News and Media

Inspirational message for NECC members

OUR members heard an inspirational presentation at CPI on NETPark in Sedgefield last week which is a great success story for the region, writes James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive .

Richard Kirk, chief executive of the ground-breaking PolyPhotonix Bio-Photonic therapeutic treatment company is on the way to creating a global business from being a one-man band in just six years. He has developed an innovative eye mask to treat two of the most common cases of blindness in the western world, with a potential market of over $6 billion.

Unfortunately businesses like his, which are transforming people’s lives, are finding bureaucracy is getting in the way of growth.

Our manifesto pledges to help our members get access to public sector marketplaces. This will not only save money from the public purse but create skilled jobs and bring wider social value.

Richard Kirk’s business is a perfect example of where we can support companies to achieve their ambitions. He manufactures the Noctura 400 Sleep Mask which a patient with diabetes wears at night. The mask treats damage caused by diabetic retinopathy. The technology works by preventing the eye from dark adapting at night by emitting a carefully measured light dosage into the eye during the hours of sleep.

This business is simply outstanding and a perfect example of what can be achieved by a dynamic individual, who explained that his concept was originally misunderstood. By bringing concepts to the medical profession that are not taught as standard in medical school, it was sometimes dismissed by clinicians as ‘snake oil’.

His Noctura 400 Sleep Mask, recently ranked as one of 100 objects that changed the world by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, is now producing astonishing results. One patient in her 70s who has worn glasses since she was 17 and can now see without them. There are also approvals and orders in the pipeline from all over Europe, Asia and the USA.

Richard is full of praise for the support he got from CPI which gave his start-up business a safe harbor to do his research and development. Fundamental to his achievement was access to its £40m clean room, one of the most well-equipped facilities of its type in the world, and a real regional asset for innovators.

Despite the good news, there were also some salutary lessons from his story. He was honest with members about the painfully slow adoption time for treatments within the NHS, with the average time being around nine years. He managed to get his mask into clinical evaluation in a little over four years through dogged determination.

This reluctance to put innovations into practice is not an exception, but part of a wider malaise. I have similar messages from businesses who also provide great services and add substantial value to our regional economy but struggle to navigate through governmental bureaucracy. We are determined to support them in tackling this problem.

Read the article on The Northern Echo website here →

Find out more about the Noctura 400 innovation →