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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK
Big Idea facing closure
Girl with exhibit
The project has failed to attract enough visitors
One of Scotland's prestigious Millennium Commission projects is to close its doors at the end of the month, it has been revealed.

The Big Idea inventor centre in Irvine, Ayrshire, has failed to attract the number of visitors needed to make it a successful concern.

Accumulated debts of almost 250,000 have been reported, with suppliers owed about another 100,000.

Last year the Scottish Executive put up 400,000 to help the project meet its debts and keep it running.

However, the downturn has continued at the project, which received 14m of initial funding in April 2000.

'Hands-on experience'

Chief executive David Mann said the centre needs 70,000 visitors a year to break even and current totals are well below that target.

The fine summer, which meant reduced visitor numbers, dealt a final financial blow.

Mr Mann said: "We've struggled to meet our creditors and ensure we have enough cash to make sure we keep the business going forward."

The project was created with the help of 5.5m from the Millennium Commission, 5m of European funding, 500,000 from Scottish Enterprise and 3m of private money.

Boy with exhibit
The Big Idea was launched as a "living laboratory"

Cunninghame South MP Brian Donohoe has been critical of the Millennium Commission.

He said there should not have been funding for two science centres in the West of Scotland and the development of the Glasgow Science Centre had guaranteed financial problems for the Big Idea.

Mr Donohoe said: "The death warrant came around the first day they gave a grant to the science centre in Glasgow.

"People aren't going to come by the science centre in Glasgow to look at a similar facility in Irvine."

Both centres offer visitors the chance to gain "hands-on experience" of the various exhibits.

The Big Idea has been hailed by its creators as a "living laboratory for people who wish to think, to dream, to discover, to innovate and to invent".

BBC Scotland's Bob Wylie
"The Big Idea is one of seven major Millennium projects"

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