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New Lancashire-based lab to create ‘centre of excellence’

A former farm building in rural Lancashire is set to become a centre of excellence for developing new materials and technologies after plans were approved to extend a new research laboratory.

Alchemie Technology, which specialises in research for digital additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, has been granted planning permission to make improvements to its existing research site at Blue Bell Farm near Longridge.

Planning consultancy PWA Planning has helped Alchemie Technology to achieve planning consent for a sympathetic redevelopment of the site which will allow it to employ an additional two staff members by 2021, taking its workforce at the site to five.

A small extension of the traditional stone building will also allow the creation of a new dwelling (as a live-work unit) to allow founder and director, Dr Alan Hudd, to live at the site given the time critical work the business undertakes.

Dr Hudd relocated from Cambridge to Lancashire five years ago having been a significant contributor to the inkjet technology cluster which is part of the Cambridge Phenomenon – the thousands of businesses established to support technology and biotechnology discoveries.

“Blue Bell Farm is a perfect location and environment for us to carry out our research and encourage creativity in the development of disruptive digital technologies for important mass industrial applications,” said Alan Hudd.

“Such creativity has allowed us to respond rapidly to the awful coronavirus crisis and accelerate the development of our digital coatings technology, Novara, to create a production process, applying an anti-viral coating onto a variety of medical fabrics. To do this, for example, enables a face mask to become a real defence to kill any virus landing on the mask, providing confidence and assurance, protecting the safety for every wearer during these difficult times.

“The expertise of PWA Planning took the strain out of what is a highly complex process to navigate a balanced and successful outcome,” Hudd commented.

Dan Hughes, associate at PWA Planning, added: “Lancashire is home to some truly innovative businesses and it’s amazing to have a company like Alchemie Technology here on our doorstep.

“We’re pleased to have been able to support the business and its owner to remain in Lancashire through this unique work-live space. While only a small-scale reconfiguration of the existing building, this project supports the growth of an important research site that is contributing to a fast-developing and high-tech sector for the UK.”

The company, established in 2014, is expanding rapidly across three locations – research and manufacturing at Blue Bell Farm, development laboratories in Cambridge and a manufacturing operation in Taizhou, China.

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Alchemie has an objective to install the first UK manufacturing line at Blue Bell Farm to manufacture face masks and hospital medical fabrics with anti-viral coatings based on Alchemie’s unique digital coatings system Novara.

The company is developing innovative new digital technologies for important industrial applications including digital dyeing and coating of textiles, including medical technical textiles, into Lancashire, a region that was the birth of the global textile industry during the Industrial Revolution.

In addition, Alchemie is developing additive technologies pushing the frontiers of creating digital additive printing of pills and medicines, high-performance structures, and specialist coatings for aerospace and automotive decoration.

The laboratory extension and new work-live unit was designed by Peter Bamber of PGB Architectural Services.

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