“SIGNIFICANT progress” has been made by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to further plans for a £26 million innovation centre as a key part of the regeneration of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena.
Through Belfast Region City Deal, the first phase of the innovation-led regeneration scheme will see the development of a next generation science park at the site.
The proposed ‘Integrated Industrial Inspiration and Innovation Campus’, i4C, will be developed specifically to meet the needs of local businesses and potential entrepreneurs in target sectors such as advanced manufacturing and clean energy.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council’s City Deal Elected Members Working Group, Alderman Audrey Wales MBE, said: “The development of i4C will give our most rapidly growing business sectors such as advanced manufacturing access to cutting-edge technologies and expertise, supporting them to build capacity, fuel growth, bring new products and services to market and attract inward investment.
“In recent months our officers and elected members have made significant progress in developing a comprehensive Outline Business Case (OBC) for this £26 million investment in i4C, setting out a range of important considerations together with the wealth of potential benefits to be derived from the project.
“The submission of this OBC to the Treasury this summer is a significant step in the journey to realising the long-term boost that i4C will deliver to the local business community and wider economy in Mid and East Antrim.”
Councillor Timothy Gaston said: “We see this vital project as key to securing Mid and East Antrim’s future as a regional hub for innovation and advanced manufacturing.
“Our proposals include substantial investment at the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena, with the innovation-driven regeneration of the key site to support economic growth and create jobs.
“The first phase of this project will involve the creation of an i4c digital innovation space and advanced manufacturing capabilities.”
Alderman Robin Cherry MBE said: “The i4C development will incorporate site enablement, digital innovation space and advanced manufacturing capabilities.
“The City Deal funded project will house a range of business incubation spaces, laboratory and maker space, digitally enabled Grade A office accommodation and a series of co-working and collaborative spaces hosting a number of innovation and enterprise programmes with a Northern Ireland-wide reach.”
The extension of the Gobbins cliff path and the regeneration of Carrickfergus are also proposed to receive funding alongside the regeneration of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site through the Belfast Region City Deal.
The deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities. It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme.
For more information about the City Deal, visit: www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/BRCityDeal