Northern Ireland science park Catalyst Inc to create 225 jobs in £11m Belfast expansion

Computer images of what the proposed £11 million Pierpont Plaza will look like if plans are approved
Gareth McKeown

THE Northern Ireland science park has submitted plans for a £11 million extension in Belfast that could create up to 225 new jobs, the Irish News can reveal.

Catalyst Inc, which has campuses in Belfast, Derry and Ballymena employing nearly 3,000 people, has unveiled plans for a major multi-million expansion at its Titanic Quarter site.

Plans were submitted last month for 'Pierpont Plaza' - a 11,020 sq foot, five-storey 'agile work space' for science and IT-based businesses, as well as associated car parking and public realm works at land adjacent to the Concourse Building on the Queen's Road.

The Titanic Quarter park already houses around 160 companies including multi-national giants Microsoft, IBM and Citi and employs approximately 2,700 staff.

It is hoped the latest development could swell those numbers up towards 3,000, with the end goal sustaining 160,000 jobs in Northern Ireland's science and technology sectors by 2030.

Director of development at Catalyst Inc, Dr Joanne Stuart, said the £11 million development is the "next stage" in the development of the park.

"We're pretty much at full capacity and we're looking at building the next stage. There's demand there from existing tenants who are growing and from some new companies that are interested in coming on to the site," she said.

"You're looking at another 200 to 225 people it could accommodate, but obviously that would depend on the companies and their set-up, but we'd be looking at that number.

"We have great companies, who are great innovators and we are seeing those companies grow and new companies being created. We're talking to companies at the moment and as soon as we get planning approved then we will be able to explain much more about what it's going to be like and share plans. At that point we'll be able to talk about the kind of companies we're looking at."

If, as expected, plans are approved, it is hoped that work on the five-storey office development will be complete in "about 12 months" thereafter, with scope for further development in the Titanic Quarter, thousands more jobs in the pipeline and a total business footprint of one million sq foot all realistic possibilities.

"The site is about 25 acres, so we do still have quite a bit of space that we can develop, so you may be talking another four or five buildings over the next maybe 10 to 15 years and millions of pounds worth of investment in the Titanic Quarter," Dr Stuart added.

Exactly a year ago the £6.5 million next phase of the former Northern Ireland Science Park, which will eventually be home to 500 knowledge-based workers, was formally opened by Prince Andrew.

Catalyst Inc marked the completion of its Concourse development when the royal visitor officially opened Concourse III, which added a further 55,000 sq.ft. of lettable space over five storeys to the Belfast campus.

Catalyst Inc currently has more than 160 tenants employing 3,000 knowledge workers across its campuses at companies such as Nanthealth, GTT, Display Note, Philips, Novosco, ProAxsis and O4 Research.

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