Momentum is building in Tees Valley’s biosciences sector – which was key to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and is drawing increased global attention. Writing for HT World, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen explains why there is much more to come from this fast-growing cluster of activity in North East England.
The Tees Valley is marking itself out as a leader in the biosciences sector, with our investment across the region providing a catalyst for growth as they expand to make us a world-beating innovation hub.
Thanks to the fantastic businesses, top-class research organisations and educational establishments based right here, the sector contributes almost £400m to the regional economy and provides good-quality jobs for more than 6,000 people.
Internationally recognised companies such as Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies proudly call our area their home, and the firm’s base in Stockton is now working on the roll-out of 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine, as well as supporting partners in the biopharmaceutical industry with the development and production of other biologics and gene therapies.
Construction is also drawing to a close on phase 1 of FujiFilm Diosynth’s new BioCampus development, a 42,000 sq ft, purpose built office accommodation and visitor centre which has also made land ready for following phases including new lab space. We have backed this project with a £3.65m grant, recognising the importance of the company in helping to create and support the good-quality jobs we need.
Other globally renowned companies like KD Pharma are also continuing to invest in our area, sitting alongside small and medium-sized enterprises such as Hart Biologicals, Absolute Antibodies and Cambridge Research Biochemicals, all working to diversify and innovate the sector.
This is all against a backdrop of excellent research and innovation bodies, including the Centre for Process Innovation’s £38m National Biologics Manufacturing Centre and Teesside University’s £22m National Horizons Centre. These are both located at Darlington’s Central Park, a stone’s throw away from Darlington train station and its vital links to the capital and Scotland via the East Coast Main Line.
The National Horizons Centre was launched in 2019 as a research, teaching and training facility to address the growth needs for bio-based industries, working to link industry with academia and develop the skills, talent and facilities the sector needs to grow.
The centre has recently been selected as the national training centre for the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network, providing physical and digital training courses as part of the nationwide skills development programme.
CPI’s facility combines state-of-the-art facilities and technical expertise to also support the growth of the industry and its supply chain by working alongside businesses, academia and charities to help speed up the manufacture of biologics therapies. In the recent Spring Budget, it was awarded £5m to support the development of an mRNA vaccine library to help the fight against the coronavirus, showing once again how we’re leading the way in the sector.
CPI also has a site at the Wilton Centre, Redcar, which we have recently awarded £4m in funding to help them develop a Centre for Excellence in bio-manufacturing there.
This will allow CPI to support businesses in developing new and improved food products, including foods with increased health benefits, securing the future of companies working in the sector, helping them grow in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
While we have these vitally important assets, one of our main strengths lies in the unparalleled collaboration and joint working of bodies and businesses to help take the sector forward.
On top of their own coordination, having an elected Mayor and devolved powers over investment helps draw the public and private sector ever closer together to meet our strategic aims.
Biosciences is enabling new products and processes to be created across our key industries. When it comes to the future of the sector in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool the sky’s the limit for growth and further investment – we’ve got the sites, we’ve got the expertise and we’ve got the drive to create good quality jobs for generations to come.