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Hastings – High-Tech Hotspot!

It is not well known that Hastings plays host to a cluster of high-tech companies in the ultra-high vacuum/photonics and optics field  and, to promote and raise awareness of this, a free exhibition and conference, Tec66, is being organised at Hastings’ spanking  new conference facility, the Sussex Exchange, on Monday 16 September 2013. HOT’s Chris Cormack reports on the jobs prospects for Hastings youth.

Maggie Philbin presenter at Tec66

Maggie Philbin, presenter of Bang Goes the Theory, Inside Out and Tomorrow’s World for BBC One, and Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a leading space scientist at University College, London currently working on the Hubble replacement James Webb Space Telescope, will both lead sessions for delegates at the Sussex Exchange  and local students at Sussex Coast College to excite young people about a local career in Science and Engineering.

Sussex Coast College have adapted apprenticeship courses for young engineering talent to obtain some of the skills necessary to progress to a cutting edge technology career in their home towns of Hastings and Bexhill. Surrey University and Queen Mary College, London are also exhibiting at Sussex Exchange to show how their science, technology and engineering degree courses slot into this area of expertise.

Maggie Aderin Pocock presenter at Tec66

The technology cluster embraces fabrications used in the most advanced university and commercial research facilities, especially in the space and aerospace industries, and includes both ultra high vacuum (UHV) technology and photonics which supplies technological products for laser and fibre optics applications. Because of the advanced technologies employed, the industry is better insulated against economic recession than most and even now the organisers expect a healthy expansion of jobs in the Hastings/Bexhill areas, benefiting possibly from modern purpose-built premises available at Queensway and North Bexhill.

The UHV cluster grew up organically from modest beginnings in 1962 when Vacuum Generators (VG), now VG Scienta, was established by innovative engineers,  Dr. Bernard Eastwell OBE – founder of VG and Dr. Doug Latham, MD. At an early stage,  a local manufacturing unit was set up in Castleham Industrial Estate in St Leonard’s. Having sold out to institutional investors including Eagle Star, BAT and latterly Fisons,  VG more recently found a solid parent company that understood the business:

“VG Scienta today has brought back many of the core values that were lost due to the company sell-out to Fisons” said Dr. Bernard Eastwell OBE in August 2012.

Scienta Scientific Group, the ultimate Swedish parent based in Uppsala, is a leader in research, development and application of applied nuclear, atomic and surface physics. Other companies in the cluster include:

Ceramisis Ltd in Ivyhouse Lane Hastings – Ultra High Vacuum products advanced technical ceramic and graphite materials fabrications
ITL Vacuum Components in St Leonards – special electro-optical tubes for university and science research applications and vacuum hardware components including glass to metal fabrications.
HiVac Engineering, Hastings – vacuum chambers
MDC in Silverhill – a US owned world leader in vacuum and ceramic seal solutions
Kurt J Lesker Co Ltd, Hastings – high-quality vacuum products
Photek – vacuum based tubes and camera systems for photon detection.
Torr Scientific Limited, Bexhill – thin film vacuum coating, vacuum instrumentation and electro-optics including X-ray anodes, UHV viewports and anti-reflective coatings.

And other nearby participants include UHV DESIGN in Lewes, Oerlikon Leybold (Chessington) and Chell. In 1968 a Chell company, with its ‘Hastings’ series of products, provided the sensor to measure the vacuum in the Apollo 11 moon rock box on the first moon landing.

A number of free technology workshops will be run throughout the exhibition. There will be a pre-conference reception at the Jerwood Gallery at 5pm on Sunday 15 September. The event directly follows Hastings’ Seafood and Wine Festival, Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September, providing visiting delegates with an opportunity to spend an enjoyable weekend in Hastings beforehand.

Wouldn’t it be good if Hastings’ and Bexhill’s bright potential engineers and scientists do not have to leave the area to pursue their ‘glittering prize’ careers?

The event is sponsored by East Sussex County Council, Sea Change Sussex, Sussex Coast College, Hastings, Rother and Wealden Councils and HSBC to support business and young people. For any enquiries about the event, contact Jim Christy on or 01424 858102.

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Posted 14:59 Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013 In: Home Ground


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  1. Peter Chowney

    The TEC66 exhibition will be open to the public, and will be promoted and publicised as the time approaches. It’s actually the brainchild of John Hodges (councillor for Old Hastings ward) who has worked with businesses in this sector, and is chairing a panel of council officers, Sea Change Sussex, and local businesses in the sector to co-ordinate it. This highly advanced and internationally significant manufacturing cluster in Hastings is hardly known about locally, so needs to be promoted and celebrated. Hopefully TEC66 will achieve that. We have parts made in Hastings in the Large Hadron Collider and the Curiosity Probe on Mars. We should be proud of that!

    Comment by Peter Chowney — Monday, Jun 17, 2013 @ 20:56

  2. Richard de Pesando

    That’s really interesting, cheers!

    Comment by Richard de Pesando — Friday, Jun 14, 2013 @ 10:26

  3. Chris Cormack

    Neville Austin of St Leonards writes:

    An excellent idea. Best wishes for its success.

    I do hope that the sessions for local students can encourage them to make subject choices that open opportunities for them in time, not just post school but from quite early ages ages as well.

    Even better would be if foundations could be laid for a follow up of regular and continuing year long programmes of occasional workshops and even mentoring from active scientists and engineers, from local industry especially, as well as from people on the commercial side of high tech on specific issues of financing, publicising, selling and discovering applications.

    Will Tec66 be accessible to and for the ‘general public’? Non-specialist public opinion generates a slow burn, as I am sure that you know.

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013 @ 21:43

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