News and Media

Durham County Council becomes investor in hotly-tipped tech business

A medical innovator is preparing to take its pioneering sleep mask into commercial production after being given a £300,000 equity investment boost from Durham County Council.

NETpark-based business PolyPhotonix has created the Noctura 400 sleep mask, an invention made from organic light materials which treats diabetic retinopathy, a common cause of blindness.

Now the firm set up by Richard Kirk is poised to take the mask from its research and development stage into commercial revenues, following the six-figure funding from the council – a boost which could see staffing levels more than double within 18 months.

Mr Kirk, said: “We’re ramping up our commercial sales ambition this year.

“We’re going through a restructuring and moving away from what was an R&D company into revenue.

“Our ambition is to be in Singapore by the end of the summer and in America by the end of the year. We’re already in Belgium, Switzerland and France.”

The entrepreneur said the firm was close to seeing its mask – which was recently listed by the Institute of Engineering and Technology as one of the 100 products with the potential to change the world – being offered by the NHS> after the Government fast tracked it through the system.

Founded in 2008 by former artist Mr Kirk, PolyPhotonix currently employs 22 and expects to employ around 50 staff within 18 months. Its next research and development project will be looking for a treatment to wet age related macular degeneration (AMD) – one of the most common causes of blindness in the western world.

Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, said: “As our involvement with Atom Bank has already shown, we are proud to take an innovative and direct approach in supporting local companies and helping to create jobs for County Durham.

“PolyPhotonix is yet another great success story for Business Durham and NETPark, adding to the county’s growing reputation as a world leader in cutting edge technology and we’re delighted to show our continued commitment with this investment.”

PolyPhotonix’s base at NETPark, which is managed by Business Durham, the economic development company for County Durham, is home to scores of pioneering healthcare photonics companies. Its 10-year strategy includes creating 3,000 jobs and adding another £400m to the region’s GVA.

Simon Goon, managing director at Business Durham, said he hoped to see more investment in companies at NETPark: “The investment is quite an innovative approach. It’s about partnership and supporting the business in that partnership. It’s also a sound investment for us.

“PolyPhotonix is a County Durham business making world-leading technology.

“They’re on a massive growth curve and they’re at the point where they’re breaking into US markets. We want to support them on their journey towards commercial activity.”

Read the article on The Chronicle website here →