JTM Plumbing, an online business which sells thousands of products each month, has bought a 2.2acre plot of land from Darlington Borough Council on Faverdale Industrial Estate.

Managing director Jason Mulroy said he hopes to increase his product range, boost the £6.5m annual turnover and add to his 24 staff once the new units are up and running.

Mr Mulroy was aided in his search for a larger site by the council’s Invest in Darlington team, who he approached after struggling to find a unit that suited his needs in the town.

“I didn’t want to move elsewhere, or make my staff commute, so I came to the council to ask how I could keep my business in Darlington,” he said.

“Within a week they were showing me land the council has available in Faverdale to buy. The site gives us scope to grow without having to keep moving."

Mr Mulroy set up his company, which supplies pipe and fittings across the UK and internationally, in 2009 as a sideline from his home while working as a plumber on building sites.

The business has outgrown each of the units it has used so far and he said without support from the council to find a larger site he might have been forced to move his business out of the town.

The Invest in Darlington team also put him in touch with the Tees Valley Business Support Scheme and, with help from accountants Anderson Barrowcliff, Mr Mulroy was able to secure a capital grant of £100,000 towards the costs of building the first of four possible units on the site.

Tees Valley Business Support’s Capital Grant scheme is funded by the SSI Task Force which was set up after the closure of the Redcar steelworks.

Councillor Chris McEwan, Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, said: “It’s great to hear success stories like JTM Plumbing and even better when the council has a role in supporting their growth.

“I’d encourage other businesses in the borough that might be looking for help and advice to take the next step to get in touch with the Invest in Darlington team.”

Invest in Darlington, the council’s business support team, can assist businesses of all sizes, or someone looking to set up a business, with help in looking for new premises, accessing funding or grants or finding specialist support.

For more information call Invest in Darlington manager Mark Carrigan on 01325 406298 or email mark.carrigan@darlington.gov.uk


Road naming ceremony puts Tornado on the Darlington map

Road naming ceremony puts Tornado on the Darlington map

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Tornado, the iconic steam locomotive built in Darlington, has been honoured in a public vote to choose a new name for a major commuter road.

The Darlington Eastern Transport Corridor will now be known as Tornado Way after it scooped almost 50% of the votes in a social media poll.

The new name was unveiled today (Thursday 8 February) by Paul Bruce and Graeme Bunker-James of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Local Environment.

Tornado Way was first opened to motorists in 2007, linking the A66 with Darlington town centre and providing a reprieve for congested Haughton Road.

The road has opened up many acres of land for development and can be credited with boosting housing development, employment and education facilities in Lingfield Point and Central Park.

Councillor Wallis said: “Darlington is rightly proud to be the birthplace of Tornado, the first new main line steam locomotive to be built in the UK for more than 50 years.

“We are delighted to name this road in its honour and excited about what the future may hold.

“Tornado Way has already unlocked a huge amount of positive development for the eastern side of Darlington, creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of new homes, and there is still more to come.”

Graeme Bunker-James, Operations Director at The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, added: “This just shows how much the history of railway means to the people of Darlington.

"We’re delighted that No. 60163 Tornado has been invited to be as much a part of the town’s future as its past.”

Darlington based Modus Seabed Intervention is trialling "world first" marine equipment it believes could save wind farm operators more than £1bn

Darlington based Modus Seabed Intervention is trialling "world first" marine equipment it believes could save wind farm operators more than £1bn

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Modus Seabed Intervention is testing a robotic underwater docking station.

Bosses at the Darlington-based firm say the berthing base offers the potential for subsea units to remain at offshore wind farms without the need for support vessels.

They added that as increasing numbers of companies use autonomous underwater craft to perform survey and inspection work, the docking station could save at least £1.1bn in operational costs over the next 25 years and reduce the need for staff to work in hazardous environments.

According to Jake Tompkins, Modus managing director and project lead, his business’ trial apparatus, described as a world first and delivered in partnership with Northumberland engineer Osbit, has been designed to allow vehicles to re-charge and download mission commands.

He revealed testing will be carried out at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Northumberland, while Innogy has also agreed to commercial trials on its Gwynt y Môr farm, off the Welsh coast.

The move comes a year after The Northern Echo reported Modus had tested an unmanned hybrid sub-aqua craft, and Mr Tompkins said he was delighted the firm had reached its latest stage.

He said: “We have been focusing on the development of hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle systems to be deployed for seabed survey and inspection.

“Part of our vision is to see them becoming field resident, offering significant cost savings and quality benefits to the markets and our customers.”

Andrew Kay, of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, praised the project, saying it has the potential to make a real difference to the subsea energy sector.

He added: “Current crewed seabed surveys and inspections carried out using hullmounted equipment and support vessels are time consuming, expensive and often heavily weather dependent.

“But the system being developing with Modus and Osbit will be fully self-sufficient, reducing operational and maintenance costs, and levels of personnel required.”

Back in 2015, The Northern Echo reported how Modus had secured a deal to scour the Merseyside coastline for unexploded Second World War bombs.

The company picked up a contract from Dong Energy to search for wartime explosives to help prepare the site for its Burbo Bank Extension wind farm.

Liverpool was bombed heavily during the conflict, with its port a particular target for German planes.

Darlington Council launches Feethams House office scheme

Darlington Council launches Feethams House office scheme

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Darlington Borough Council has launched proposals to develop a new Grade A office building in the heart of the Town Centre.

The scheme is the next phase of development at Feethams and closely follows the Council’s successful delivery of the Feethams leisure complex, Department of Education (DfE) building and Business Central in Darlington.

The 30,000 sq ft building could be completed as soon as autumn 2019 and will occupy a former car park site, a five minute walk from Darlington train station which provides access to the East Coast mainline and direct connections to London. 

The completed building has potential to bring up to 300 new jobs to the town’s economy with the scheme targeting inward investment from corporate occupiers and ‘grow on’ space for SME’s. The town’s Business Central scheme opened in 2016 and is now 90% full demonstrating demand for high quality space within Darlington town centre.
The scheme is to be marketed by local property consultancy, Connect Property North East, together with Cushman & Wakefield, combining to deliver local, national and global market coverage. Work has already begun in seeking potential occupiers for the building ahead of construction.

Andrew Wilkinson, Director at Connect Property North East, commented: “Darlington has a strong indigenous business community but lacks high quality office space to retain its growing enterprises and attract new investment from business outside of the town. Feethams House will certainly address that shortage with a new standard of office accommodation for the town.”

Greg Davison, Head of Office Agency at Cushman & Wakefield’s Newcastle office said: “In Feethams House, we see a fantastic opportunity to deliver a scheme that can appeal to corporate occupiers of an international scale, as well as provide vital growth space for businesses established in the town to remain in the town. It is an important scheme for Darlington and plays to its many strengths.”

Councillor Chris Mc Ewan, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration commented: “Feethams House is an important part of our vison for Darlington, cementing its position as a key business destination within the Tees Valley. As a Local Authority, we are very proud of what we have achieved in recent years and this gives us a further platform for economic growth in the Borough and specifically it will help increase footfall in the Town Centre.”

The masterplan for the site provides capacity for a further phase of equal scale, and the development is seen as a key driver in supporting the local economy, further increasing the vitality of the historic town centre.

Pipelay System order for Darlington based Ardmore Craig

Pipelay System order for Darlington based Ardmore Craig

Friday, November 03, 2017

Ardmore Craig, the North East of England based design and consultancy business is celebrating winning a contract award for concept and detail design of a modular pipe-lay spread for an un-named customer.

The new system, deemed a disruptive technology, will be designed in co-operation with its client and the team's advisors over the coming six months.

Based on the back of research and development activities undertaken by Ardmore Craig over the last few years the system aims to provide a wid range of functionality covering both lay activities and subsea handling maximising the cost effectiveness and benefits of the spread.

Director Andy Stevenson commented that the new award "confirmed the businesses approach to investing in R & D activities through the downturn of the oil and gas sector with it developing new ideas and concepts across a range of products and industries in which the company operates".

The latest award follows the businesses two hundredth commercial contract which was completed over the summer months and concerned modifications and supply of new designs for a subsea vehicle currently in use in the Asia Pacific region.

Separate to this, Ardmore Craig has established a partnership with an Aberdeen based oil and gas business allowing it to offer local project managment, offshore survey and risk management services helping to widen the company's offering and geographical presence.

For more information, contact:- 



£3.3m of funding secured for highways improvements

£3.3m of funding secured for highways improvements

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Darlington Borough Council has successfully secured £3.3m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide highways improvements that will support Darlington’s growing economy.

Darlington Borough Council has successfully secured £3.3m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide highways improvements that will support Darlington’s growing economy.

The funding from DfT’s National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) will be used on some of Darlington’s busiest routes to improve access to the town centre and sites around Central Park, Morton Palms and the Eastern Transport Corridor.

The improvements planned include:

  • McMullen Road/Yarm Road roundabout – extra lanes will be added to the roundabout to increase capacity and open up access to the proposed Ingenium Parc industrial hub.
  • Lingfield Way – the junction with Yarm Road will be signalised to ease access for traffic to and from Yarm Road Industrial Estate and support bus routes in the area. A new cycle route will be added to Lingfield Way.
  • Haughton Road through about – the junction will be changed to improve capacity to support the growth at Central Park, Lingfield and other parts of the town. This will include additional lanes, changes to pedestrian facilities and the way the junction works; moving towards a more conventional roundabout layout.

The project will link to planned investment announced by Highways England to reduce congestion at the A66 Morton Palms roundabout and complement works already underway along the A68, which will see improvements for Westpark, Faverdale and Cockerton.

This package of junction works follows comprehensive reviews of the traffic network to identify congestion hotspots and pinch points across the town that require improvements to support Darlington’s expanding economy.

A council spokeswoman said: “The funding secured by our highways team is great news for Darlington and helps to maintain the momentum that we have built up in terms of economic growth.

“As Darlington continues to thrive economically it will need changes to its infrastructure to support the new jobs and housing.

“The schemes supported by the NPIF will improve traffic flow on the local highway network and unlock key sites for development, which can be used to create greater job opportunities for residents.”       

New era for Darlington markets

New era for Darlington markets

Friday, September 08, 2017

A NEW era in Darlington’s market town history is set to begin after a deal was signed between Darlington Borough Council and a private market operator.

A NEW era in Darlington’s market town history is set to begin after a deal was signed between Darlington Borough Council and a private market operator.

A 100-year lease has been signed with specialist market operator Market Asset Management (MAM), to take over operation of both the town’s Open and Covered Markets.

MAM has committed to significant investment into the Covered Market and Old Town Hall buildings with plans for improvements which will introduce new uses and extend opening hours into the evenings and weekend, with expansion of the Open Market operation. Ownership of the buildings remains with the Council, but MAM is responsible for maintenance and staffing.

Darlington’s historic Covered Market is a Grade II-listed building and alterations will be subject to approval by government conservation agency Historic England and Council consent.

MAM will work with existing traders and stakeholders over the next few months to finalise plans for the works. These will be implemented on a phased programme which ensures continuity of trade for stallholders.

Improvements will include a fully-glazed frontage to West Row to increase visibility for stalls inside the building. Public toilets will be provided within the building with improved lighting and heating, a foodcourt and events space for community use.

MAM will be working closely with existing stallholders during the redesign of the market hall and providing them with additional support to promote their offer from day one.

Jonathan Owen, a Director of MAM, said: “We are immensely enthusiastic about this venture and delighted with the support we have received from the Council. We look forward to working with the stallholders and traders to ensure the Markets sell Darlington town centre as a vibrant, exciting place to visit. The partnership is structured to create a key attraction which differentiates the town from competing attractions and promotes it as a retail and leisure destination with a difference.

“Our business is based on the trading success of our stallholders and traders. The improvements will provide better facilities, promotion and support to help them grow. We are acutely aware of the challenges which small businesses face and will be offering practical experience from elsewhere to support them”.

MAM is a looking to strengthen the Open Market and attracting new stallholders to the town by using its connections from elsewhere in the country.

Options include expanding the number of days the outdoor market operates in the town and a review of its location, perhaps moving it closer to the Covered Market building. MAM will be working with the Council to bring specialist Market attractions into the town and will take a key role in providing events and entertainment in the town centre.

Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure and Local Environment, said: “As a Council we believe that the time is right for a step change in the way our markets operate and feel this can be best achieved by partnering with an experienced private sector operator. 

“MAM have that experience and they will get the full support of the Council to help them deliver our vision for Darlington Markets, which is to create a thriving place where people want to come and buy good produce and enjoy themselves. 

“Darlington is a market town and we believe this change will help promote Darlington town centre. The plans by MAM show a building that will be brought to life. The wider use of the Market Hall will attract more visitors and provide more customers for the stallholders in the market who will remain the backbone of the Covered Market.” 

Councillor Chris McEwan, Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, added: “These are exciting times for Darlington town centre and I would encourage everyone to get behind our town centre and Markets by shopping, dining and socialising local.”

Plans for rail heritage celebrations win key support

Plans for rail heritage celebrations win key support

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

PLANS for a major celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have won the backing of key partners.

PLANS for a major celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have won the backing of key partners.

Heritage organisations and rail companies have thrown their support behind the proposals to celebrate the milestone date and create a rail heritage legacy that visitors to Darlington and the wider Tees Valley can enjoy for generations.     

The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has committed to leading the regeneration of Darlington’s North Road Heritage Quarter with the aim of creating a world class visitor experience that tells the story of the world’s first passenger railway.

A joint bid has also been made to Historic England by Darlington Borough Council, Stockton Borough Council and Durham County Council with TVCA to create a Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) based on the route of the original railway.

If successful, Historic England would prioritise its resources and expertise to the HAZ over a five year period, potentially unlocking grants and funding to deliver heritage regeneration projects along the track bed.

The plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary form the cornerstone of a wider visitor economy strategy for the town, which has been named Experience Darlington.

The aim of the strategy is to bring together Darlington’s key assets, including its rail heritage and revamped theatres, to make the town a visitor destination, generating up to £26m for the local economy.

The strategy has won support from a wide range of organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Network Rail, Northern Rail, the A1 Trust and the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure and Local Environment, said: “The support from the Tees Valley Combined Authority is a huge boost to the plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway.


“We have always said we had great ambitions for these celebrations and the support we have received from a number of heritage organisations and rail companies is testament to the importance of the anniversary.

“These plans are not just about 2025, however. We are looking to transform the North Road area and create an attraction that will continue to bring visitors to the town long after the anniversary celebrations.

“We will continue to work hard with our partners at Tees Valley Combined Authority, Stockton Borough Council and Durham County Council, to bring in external sources of funding to ensure the celebrations in 2025 will have an ongoing legacy.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:  “We are delighted to be working with Darlington, Stockton and Durham Councils to ensure that full advantage is taken of the unique railway heritage this area has.

“I am committed to working with all stakeholders to maximise the cultural and economic opportunity for the area and am in the early stages of developing the detailed plans for the 2025 200th Anniversary of the first passenger railway, which brings with it national and international visitor potential.”

A “byte” to eat for free - digital support at Darlington Business Week

A “byte” to eat for free - digital support at Darlington Business Week

Monday, September 04, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE of technology in an ever- changing business environment is covered in a range of free workshops during Darlington’s first ever Business Week.

THE IMPORTANCE of technology in an ever- changing business environment is covered in a range of free workshops during Darlington’s first ever Business Week taking place from Monday 18 – Friday 22 September.

Cyber crime, data protection, developing a business using modern technology as well as practical advice and information on how to set up networks and online sales and marketing, are amongst the workshops on offer.

As the old traditional metal filing cabinets hit the scrap heap, businesses are becoming more and more reliant on digital technology to store commercial information and to carry out day to day business, laying themselves open to the potential problem of a cyber attack and other issues around data protection. To help businesses overcome this, a workshop will take place on the first day of Darlington Business Week, Monday 18 September from 1-4pm at Business Central.

As well as potential problems around online security, digital technology brings with it the power to transform a business. This is explored in a morning workshop presented by Digital City on Wednesday 20 September at Teesside University Darlington Campus. This event will show how traditional businesses are using technology to become more efficient and profitable and will include relevant case studies.

A free “byte” to eat is on offer for businesses attending an IT systems workshop on Wednesday 20 September from 11am-1pm at Business Central. This will cover software options and back-up solutions. Later in the day, also at Business Central, advice and information will be on offer at an online sales and marketing session.

Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Economy and Marketing said:

“Digital technology is advancing at an alarming rate and businesses must keep up to date if they want to develop and remain competitive. These workshops cover a wide range of work areas under the digital umbrella and will be useful to new and established businesses.”

Places on the workshops are free and can be booked by following the links from:

www.darlington.gov.uk/businessweek the page also details other events throughout the week.

For more information on Darlington Business Week, call the business team on 406305 or email business.support@darlington.gov.uk