INNOVIA Films has officially opened a new production line that will manufacture the material for the Bank of England’s first polymer bank notes. 

The Bank’s chief cashier, Victoria Cleland, unveiled a plaque at Innovia’s Wigton factory on Friday to mark the occasion. 

The company has spent £15m setting up the new line, which uses its unique ‘bubble’ process to make a polymer film known as Clarity C. 

This will be coated at a purpose-built opacification plant, also at Wigton, before being sent for printing at a De La Rue’s high-security bank note press in Essex. 

Overall, Innovia has invested £40m and is creating 80 jobs.

Wigton will produce the material for 2bn £5 and £10 bank notes over the next five years. 

The £5 note, featuring Winston Churchill, enters circulation next autumn followed by a £10 note depicting Jane Austen in 2017.

The Bank chose Innovia Security as supplier because the company is the world leader in this technology, supplying its Guardian substrate to 24 countries. 

Mark Robertshaw, chief executive of Innovia Group, said: “More than 45bn polymer bank notes have been issued globally and 99.9 per cent of them are on Guardian. 

“Guardian has been shown to dramatically reduce the level of counterfeits and it lasts three to five times longer than paper. 

“It’s clean, waterproof and recyclable, so it’s a green product.” 

He added: “The film itself, Clarity C, is manufactured by our films division only for bank notes. 

"It only goes into our Guardian bank notes.” 

Because the notes last longer, the move to polymer should save the Bank of England £10m a year. 

Each note will incorporate one or more transparent windows to make them harder to counterfeit. 

And a hand-held device, the Verus, can check if the polymer is Innovia’s Clarity C, instantly identifying forgeries printed on any other polymer. 

Ms Cleland said: “Counterfeiters have been a challenge to the Bank for centuries. 

“Today’s bank notes have intricate designs and more and more security features but we are still striving for improvement. 

“We decided in 2013 that the best way of achieving this was to move to polymer. 

“We had a three-year research and development programme, talked to other central banks and we held a consultation speaking to members of the public and industry. 

“There was overwhelming support from the public – 87 per cent of those that gave feedback were in favour of the move to polymer.” 

Ms Cleland toured the Innovia site and saw the opacification plant, built by Story Construction, which is being commissioned. 

She added: “I’ve met the incredibly enthusiastic staff and seeing everything in action really brings it to life.”