A £3m plan to help small firms commercialise sustainable business ideas has been launched in Co Fermanagh.
A new centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST) will open in Enniskillen to assist companies in developing new 'clean and green' products and technologies.
CREST will operate from a new facility at the Enniskillen Technology and Skills Centre campus of the South West College and will provide access to prototyping support, advanced research and development laboratories, and demonstration and testing facilities.
It will operate across a network of specialist innovation colleges including Institute of Technology Sligo, Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre and Dumfries & Galloway College in Scotland. Each partner college in CREST will have its own staff and testing equipment for new renewable energy products and sustainable technologies.
Equipment within the Enniskillen facility will include a laboratory-scale wind turbine, biomass heating apparatus, heat exchangers, heat pumps, solar heating and photovoltaic and a range of monitoring, testing and ancillary equipment.
Work on the Enniskillen CREST facility is due to begin shortly and it is expected to be completed by spring 2014.
It is hoped that up to 150 businesses will be supported in the development of new projects in the first phase of activity. South West College director Malachy McAleer said the project is aimed at granting firms access to powerful technology and resources to develop, test and commercialise their ideas.
The project has been part-funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment through the Interreg IVA programme.
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: "The centre shows the potential of what can be achieved through a network of investors, employers and education and training providers committed to the provision of high-quality, industry-relevant training and education."
He added: "Renewable energy is a vibrant, many faceted industry with exciting and challenging times ahead."