Derry’s multi-million pound cross border Science Park at Fort George will be key in growing a strong digital economy in the city, it’s been claimed.
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood says the Science Park - given the green light by Environment Minister Alex Attwood and funding from the EU last week - “will provide high value employment in the North West and help attract investment in the digital economy.”
The state-of-the-art cross border facility, a satellite of the Northern Ireland Science Park at the Titanic Quarter, Belfast, is planned in conjunction with Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
“This represents a real step forward in the regeneration of the City of Derry and a welcome first phase in the development of Fort George,” Mr Eastwood says.
“The most recent announcements of a Creative Hub at Ebrington and the new Regional Science Park at Fort George must mark the start of galvanising this new economy here in the North West,” he says.
The former Derry Mayor says the digital economy is “an economic market open for us to grasp.”
Recent research in the south suggests the digital economy could create 18,000 jobs by 2016.
The UPC report also found that the internet economy alone will contribute 11.3 billion euro to the Irish economy over the next four years.
Mr Eastwood says the Science Park is a key foundation stone for digital economic growth in Derry - but says further investment is needed.
“In order that these projects do not evolve into white elephants, it is vital that they are backed from the very off. Building them alone will not suffice.”
Meanwhile a Derry City councillor has called for work at Fort George to commence immediately.
Sinn Fein’s Mickey Cooper welcomed the DOE approval for the Science Park.
But he says work to decontaminate and clear the site should get underway now. “The granting of planning permission now removes the final barrier towards the physical development of the site of which the decontamination and clearance would be the first stage.” Decontamination is required at the former British military site because of the presence of a number of contaminants, including lead and arsenic.
The invasive Japanese knotweed has also been discovered at the site.