Innovation centre a 'catalyst for new opportunities'
A £2M grant that helped regenerate part of the into a thriving business centre employing thousands of people has been described as one of the International Fund for Ireland's 'most important investments'.
Awarded in 2002 with 12-year reporting conditions, the capital grant used to establish the Innovation Centre at the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast was part of a funding package that also included £25m provided by Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Opened in 2003, the centre helped kick-start a decade of hard work that has transformed Belfast's derelict shipping heartland into a vibrant area that continues to nurture innovative local ideas, draw significant overseas investment and wow tourists.
It enabled the NI Science Park to secure additional funding for the purchase and development of the now-successful business hub and complete it to the scale and standard required.
Operating at near-full capacity, the Innovation Centre is home to a mix of indigenous businesses including food diagnostics specialist XenoSense, software firm Meridio, and inward investors such as Microsoft, which based its first Northern Ireland office in the facility.
Dr Adrian Johnston, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said that the centre has become a powerful catalyst for new opportunities in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.
"In terms of the return made, it is one of the most important investments the fund has made," he said. "Prosperity and peace are linked and our focus today is on addressing sensitive elements within communities, particularly with young people facing limited opportunities.
Dr Norman Apsley, NI Science Park chief executive, said: "As an economic driver, our impact on business and academia alike, has been universally lauded. This would have been impossible without the backing, support and finance from the International Fund for Ireland."