Comment: Fueling an interest in science

Secondary schools will focus on science and technology masterclasses and workshops, and Meet the Scientist events. Picture: TSPL
Secondary schools will focus on science and technology masterclasses and workshops, and Meet the Scientist events. Picture: TSPL
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DELIVERING I3, Irvine’s Enterprise Area, means attracting businesses to the area – with a particular, though not exclusive, focus on life sciences.

That means ensuring the sector knows all about the many positive financial advantages that locating in the Enterprise Area can offer them, and making sure they appreciate the area’s long association with life sciences, manufacturing in particular, and its fantastic and highly accessible location.

It also means helping to develop a top quality physical infrastructure and much work has been undertaken to deliver that. But our approach is holistic and in our view, this rounded approach is a key to success.

For that reason, we are working with Ayrshire College to look at how we can support businesses in or moving to the Enterprise Area with their current skills and training requirements. But we also want to create an environment where more of our young people are attracted to pursue employment opportunities in the life sciences and engineering sectors.

As such, we are delighted to have partnered with the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, to deliver an education and inspiration programme – Talk Science@IrvineBay – to develop interest in science among young people and the wider population.

Life sciences businesses need good infrastructure and financial incentives are always welcomed. But key to them is the ability to attract motivated people to work for them.

So our programme for 2014-15 will include talks, exhibitions and workshops drawing on the enormous expertise provided by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and its Fellows and other experts.

In primary schools, we will focus on innovative ways of interesting children in science and engineering through site visits, imaginative projects and linking other activities, such as storytelling, with science.

Secondary schools will focus on science and technology masterclasses and workshops, and Meet the Scientist events.

Public events will include lectures, and there will be events aimed at families – reflecting the key themes of science and technology and utilising the knowledge pool of the RSE.

The programme is a further development of our commitment to education as a key part of regeneration. The work with the RSE will help young people develop an interest in science, engineering and technology. To date, the projects and programmes have helped create 777 jobs – and projects under way should help
create more as we aim for a target of 2,500 jobs. Our activity has also created an estimated 378 jobs in the construction sector, with a number of main contracts currently on site.

We have redeveloped over 9,803 sq m of office space and 38,038 sq m of commercial space. Nearly 50,000 sq m of public realm within our towns and business areas has had major physical improvements including Kilwinning Main Street and Irvine centre. And the company reduced nearly 60,360 sq m of derelict land and buildings within key locations.

We have also been successful at bringing in additional funds, from Europe, the UK and Scottish Governments – with more than £11 million secured.

Most recently this included £1.1 million secured for the redevelopment of Saltcoats Town Hall, plus projects at Kilwinning Community Sports Hub and Trinity Church.

All enormously valuable, of course, but regeneration – if it is to be successful and sustainable – has to be rooted in its local community, and in that regard we have worked hard to engage with and involve local people.

For example, through our education programme 5,123 pupils from 41 schools, three colleges, one university and 41 business partners have been involved in our work and local pupils have gained more than 158 weeks of work experience.

The development with the RSE will build on that success, and we hope the unique access the programme will offer can inspire o ur local young people.

Irvine Bay Regeneration Company continues to work in partnership with others, in particular North Ayrshire Council, others from Team North Ayrshire, and the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. The major core funder remains North Ayrshire Council.

• Patrick Wiggins is chief executive of Irvine Bay Regeneration Company