In Ayrshire, Eagle Labs is funding a restoration project.

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Via Kristy Dorsey

The Halo Regeneration Project in Kilmarnock will become the home of the new Eagle Labs company incubators in the UK-wide network of Barclays’ banking group.

It is expected to open at the currently under construction Halo Enterprise and Innovation Centre (HEIC) in May. It will be the third Eagle Lab in Scotland and the first to be situated outside a major city. It will occupy 15,500 square feet of the 46,000-square-foot HEIC and will include 110 desks for start-ups with co-working space.

The three-year deal is another milestone in the £63 million Halo project, which was initiated by local businesswoman Marie Macklin after Diageo announced in 2009 it would close its Johnnie Walker bottling plant in the Ayrshire area. This resulted in the loss of 700 workers and left a 23-acre derelict site on which Halo is now in the middle of a major construction program.

Milestone for Ayrshire’s former Johnnie Walker site.

“Given Covid, this deal with Barclays is a huge vote of confidence in the local community,” Ms. Macklin said. “Instead of just writing nice checks, they’re putting their experience and expertise into this project.”

Three to four Barclays employees will periodically staff the laboratory, but businesses will also have access to the bank’s wider network of start-up specialists. Currently, there are 24 Eagle Labs around the UK, including the Scottish incubators that opened in 2018 in Edinburgh and 2019 in Aberdeen.

Stuart Brown, Head of Business Banking at Barclays in Scotland, said the Eagle Lab will help companies, not just those directly linked to the Halo project, from around the community. The aim, he said, is to restore a flourishing local economy.

“The focus is on accelerating scale-ups by fostering collaboration across the ecosystem,” Mr. Brown said. “Our reach goes beyond the physical labs – we have a network of mentors, partners and experts who can help small businesses achieve their ambitions.”

Marie Macklin with Jes Staley and Stuart Brown from Barclays.

The agreement follows Barclays chief executive Jes Staley’s visit to Kilmarnock in June 2019, when the bank revealed that the city will become the second of four sites in its development strategy for Vibrant Local Economies. Barclays will collaborate with the local government, education and business organisations such as Halo to promote economic development and develop skills and training in the three-year pilot.

Ms. Macklin added, “We see Barclays as key in our overall vision for what Halo is trying to achieve. We believe local cities and towns will play a big role in economic recovery from the pandemic.”

The HEIC is central to the larger Halo project, which includes a range of business, residential, leisure and community facilities. In addition to Eagle Laboratories, the Innovation Center will have a workspace for larger businesses and also house a cyber training facility to provide 16- to 24-year-olds with digital courses.

Macklin calls for Scottish cities to be at the forefront of the upswing of Covid.

There are plans to create 210 apartments at’ affordable rentals’ in addition to the studios, which are specifically built for entrepreneurs. These will be developed in collaboration with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and will be powered by 100% renewable energy, including low-carbon heat pumps.

In 2012, Diageo donated the 23-acre site to the project for £ 1 on condition that the property be used for a project to redevelop the city. An extra £2 million in support was given by the drinks giant.

The project has secured £ 3.5 million from the government of the UK, £ 3.5 million from the government of Scotland and £ 2 million from the Council of East Ayrshire, as well as £ 15 million from the private sector.

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