A new data centre in Co Londonderry employing 15 people may be the start of many in Northern Ireland, it's been claimed.
Justin Gilbert of London data centre development and consulting firm 5Nines said it was investing £20m in setting up its first data centre in Ireland at Coleraine, where it will benefit from the high-speed connectivity with North America brought by Project Kelvin.
The environment minister yesterday gave the plans the green light after fast-tracking the firm's planning application.
Coleraine is also the location of the cable landing station where the fibre-optic cables which form Project Kelvin meet.
The 15 new jobs will range from security, IT software and hardware, to mechanical and electrical engineering. The centre will house data from a range of sources in Europe and America in the public and private sectors.
Mark H Durkan said: "An investment of this size highlights how Coleraine is ideally positioned to harness its potential to attract digital companies to invest here, due to its super-fast broadband connectivity.
"This development will create jobs and will act as a catalyst to stimulate further similar development, consolidating the role of Coleraine as a digital hub for the area."
Mr Gilbert, a partner in the business, said it had been working for three years on developing the plan before obtaining funding and support.
He added: "Local people have been very, very supportive of what we are doing, particularly Coleraine Borough Council. We travelled all over Northern Ireland to find the right spot and clearly because of the landing station, Coleraine has a big benefit."
Mr Gilbert said the company wants to have a number of data centres in Northern Ireland – and Coleraine is just phase one of a "minimum four-phase plan".
Mr Gilbert said: "We need data centres if we're going to make a new digital industry in Northern Ireland. We could generate over 16,000 jobs but in order for that to happen someone has to build data centres, which are the foundation of any digital economy."
Dermot Walsh of Whisple Cloud Services – a team of companies which promotes the benefits of cloud computing – said: "Evidence has repeatedly shown, around the globe, that the establishment of leading-edge data centres is a major catalyst for the development of start-up and emerging technology companies.
"The importance of the eco-system which will result from this initiative by 5Nines cannot be understated – apart from the jobs which will be created in the facility itself, many other high value jobs will be created, further enhancing Northern Ireland's reputation as a global technology centre of excellence."
Number of jobs here the digital industry could eventually generate