A Leading Light in Healthcare Photonics

Tom Harvey

By Tom Harvey

19 Nov 2018

As construction continues on the Centre for Process Innovation’s (CPI) new healthcare photonics base, Tom Harvey, Healthcare Photonics Lead, looks at the development’s long-term industrial and economic potential

Photonics is a key enabling technology used in a range of markets, bringing £12bn of additional value to the UK economy.

One of the fastest-growing high-tech industries worldwide, it describes the application of light to generate energy and detect and transmit information, and supports many of the innovations we see today in the medical technology (Med-Tech) and pharmaceutical markets.

With support from the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is building a new healthcare photonics facility at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Set to open in late 2018, the building will provide a hub for work on innovative methods for diagnosing disease, imaging systems, including endoscopy, and a variety of light-based treatments, supporting CPI’s business and academic partners’ journeys to take their products to commercialisation.

It will also play a crucial role in augmenting the photonics industry’s regional, national and global growth, by removing market barriers to enable more efficient technology adoption.

Currently, photonics manufacturing companies are in operation across the country, however, only two per cent of them are based in the North-East.

But, by providing such expertise in photonics, CPI’s centre will actively build the region’s knowledge economy while helping companies of all sizes bring new products to the healthcare market and academic groups and spin-outs further their market presence.

The North-East LEP has been visionary in terms of seeing the synergies between the proposal to build the photonics centre and the innovation in healthcare already taking place in the North-East.

For instance, the Academic Health Science Network for the North-East and North Cumbria is dedicated to improving healthcare and supporting wealth creation through partnership working and promotion of innovation across the NHS, academia and industry.

Above left, Tom Harvey chats to a film crew in the new healthcare photonics facility. Work has progressed throughout the year

Elsewhere, the Centre for Ageing and Vitality, at Newcastle University, provides skills in key areas of healthcare, and the institution also has world-leading expertise in genetics and stem cell research.

In the development of novel treatments, the North-East leads the way in clinical trials, with Newcastle Universities NHS Trust recruiting the largest number of patients for clinical trials in the country, a feat it has achieved for the last seven years.

CPI’s new centre was conceived in 2015 and has received strong support from the North-East LEP.

Indeed, in 2016/17 the North-East LEP supported work to scope out demand and requirements for such a facility, and to create an initial design for the building.

The North-East LEP has a strategy to provide more and better jobs through its investment in the North and the healthcare photonics centre is a key capital infrastructure spend to facilitate this.

CPI's new healthcare photonics facility will work on innovative methods for diagnosing disease, imaging systems and light-based treatments

The base is expected to create a number of new jobs, with these posts projected to be salaried approximately 30 per cent above the average wage for the region. 

These workers will be highly-skilled people, who will be able to provide their knowledge to companies to support them on their innovation journey.

The centre will also be unique in the UK.

By supporting CPI’s development, the North-East LEP has invested in innovation and future technology, which will deliver long-term results for the region’s economy. 

The vision for the future is to build upon the team already in place at CPI and create more jobs for the local area, strengthening the North-East economy of the future. 

Mirroring the success of other CPI facilities, such as the National Printable Electronics Centre – established a little over ten years ago to support companies’ innovation journeys — the vision is to support firms developing medical technologies to successfully commercialise their products. 

An internationally-recognised centre for innovation and research across photonics for healthcare, the base will also boost education and skills programmes and allow for collaboration with other parts of CPI to provide clients with a wide range of services.

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