Scientifically-driven businesses in County Durham are working overtime in the battle to beat Covid-19 – including two Aycliffe firms.
While many companies have been compelled to close under lockdown orders or forced to slash services, it has been all hands to the pump for half-a-dozen companies in the county with the expertise to tackle the virus head on.
Their work has encompassed everything from seeking ways to improve virus detection to increasing production of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser.
They include 3M and Ineos – two of Aycliffe Business Park’s biggest companies.
3M, a leader in personal protective equipment (PPE) for public health and healthcare professionals and individuals, is increasing production at all its plants, including Aycliffe’s.
The science-based technology company is doubling its global output of respirators and delivering them to front line healthcare providers.
And following a critical shortage of hand sanitisers across the UK and Europe, Ineos has opened a new production facility in Aycliffe to help fight the spread of coronavirus, producing a million bottles of hand sanitiser per month to supply NHS sites across the country.
Sarah Slaven, interim managing director of Business Durham, said: “These businesses are demonstrating tremendous agility, adaptability and innovation.
“They have the technical knowledge, resources and the manufacturing skills to help produce much-needed technology and products which will hopefully help alleviate some of the pressure from other national suppliers and help protect the NHS.
“We are playing our part in tackling the coronavirus outbreak to help protect our communities, our businesses and our workforce in County Durham.”
Joining the Aycliffe pair are four businesses based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, including REPROCELL Europe, Graphene Composites, Stream Bio and Kromek.
REPROCELL Europe, who specialise in leading-edge tools and products for stem cell and 3D cell culture research, has joined a consortium with partners in North America and Europe to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.
Nano-technology manufacturer Graphene Composites has been working on a graphene ink that can be applied to face masks and other PPE as a viricide (virus killing) to provide added protection against coronavirus.
Following an appeal for help from other companies with the project, the company has already received a number of offers.
Stream Bio, which is based at the Centre for Process Innovation’s (CPI) within NETPark, develops and manufactures fluorescent molecular probes used for labelling antibodies.
The probes increase the sensitivity of antibody testing, enabling earlier detection.
Biotechnology firm Kromek Group, also based at NETPark, is recruiting a project engineer to work on the development of a mobile pathogen detection system, to detect biological threats, such as Covid-19.
Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration at Durham County Council, said: “County Durham has an international reputation as a place of technological and scientific innovation; therefore, I am delighted but not surprised that businesses based here are playing a crucial role in the battle against coronavirus.
“This is an example of where collaboration, innovation and utilising the skills of our talented workforce has the power to save lives.
“These companies should feel incredibly proud of the work they are undertaking, and I would like to wish them the best.”
For the latest advice and information from the Government, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses.