North East Connects with Those Who Keep Us Safe; Fighting Terrorism, Cutting Crime and Steeling the Nation against Threats to Public Safety Could All Rest on the Shoulders of North East Science and Technology Firms in the Future. Andrew Mernin Attends a Major Security Conference to Find out Why

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THE Ministry of Defence, police and the private sector all turned to North East scientists this week and asked them to help make the world a safer place.

It had been billed as an opportunity for a handful of the region's science and technology companies to have their Dragons' Den moment.

But this week's investment conference, which focused on security-based technology, brought much wider promise for the North East's tech sector as a whole from some major industry players.

With heavyweight investors in attendance from across the country - including the capital - the 11 pitching businesses had 10 minutes on stage at the CONNECT North East conference to make their plea for vital funding.

However, while firms such as ANTnano, TrackaPhone and UK Haptics made strong cases for financial backing, what emerged from the conference was a multi-million pound shopping list for the region's science-based industries to meet.

Amid the grandeur of Hardwick Hall Hotel, near Sedgefield, security chiefs called on forward-thinking North East businesses to play their part in fighting terrorism, cutting crime and defending the realm.

Representatives from global defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems, came to the conference to talk up the firm's Investment in Innovation fund, which could be a vehicle for SME's looking for rapid growth.

Peter Talbot, commercial manager of the fund, said: "We think SMEs and academia will have the good ideas in the short-term. We see investment in innovation as supportive in our strategy to develop our security business in the UK.

"We want to work with people who can create intellectual property and create value in the future.

"We are prepared to put up to 100% funding in place if you can identify the right opportunity." Also in attendance was Dr Helen Almey of the MoD's Centre for Defence Enterprise - a gateway into the MoD for people with innovative ideas with possible defence applications..

She urged North East businesses with "disruptive technologies" to get in touch with the relatively new organisation which vows to respond to new ideas within a matter of days rather than weeks.

Meanwhile, Dario Leslie of the Home Office's counter-terrorism body INSTINCT (Innovation Science and Technology in Counter Terrorism) also laid down the gauntlet to firms in the region.

"The programme is looking for creative, innovative and lateral thinking and new solutions to counter terrorism.

We are interested in game changers and are looking for those things which will have a big impact." The conference also attracted a visit from a senior representative for the Government's Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) - clearly a figure on the frontline of national security since delegates were told that photos of the man were forbidden as he was introduced simply as 'Nicholas'.

"There are certain things that are inherently hard [for the CPNI]. If any of your things do these types of things then we are interested," he told delegates as he outlined real-time analysis of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threats to security as a key area of focus for the Government. …