A €2.5m investment by Enterprise Ireland into a major research and innovation hub will help position the south-east as a global leader in the digital economy, an event was told.

The new 1,000 square metre extension at the ArcLabs facility at Waterford Institute of Technology was officially opened by Minister of State John Halligan and is already providing office and support space for 100 people.

ArcLabs, on the college's West Campus and overlooking the Waterford Greenway, opened 14 years ago and the new addition is aimed at providing "a unique environment of entrepreneurship and innovation where academic research, enterprise supports and regional stakeholders come together to make ideas work," according to manager Dr Aisling O'Neill.

"We look forward to continuing to foster our relationship with Enterprise Ireland which is instrumental to realising the ambition of ArcLabs to support a truly sustainable regional economy in South East Ireland."

ArcLabs is recognised as an important economic driver for the south-east region and currently houses 33 start-ups, early-stage companies and entrepreneurs.

Regional Director for the south and south-east with Enterprise Ireland, Martin Corkery, said "supporting regionally based businesses across a variety of sectors to start, scale and expand their reach in overseas markets is a core objective of Enterprise Ireland's work".

He described the partnership with Waterford Institute of Technology at ArcLabs as an "essential element" of the overarching strategy to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

"There are already indigenous businesses at varying stages in their development that are utilising the ArcLabs facility to step up and seize the opportunities for growth by driving research and innovation which is encouraging to see.

"By investing €2.5m in the opening of the extension to the hub at Waterford Institute of Technology's West Campus, Enterprise Ireland is focused on nurturing and promoting even more of the new and unique business ideas being developed in the region."

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, said the ArcLabs incubation centre has already contributed significantly to the economy and social development of the region.s job creation, new start-up companies as well as facilitating companies re-locating to Waterford. The new extension has delivered on the ambition of this institution to double company capacity in the facility.

WIT President, Professor Willie Donnelly, said the impact of ArcLabs cannot be underestimated and was achieved through the vision of the people in Enterprise Ireland and Higher Education Authority.

"Doubling the size of ArcLabs allows us to look at the delivery of an integrated set of entrepreneurial and business development supports to other incubation centres through the south east region and thus helping to attract high technology companies into the region and support Higher Potential Start Ups within the region."

Following the success of the ArcLabs expansion in attracting digital technology companies, WIT plans to expand into attracting the development of more life sciences and engineering companies to the south east, tapping into the innovation infrastructure of the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Centre and SEAM Technology Gateways in Waterford Institute of Technology.