An innovative facility for companies making equipment which must be kept as free from contamination as possible has opened in Barnsley.
It is hoped that the new clean room at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC), at Wilthorpe, will help to create a ‘hub’ of health technology businesses.
The venture, thought to be the first of its kind regionally, is a partnership between BBIC and Single Use Surgical (SUS), a firm based at BBIC which makes single-use surgical instruments for hospitals around the world.
SUS will be able to speed up the time it takes to get new products to market by having the clean room on site.
The clean room, which can be hired out for a daily rate, is aimed at start-up and small companies which make medical, dental, and optical devices, and electronic products.
Measures are taken to control the space so unwanted particles in the air are reduced, including strict protocols for workers going in and out.
Staff from the surgical equipment company will manage the unit and provide training for people who use it.
Tim Milburn, chief executive of BBIC, said: “We’re seeking to promote and encourage development of innovative technology businesses in order to generate new jobs and create economic growth in the area.
Where businesses need help developing specialised facilities we’ve been able to step in and share some of the cost. Shared facilities previously located on site have included an electronics development centre, an e-business centre and postproduction editing suite”.
“The clean room is the latest project. SUS’s involvement is essential in that the company has both the expertise and the quality accreditations to facilitate the Class 8 certification of the clean room. We hope that, as well as benefiting SUS, it will also serve as a magnet to attract new businesses to Barnsley.”
SUS sells over 150 different single-use surgical instruments to replace those that are difficult to clean, such as fine suction tubes. SUS designs and develops the instruments and subcontracts manufacture to approved suppliers.
The company is the market leader in supplying single use suction tubes for neurosurgery, and its products are also widely used by ear, nose and throat surgeons. It supplies 75 per cent of hospitals around the UK as well as exporting to 20 other countries.
Managing director Matthew Tulley said the clean room will be a major boost to product development as previously staff had to travel to use a supplier’s clean room.
He said: “We use clean rooms to create and refine our prototypes, often working closely with local surgeons, and that process will now be significantly faster.”
Matthew added that the facility is also an opportunity to help early-stage businesses just as his company, which now has a £1.8 million turnover, has been supported since launching in 2001.
SUS was the first business to sign up to the Genesis initiative run by BBIC. Genesis is now part of the Enterprising Barnsley business support programme. The Genesis programme is aimed at high-growth businesses in the first year or two of life and includes intensive business coaching support, technical assistance and business development workshops.
Matthew said the Sheffield Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership healthcare technologies sector group, of which he is a member, had identified a lack of ‘incubation’ facilities for its smaller businesses and the project would help address the shortfall. He said: “There are already two other companies from the sector here at BBIC as well as the Genesis infrastructure, so it is well placed to develop as a centre for medical innovation.”
The Enterprising Barnsley programme is supported financially by the European Union. The project has attracted £2,259,511 investment into Barnsley from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.