Plans for a new skills and innovation centre at Gateway 14 at Stowmarket have been given a major boost after an £18.8m funding package was agreed.

Mid Suffolk District Council's cabinet this week agreed a strategy to meet the remaining costs of the £18.8m centre after Freeport East agreed to put up  £16.66m in March.

The three-storey building will include office space for high growth start-ups, collaboration spaces, training and meeting rooms, as well as a café.

Council leader Andy Mellen welcomed the decision.

“This is a significant moment for what is a really exciting project," he said.

"This centre will create a fantastic talent pipeline for local businesses – with a particular focus on the green economy, digital and AI technology.

“Crucially, it will bring businesses and training together in the same centre. This will not only help bridge the skills gap, it will help firms to grow and innovate, and encourage more inward investment.”

Freeport East Steve Beel said Gateway 14 - a business and industrial centre off the A14 at Stowmarket - was making "excellent progress".

"The Skills and Innovation Centre would not be possible without the funding mechanisms made available by the freeport model, but it is the close and collaborative working between Mid Suffolk District Council, Gateway 14 and Freeport East that drives this success," he said.

"The new centre, along with other recent announcements, significantly strengthens our ability to market the Stowmarket and Mid Suffolk area to various companies, both in the UK and internationally.

"This positions our region as one of the top choices for inward investment in the UK."

Mid Suffolk is working in partnership with West Suffolk College and the universities of Suffolk and Essex on the project, which will now go into the pre-planning and technical design phase.

Gateway 14 Ltd is wholly owned by Mid Suffolk District Council which is working with development partner Jaynic.

Six months ago, the business park’s first unit was handed over to homewares retailer The Range for a new logistics and distribution centre, creating 1,650 jobs.

Councillor Richard Winch, cabinet member for housing and property, said: “Everything happening at Gateway 14 will create opportunities for local people – whether that’s jobs, new training, or a place for innovative businesses to grow, collaborate and thrive.

“It is putting itself on the UK map as an emerging centre for green and hi-tech industries.”