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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 15:02 GMT
30m marine centre scheme revealed
Sandbar shark, Plymouth
The 30m centre would contain interactive exhibits
Plans have been unveiled for a 30m marine science centre, to be run on renewable energy and featuring state-of-the-art exhibits.

The planned National Centre for Marine Science and Technology will create a massive visitor attraction and science park in Plymouth.

More than 200 jobs could be created and the city's deprived Sutton ward could be regenerated.

The first phase is to create a visitor centre called Marinex, next to the National Marine Aquarium in the city.

Sea bed

It will contain interactive exhibits giving visitors a chance to hunt for the last oil reserve on the planet using sonar or underwater vehicles.

They will also be able to survey part of a simulated sea bed to plan a safe passage through for a ship or submarine.

The project has been devised by a consortium led by Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium.

Mike Leece, chief executive of the aquarium and chairman of the consortium, said the project would be a first for Europe.

He said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for Plymouth to create a unique project for a centre of excellence for marine science and technology.

We aim to inform and enthuse young people so they want to pursue a career in marine science

Mike Leece
"It will combine with the excellent reputation of the aquarium, but tell the other half of the story about the world oceans and climates."

He said marine science mad a major contribution to the UK economy, but there was a shortage of youngsters coming into the sector.

"We aim to inform and enthuse young people so they want to pursue a career in marine science," he said.

A 30m bid has been submitted to the Treasury by the South West Regional Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry and the consortium should discover if it has been successful in April.

Mr Leece said: "We are confident that we have put in an excellent proposal.

"We recognise there is competition for funds, but we believe our bid has a good chance."

If the funding is secured, work could start on the Marinex centre in April and be completed by summer 2004.

The second phase of the project is to create a Marine Science and Technology Park.

This stage would require a further cash investment of 15m, which the consortium hopes to win from European and regional sources.

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