TEES VALLEY Mayor Ben Houchen and staff from Fujifilm broke ground at a new BioCampus in Billingham as part of its first phase of construction yesterday.

A presentation was given at the current Fujifilm premises across the road from where the new campus will be by CEO Steve Bagshaw and a speech was heard from Mr Houchen.

The project is part of a £14.5m investment into the new centre.

There are about 800 employees on the current site, based in Belasis Avenue, which has manufacturing buildings and laboratories.

Paul Found, the chief operating officer, said: “Because we’ve grown so fast we’ve not managed to keep the buildings up with that growth so we’ve done temporary things.

“What we’re doing is, we’re doubling the size of our campus going from about eight acres to 16 acres in total.

“The first building we’re putting up, what we ground-broke on today is office accommodation and visitor reception space for about 300 employees.

"That’s consolidating people we already have on site but into some great, world-class accommodation to match the world-class manufacturing facilities we have.”

The new site will be directly across the road from where Fujifilm is currently based and is expected to be completed in Spring 2021 – the aim being to move in by the end of March 2021.

Mr Houchen said: “It’s a huge sciences development. In the last 15 years we’ve had conversations about expanding on the other site.

“We’ve been pushing for additional investment and we managed to get a huge amount that will grow even further. It will create even more jobs outside of the golden triangle in Cambridge, including life sciences – these kinds of jobs we will have for decades, they will now come to Teesside.

“This is one of the few locations in the world where we have been doing this for years.

“We can go into schools and explain to young people the opportunities that there is in the region. They won’t have to move away anymore because the jobs will be right here in Billingham.”

Subhash Chaudhary MBE, director of strategic projects, Annalee Bryson, purchasing officer and Steve Bagshaw, CEO also joined Mr Houchen to break the ground on the new campus.

Annalee has worked with Fujifilm since 2016 and has risen in the ranks from an apprentice to a purchasing officer.

Mr Found said: “We got this approved over a year ago now, by our owners, which was a challenge against the backdrop of Brexit persuading the Japanese company to invest, but we got the commitment because of the strong track-record of the business and then we went through a design phase, planning permissions, and it will move on in jumps quite quickly.”