N. Ireland Politics

£15m campus planned for Belfast

A new education centre on what was to have been west Belfast's Springvale university campus is to be built.

Plans for a £15m economic development project to promote employability, entrepreneurship and enterprise (e3) are to be announced on Wednesday.

The building is jointly funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, the International Fund for Ireland, and Belfast Metropolitan College.

The building will be owned and operated by Belfast Metropolitan College.

It will provide industry standard facilities.

The new site will feature an animation and digital editing suite, TV and radio production studios, a hospitality training facility and manufacturing and engineering facilities for product innovation.

It is hoped the e3 will be a model for the innovative use of new and emerging technologies with resources for the testing and demonstration of renewable energies.

The 5000 sq m building will be located adjacent to Belfast Metropolitan College's Millennium Community Outreach Centre on the Springfield Road and will accommodate up to 350 users per day.

The numbers are expected to be joined drawn from higher education students, school pupils, start up companies, local businesses and community organisations.

Construction of the building is expected to start in September 2010 and is scheduled to open in Spring 2012.

'Imaginative'

The college's director and chief executive, Marie Therese McGivern, said the building is an "imaginative initiative" designed to support the economic and social regeneration of north and west Belfast.

"An integral part of the project will be the delivery of industry-led live projects by student teams who will provide innovative solutions to practical and technical projects devised and driven by business.

"We cannot ignore the difficult economic situation which we face and it is important that people seeking employment have as wide a range of skills as possible," she added.

"e3 will allow students to push their potential as they develop their ability to find solutions, work collaboratively, communicate effectively and set and achieve targets whilst accessing leading edge equipment and facilities."

Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, said the project exemplified the multi-agency approach which is vital to addressing the skills gap.

Students will be encouraged to use their learning and project experiences to identify new business opportunities and will be supported to progress into e3's business incubation and hatchery units.

These fledgling businesses will be able to utilise specialised equipment to help grow their business.