The redevelopment of one of Belfast’s best-known industrial landmarks has led to the creation of a creative working space for start-up and expanding businesses in the city - specialising in innovation, technology and product development.
The Innovation Factory (IF) was officially opened by international designer Wayne Hemingway, who worked on the interior design of the building on the Springfield Road, joined by Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
The £9.1 million project, on part of the former Mackies plant, was part funded by Belfast City Council, Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund. It will be managed by Oxford Innovation Ltd.
The Innovation Factory will provide grade A standard accommodation which includes 382 workstations across 111 business units to house over 100 businesses and entrepreneurs.
Features also include meeting and conference rooms, superfast broadband connection, 24/7 access for tenants, on-site catering and car parking.
The interior fit-out was designed by Wayne Hemingway of Hemingway Design to reflect the building’s industrial theme.
“I’m honoured to open such an inspirational and pioneering building today, said the Lord Mayor.
“We’ve worked closely with our contractors and the local community to create a modern, dynamic space which will particularly appeal to young and up and coming entrepreneurs, while also paying tribute to the site’s industrial heritage.
“We’ve also ensured within the management contract for the centre that the operation of Innovation Factory will contribute to local trade and skills development for local suppliers, community, schools and colleges.”
The investment in the project was, he said, symbolic of the council’s continued commitment to deliver economic growth whilst delivering social value to local communities and businesses.
Mr Hamilton said: “The Innovation Factory is a remarkable building and an impressive space for entrepreneurs and growing businesses in Belfast.
“It is vitally important that government, education providers and economic development partners continue to work together to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that delivers economic growth for all. This exciting new centre highlights the collaborative efforts of Invest NI, Belfast City Council and Oxford Innovation who are working in partnership to ensure our entrepreneurs have the assistance they need to develop their innovative business ideas.
“The Innovation Factory is a welcome addition to the existing local economic infrastructure and has the potential to act as a catalyst for economic regeneration of the remainder of the site at Forthriver Business Park and of the wider area.”
Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA said: “It’s great to see the former Mackies site reborn as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am confident this impressive facility will go from strength to strength in the time ahead.”