West Belfast set for enterprise institute

 

A NEW £15 million (€18 million) enterprise campus dedicated to promoting “employability, entrepreneurship and enterprise” across Northern Ireland is to be developed in west Belfast.

The new “e3” institution, the first of its kind, will focus on economic development and will be funded by the North’s Department for Employment and Learning, the International Fund for Ireland and Belfast Metropolitan College, which will own and operate it.

Construction, which will deliver a jobs boost for local industry, is scheduled to start next month.

Denis Rooney, chairman of the fund, which contributed £5 million to the project, said the “positive benefits” the new campus will deliver for the local economy should not be underestimated.

Its promoters hope a “vibrant partnership” will develop between the campus and businesses in the North, and help drive regeneration and encourage new start-ups.

The heart of the initiative will be a new 5,000 sq m enterprise building on the Springfield Road, an area with a history of social deprivation. The new institution, set to open in early 2012, intends to place particular emphasis on responding to the needs of small to medium-sized businesses.

Marie Thérèse McGivern, director and chief executive of Belfast Metropolitan College, said: “The e3 economic development building is an imaginative initiative designed to support the economic and social regeneration of north and west Belfast.”

The generation of students who will attend will be encouraged to use learning and project experiences to identify new business opportunities in Northern Ireland.

The campus will run a business incubation and “hatchery unit” dedicated to supporting students to grow their businesses.

Minister for Employment and Learning Sir Reg Empey said the initiative will help address Northern Ireland’s “skills gap”.