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Sedgefield mask maker targets US and Asia after £300,000 council support

A County Durham firm is taking blindness prevention treatment to the US and Asia in a move bosses hope will double their workforce.

PolyPhotonix is expanding to bolster use of its Noctura 400 sleep mask.

The pioneering eye cover, developed thanks to £14m of taxpayers’ funding, delivers light therapy to sleeping patients, with bosses saying it can transform eye disease treatment in diabetes sufferers.

To assist its growth, the business, based at the North East Technology Park (NetPark), has been backed by £300,000 funding from Durham County Council to make its ambitions a reality.

Officials hope to be in Singapore by the end of the summer and the US by the end of the year, which they say will complement bases in Belgium, Switzerland and France.

Richard Kirk, PolyPhotonix founder, said the council’s support will be intrinsic as the company shifts from research and development to revenue making.

He also revealed Government backing means the mask is closer than ever to being available on the NHS, a change some experts say could save the service £1bn a year.

He said: “We’re ramping up our commercial sales ambition this year and moving away from what was a research and development company and into revenue.”

Mr Kirk added that he hoped the investment will allow the firm, founded in 2008, to lift its workforce from 22 to about 50 in 18 months and begin research into wet age-related macular degeneration, which is a common cause of blindness.

The investment is another fillip for PolyPhotonix, which previously saw its mask listed by the Institute of Engineering and Technology as one of the 100 products with the potential to change the world.

Back in 2014, Mr Kirk also told The Northern Echo the firm, which works in labs at the site run by the Centre for Process Innovation, wanted to build a purpose-built base at NetPark.

He said: “It will bring jobs. It’s going to take a little time to get going, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and, by the time the factory opens, we hope to have about 60 workers.

“We are a company of many people with PHDs and high qualifications, but the next wave will be across the board, from account and project managers to technicians.”

Simon Goon, managing director at Business Durham, the council’s economic development division, said PolyPhotonix’s successes should provide inspiration for other companies.

He added: “PolyPhotonix is on a massive growth curve and breaking into US markets.

“We want to support them on their journey towards commercial activity.”

Councillor Neil Foster, the council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, reiterated the authority’s quest to back North-East businesses.

He said: “We are proud to take a direct approach in supporting local companies and helping to create jobs.

“PolyPhotonix is a great success story for Business Durham and NetPark, adding to the county’s growing reputation in technology and we’re delighted to show our continued commitment with this investment.”

Read the article on The Northern Echo website here →