Over £12 million of funding from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme has been announced to extend the successful science park model currently operating in Belfast to the North West.
The project will involve the construction of a 50,000 sq ft science park facility at Fort George in Londonderry and a 20,000 sq ft extension to the CoLab facility at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. If both sites achieve maximum occupancy by 2019 the project has the potential to support up to 285 added value jobs directly and add impetus to the creation of a knowledge-based economy in the region.
Project partners include the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) Foundation Ltd, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the North West Region Cross Border Group (NWRCBG). The funding provided for the project, under the EU’s INTERREG IVA Programme, is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Commenting on the project, Pat Colgan, Chief Executive with the SEUPB, said: “The high level of European Union assistance, which has been awarded to this cross-border project, is a testament to its potential to enhance the North West economy. Not only will it support the growth and development of a new wave of innovative businesses, but it will also help to create long-term employment opportunities for the region”.
The project will construct a commercially and research-driven centre in Londonderry to act as a satellite park of the internationally acclaimed Northern Ireland Science Park, based in Belfast. It will also establish a similar centre in Letterkenny which will extend the reach of the NISP into the whole of the North West Business Technology Zone.
Match-funding for the North West Regional Science Park project has been provided by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland.
Recognising the importance of the project, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, said: “I believe that this project will help to reinforce the economic landscape of the North West. It will act as an incubator of new and innovative businesses that will hopefully enhance the region’s exporting capabilities”.
Congratulating the project partners on securing the funding, the Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: “This is an excellent example of a cross-border project which has the potential to improve the economic fortunes of the regional economy. It is the culmination of a strong working partnership between the North West Region Cross Border Group, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the Northern Ireland Science Park. I look forward to hearing about the many different companies that will be able to benefit from the park for years to come”.
Upon completion the project will provide an ‘Innovation Eco System’ that will enable new and existing technology-based businesses to enhance their competitiveness. It will also help to maximise investment in the EU INTERREG IVA supported Kelvin project which has significantly increased the telecommunications infrastructure of the North West.
The Fort George site is owned by the Department for Social Development. Commenting on the project the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, MLA said: “This is an exciting time for the people of Londonderry, it signifies the first major step in making the regeneration envisaged for Fort George a reality and has the potential of contributing to a real sea-change in the City’s economy. The announcement of European funding for the North West Regional Science Park coupled with my Department’s investment of £1 million will help to encourage high quality technology and knowledge-based businesses to Londonderry.’’
Welcoming the announcement, Frank Hewitt, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Science Park said: “This announcement is the culmination of four years of work between all of the project partners. It also represents the next step in the strategic development of the Knowledge Economy. The North West Region is pivotal in this expansion and we look forward to the success stories of the growing clutch of entrepreneurs in the region”.
Eugene McMenamin, chairman of the North West Region Cross Border Group said: “This project will build on the cross border relationships which have existed in the region for over 30 years and we look forward to working with Ilex, LYIT and the NI Science Park in delivering this exciting project. The NW Region Cross Border Group will act as the lead partner and will have overall administrative and financial responsibility for its implementation”.