The perhaps less renowned UK semiconductor industry could be set to receive a breath of fresh air, with the news that Newcastle-based company INEX intends to invest in developing microtechnology in the North East.

Surging revenues will apparently see the company create up to 70 jobs, as it bids to turn the North East into an international epicentre for nano and microtechnology development.

After achieving revenue growth of 145% last year, Newcastle University-owned INEX is hoping to breathe new life into the region’s once-thriving semiconductors industry.

The company currently employs around 30 people and aims to bring this number up to 100 by 2012. It is also hoping to act as a catalyst which could turn the North East into a hub for high value, specialist electronic devices, microsystems and nanotechnology.

INEX has already begun to grow a portfolio of international clients, including a contract with a French company, and is currently in negotiations for a deal with a Japanese firm.

Managing Director Ken Snowdon is reported to have said, “The semiconductors industry has suffered decline in the UK. This is associated with the transfer of production of components to lower cost facilities offshore. INEX is growing because it is targeting high-value consumer markets.”

“We can bring the North East to the attention of other parts of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world and the fact that our customers come to the North East to work with us puts the region on the map as a leading developer and provider of microsystems.”

When thinking of the semiconductor industry, thoughts are probably diverted to the electronics hub in the North Pacific Rim, where Japan, Taiwan and China lead the way in high technology and the gases required to supply these lucrative production processes.

Such rapidly emerging applications have caught the eye elsewhere, however. INEX was launched in 2002 on the back of the findings of the Regional Economic Strategy, which outlined nano and microtechnology as potentially lucrative industries for the North East economy in future.

Its facility has been specially adapted with the installation of ‘clean’ rooms, packaging and test facilities, analytical and bioscience laboratories, and an associated business incubator.