Ambitious plans to create a multi-million pound marine science park in Argyll have taken a step forward, with the contract for construction work now advertised. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is seeking to appoint a contractor to deliver phase one of the European Marine Science Park at Dunstaffnage, near Oban.
In August 2010, the HIE Board approved an investment of £7.5m to create the first phase of the Science Park on a site next to the existing Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI (SAMS) laboratories at Dunstaffnage.
The project aims to build on SAMS' world class reputation for research and act as a launch pad for new businesses in Scotland's growing life sciences sector. SAMS is a founder member of the UHI network, which last month became the University of the Highlands and Islands - the UK's newest university.
Full details of the tender are available on the Public Contracts Scotland website. The project is being advertised across Europe, as required by legislation, and the contractor is expected to be appointed in around five months.
Construction of phase one, creating a new laboratory and office building capable of hosting three marine science businesses and supporting up to 119 jobs, could start as early as September this year. This will include the first laboratory and office building, extending to over 2,800 square metres, landscaping around the site and the necessary infrastructure.
HIE will contribute £4.5m of its own grant-in-aid budget from the Scottish Government, and has attracted the remaining £3m towards this first phase from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Douglas Cowan, Area Manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said HIE was delighted to get this important project back on track. The development agency had originally hoped to start construction last October, but hit a setback when its prime property contractor, Rok plc, fell into administration.
"Life sciences is a key sector which already has a strong regional presence and could make a real difference to Scotland's economic recovery," said Mr Cowan.
"Argyll's marine resource is a fantastic asset for the people who live here, and who stand to benefit in the coming years from new economic opportunities in leisure activities, in renewable energy and in life science research and commercialisation.
"The businesses already based at Dunstaffnage, including Glycomar and Aquapharm, have international reputations for their cutting edge research and development work. SAMS is one of the UK's leading independent marine research institutes with around 140 staff. Existing and future science park tenants will benefit from this proximity and the cluster of knowledge and skills available."
The European Marine Science Park will build on the Highlands and Islands growing reputation as a competitive location for life sciences. Over 50 organisations in this sector employ approximately 1,800 full time-equivalent staff in the region, and provide salaries totalling £49 million.