John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, is in the Highlands today (Wednesday, September 1) to chair the forum which will shape the future Inverness Campus as a world class academic, research and commercial facility for Scotland.
Following the announcement from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) last week that tenders are to be sought to prepare 89-acres of the Inverness Campus site for building, the Inverness Campus Partnership Forum is meeting for the first time.
The Forum is designed to bring the key partners together to look at how to maximise the educational, economic, and operational opportunities at each stage of the development. Currently, members include the Scottish Government, HIE, The Highland Council, the Scottish Funding Council, UHI the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness College UHI, the Scottish Agricultural College, University of Stirling, NHS Highland, Centre for Health Science, Albyn Housing and the Calman Trust.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "The Inverness Campus is a significant economic opportunity for the Highlands and Islands and a clear demonstration of what can be achieved through close collaboration. The region is already home to a wealth of expertise in life sciences, and the Campus will deliver major benefits as a premier business location, attracting international investment and boosting employment, while providing top-class academic facilities."
Ruaraidh MacNeill is the Inverness Campus Project Director. He said: "The involvement of the Cabinet Secretary is a very clear indication of the national significance of this project. Inverness Campus will offer new opportunities in education, research, and business, will form a centre of academic excellence and will build on the Highlands and Islands' growing reputation for scientific research."
"The Forum will allow all the stakeholders to work together to develop a Campus which will meet the needs of the wide range of people who wish to locate, live or work there. It's our ambition to ensure the sustainable economic benefits are felt across the region and benefit future generations," he added.
The HIE Board approved up to £25million in September 2009 to deliver, over five years, the first phase of the development to open up the site at Beechwood Farm. The masterplan includes the development of a new campus for Inverness College UHI which it is hoped could open in 2014. There are additional academic faculties for the Scottish Agricultural College and UHI, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, as well as research and social provision including Phase IV of the Centre for Health Science, a social enterprise hotel and high quality sports facilities.
An economic impact assessment carried out for HIE showed that Inverness Campus will have the capacity to support up to 6,000 jobs over the next 30 years, attract investment of up to £300 million, and generate more than £38m for the regional economy every year.
Later in the day Mr Swinney is visiting Vertex in Dingwall to meet staff who deliver the high standard of client care there and to hear about the homeworking pilot the business has been carrying out, with HIE support.