County Durham's NETPark supports growth for 'game-changing' x-ray firm
An x-ray imaging specialist could soon transform into a multi-million pound business as a number of large projects bring its cutting-edge technology closer to market.
IBEX Innovations is expanding into bigger, custom-designed offices on County Durham’s science park NETPark (North East Technology Park) to accommodate major growth over the next few years, seeing IBEX shift into profitability and double its workforce.
Chief executive, Dr Neil Loxley, said the relocation into one of the new Explorer units on Sedgefield-based NETPark - managed by Business Durham - the economic development organisation for County Durham, will be instrumental to IBEX’s future success.
He said: “We have had a great deal of input into the design and layout of the office and laboratory, which will take us through the next five years of growth comfortably and allow us to increase our workforce from 18 to about 30 or 35.
“The quality of the facilities at NETPark and the attitude of staff is first class. It has a really dynamic, innovative atmosphere.”
IBEX has developed and patented x-ray detector technology that can be retrofitted to existing x-ray machinery, improving the detection of defects and impurities in the materials being imaged.
Its technology, which acts like a colour filter to bring out extra information on an x-ray image, can be applied in multiple markets, including food inspection, bomb detection and medical radiography.
The company is working with various NHS trusts to demonstrate how its technology can help hospitals improve the detection rates and diagnosis of osteoporosis, a bone disease which affects some three million people in the UK, being the highest cause of injury-related deaths.
By allowing an x-ray to safely and reliably give a measure of bone density and bone health - something a standard x-ray image cannot currently do - Dr Loxley said IBEX’s technology would bring substantial cost savings to the NHS and massively streamline the referral process for patients.
He added: “This is a huge opportunity for us. We estimate 60,000 of these basic hospital x-ray systems are sold every year, so if we sell a licence to allow each of them to adopt our technology then it will transform IBEX into a multi-million pound business.”
IBEX’s projected growth will see the number of scientists, engineers and business professionals it employs rise from 18 to around 24 in 2019, and between 30 and 35 by 2020.
Another area of growth for IBEX is in the food industry. The company is currently working with a large food inspection company to integrate its technology into x-ray inspection systems used to detect contamination, such as bone in chicken or plastic in chocolate.
Brian Archer, managing director of Business Durham, which works on behalf of Durham County Council, commented: “IBEX Innovations is a prime example of an innovative, world-class technology company thriving on NETPark, making the most of the facilities available and employing a skilled workforce.
“It started its journey on NETPark as a virtual tenant, then took on incubator space and was one of the first to take offices in the Discovery 2 building. Its move to Explorer feels like a natural progression as the company grows and makes its name in new markets.”
The construction of NETPark’s Explorer building is part of plan to create more space for research and development companies which need room to prototype and scale up to manufacture on the site.
The area’s development is part of a 10-year strategy including the creation of 3,000 jobs and adding an extra £300m to the region’s GVA.
NETPark’s Explorer buildings received a £3.2m grant from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through its Local Growth Deal.