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Driving Durham’s Innovation and Business Ecosystem: A Beacon of Growth and Collaboration


Durham, a county rich in history, is establishing itself as a vibrant hub of innovation and economic growth. With a strategic focus on research, data science, fintech, green technology, and healthcare, Durham's innovation and business ecosystem is rapidly expanding. Key initiatives, such as the £62 million expansion to double the size of the nationally important North East Technology Park (NETPark), and the transformative Durham Innovation District, are set to redefine the economic narrative of the wider region. Here, we explore the core components of Durham's burgeoning innovation landscape and the financing pipeline that supports its growth.


Durham's Innovation District: A Catalyst for Economic Transformation

At the heart of Durham's economic transformation lies the Durham Innovation District, strategically positioned to attract knowledge-rich businesses and drive economic prosperity. With a keen focus on key sectors, this district consolidates knowledge, talent, and resources, fostering a dynamic community of innovation-driven enterprises. The 15 hectare Aykley Heads site, will serve as a catalyst for the wider 60 hectare Innovation District, and will exemplify the triple-helix model of collaboration among public, private, and education sectors.


Led by Durham County Council in partnership with the world-leading Durham University, Aykley Heads enriches the region’s existing network of business parks, innovation hubs, and research facilities, with specialisms in deep tech and data science. This initiative, alongside developments like Jade Park and Forrest Park, will complement  the £150 million investment in Durham University's Science Facilities. This substantial investment aims to bolster the existing innovation eco-system in the County, with research in Quantum, Molecular, and Energy sciences, focusing on space technology, life sciences, and achieving net zero.


Financing Growth: Durham's Business Growth Programme


A crucial pillar supporting Durham's innovation ecosystem and a cornerstone of Durham’s Inclusive Economic Strategy is the Durham Business Growth Programme. This comprehensive initiative encompasses an integrated package of productivity and growth support tailored to the needs of new and established businesses with growth ambitions. Investors keen on contributing to Durham's entrepreneurial landscape can explore various opportunities within this programme.


The Finance Durham Fund, a £20 million 'evergreen' fund, offers flexible equity, debt, or mezzanine funding packages ranging from £150,000 to £2 million for early-stage and established businesses across all sectors. The Foresight North East Fund, backed by Durham County Council's Pension Fund, and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), a collaboration between the British Business Bank and regional partnerships, further contribute to SME growth in the region.


Venture North Fund, a £50+ million 'Society Tech' venture fund, collaborates with universities to invest in startups addressing societal challenges. Additionally, the In-TUNE (Innovating Together in the North East) UKSPF-funded programme provides innovation and commercialisation support in collaboration with Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland universities, and CPI.



Investment Opportunities: Unlocking investment potential


Durham Innovation District, is a planned 60-hectare development which includes Aykley Heads. With hybrid planning consent in place, the 15-hectare development at Aykley Heads aims to generate 4,000 jobs, increase specialist talent in the local labour market, and enhance town centre vibrancy. Its strategic location, close to major transportation hubs and adjacent to prominent developments, makes this a prime investment opportunity.


NETPark, a premier UK science park in Sedgefield, continues its expansion with Phase 3a delivering 232,000 sq ft of new production space. Further phases, Phase 3b and 4, are planned with the aim to provide advanced infrastructure to accommodate the future needs of innovative science-based companies in key sectors that wish to locate on this nationally significant science park. Supported by partners like Durham County Council, Kier Construction, Durham University and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), NETPark enhances the region's reputation for advanced scientific research and commercialisation.


Jade Park Phases 2 & 3 , following the success of Phase 1, are poised to deliver 550,000 sq ft of new industrial floorspace. The project, backed by Durham County Council, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Business Durham, HTA and CBRE, is expected to generate at least 750 jobs, emphasising skills in green and emerging technologies.


Forrest Park, extending Aycliffe Business Park, aims to become the largest industrial estate in the North East. With 47-hectares of industrial development land and key partners like Barberry Richardson, the project has planning consent for more than 1.75 million sq. ft of industrial/distribution accommodation and is expected to support 3,000 jobs and contribute £400 million to the region's Gross Value Added (GVA).


Integra 61, a 80-hectare development next to the A1 showcases strong sustainability credentials.  Five industrial/warehouse units at Integra have been built with the supported of Durham County Council, Business Durham, and Sunrise Real Estate. The development consisting of units from 42,957 - 298,621 sq ft.


45,000 sq ft of commercial floor space is planned for delivery in 2025 at South Church Enterprise Park, already a popular location for small businesses in the west of County Durham. Bishop Auckland. Supported by Durham County Council and South Durham Enterprise Agency, this project complements the ongoing regeneration of Bishop Auckland town centre.


Durham's innovation and business ecosystem, driven by strategic initiatives and robust financing pipelines, presents a compelling landscape for investors seeking growth opportunities. Each project contributes uniquely to Durham's economic transformation, from Aykley Heads to NETPark, Jade Park to Forrest Park, and Integra 61 to South Church Enterprise Park. As Durham evolves into a beacon of innovation, collaboration, and economic growth, businesses and investors alike stand to benefit from the region's promising trajectory.


Explore further details at www.poweringcountydurham.co.uk or visit the County Durham stand at UKREiif to learn more.

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