Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney MSP joined representatives of the elected youth parliament of the Highlands on Tuesday (14 February) to formally mark the start of infrastructure works at Inverness Campus.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is developing the multi-stakeholder location as one of Scotland's prime sites for business, research and education.
Inverness College UHI will be the first occupier, and is set to open its new premises in 2015.
Mr Swinney was in Inverness to chair the third meeting of the Inverness Campus Partnership Forum at HIE's Cowan House office.
He said: "Inverness Campus is an exciting and innovative project which will attract investment, jobs and education opportunities to the Highlands for decades to come.
"I'm delighted to be here to mark the start of construction works, and particularly pleased to meet the young people involved in Highland Youth Voice.
"Youth employment is a priority issue for the Scottish Government. Projects like this provide our young people with new skills and opportunities to fulfil their potential and contribute to Scotland's economic success and prosperity."
Stuart Davidson, The Highland Youth Convener, said: "It's been great to meet Mr Swinney and chat to him about all the benefits Inverness Campus will bring.
"The team behind the development came to a Highland Youth Voice conference last year, so it has been great today to see how their initial plans have come on and been adapted through Highland Youth Voice's input."
"The Campus will have a huge impact on the lives of young people across the Highlands and to be here to mark this day with John Swinney has been very exciting."
Late last year, HIE appointed construction, infrastructure and design company Morgan Sindall to develop 100 acres of land at Beechwood as the first phase of the ambitious project.
HIE awarded the £12.3million contract following an international procurement exercise. It will be delivered over 18 months.
Ruaraidh MacNeil, Project Director at Inverness Campus, said: "With our third Partnership Forum taking place and the first turf being cut, today is a significant milestone in the development of Inverness Campus.
"We are now looking forward to the future and will be working closely with our contractors at Morgan Sindall as they progress with the construction work."
Within the next five years the Campus will become a key location providing state of the art facilities for businesses, researchers, students and the wider community.
The site will become home to a number of business, education, and community partners including Inverness College UHI, the Centre for Health Science, the Scottish Agricultural College, Albyn Housing Society and the Calman Trust.
Community and sports facilities, as well as opportunities for other research and education partners and business activity, will follow.