The long-awaited project that could transform Cork's tech scene

The first building at the Cork Science Park has finally got the green light.

By Paul O'Donoghue

THE FIRST MAJOR development at the long-awaited Cork Science Park, which could host thousands of high-end technology jobs, has finally been given the green light.

University College Cork (UCC) has received planning permission for a ‘hub building’ at Curraheen in what is expected to become the focal point for a much-larger, research-and technology-led development.

The Cork Science and Innovation Park has been in the works since 2009. It is hoped that the 100-hectare site, which at the moment is mostly fields, will form a cluster of businesses working with local colleges UCC and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

1,000 jobs

The park could provide 1,000 jobs for the area and a €35 million-a-year boost to the local economy within the next five years.

The masterplan for the project estimates that, in the ideal scenario where the majority of the 60-plus hectares of suitable land is developed, the park could cater for more than 11,000 students and employees over a period of about 25 years.

UCC’s application said the 4,000 sq m ‘business innovation incubation building’ will have four storeys of office accommodation, trial laboratories, conference suites and common areas.

University-College-Cork-Panorama-2012 University College Cork
Source: Wikimedia

The aim of the science park, which would be the first of its kind in Ireland, is to link the local colleges with private science and tech businesses.

UCC’s hub would be the first development at the site. Soltaz, a company headed up by local developer Tom McCarthy, was refused permission last year to build a 17,000 sq m office block to fit 500 people at the former FAI grounds in Curraheen.

€12 million build

Speaking to Fora, Niall McAuliffe, UCC’s capital projects officer who is assisting with the development of the hub, said the building would cost about €12 million and take around 12 months to complete.

“We are looking at a funding model with (Cork County Council) at the moment,” he said.

“We expect about 200 people will be employed in the hub (and) we are hoping that construction would start towards the end of the year.”

UCC holds one of the largest areas of land in the science park area, which is divided into six different ‘precincts’ for six different landowners.

science park 1 The location of proposed Cork Science Park

McAuliffe said he hopes the hub will help get private companies interested in development at UCC’s precinct, adding that the construction of the hub building “could see momentum gained” in all the sections.

Cork County Council assistant manager Declan Daly told Fora that the hub building will be largely funded by UCC, but he added: “We and CIT are also prepared to put some capital towards it.”

He admitted that work on the science park has been slow. “Recent years haven’t been the best for development, but we would be hopeful that if we have one building in place it will act as a catalyst for development and get things moving.”

You can read more about the story behind the five-year wait for the Cork Science Park on Fora later this week.