The team behind a new £2.3m International Marine Design Centre in Newcastle is close to securing a prestigious city centre office base.
The centre will provide space for up to 40 designers to work together on ship design contracts - and is intended to deliver £100m of extra revenue into the North-East marine and defence sector by 2016.
The Journal understands the new centre will be located in or near the Central Square development near Newcastle Central Station, and is expected to open for business next month.
A location near the East Coast Main Line would make sense for a facility which is expected to work on some very prestigious contracts, and where high-level staff would need access to good transport links.
Such is the faith being invested in the International Marine Design Centre (IMDC) that regional development agency One NorthEast has backed the project with around £1.5m of funding. Private sector contributions and revenue generated by the project will meet the rest of the centre's running costs over its first three years.
Despite the closure of Swan Hunter last year, bringing an end to Tyneside's ancient shipbuilding tradition, the region is still host to a large pool of ship design talent, and the new IMDC aims to harness that to win both naval and commercial contracts.
This could include design work on the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers, which Swan Hunter held hopes of building for so long, and a wealth of contracts in buoyant markets such as Australia, Malaysia and China.
Business development company Northern Defence Industries (NDI) will run the centre, which will link closely with the expertise of Newcastle University's School of Marine Science and Technology.
Ray Thompson, One NorthEast marine sector specialist, said: "This will become an internationally recognised centre of excellence to showcase the North-East's marine design skills and technology.
"There are huge naval projects to tap into within the UK and Australia, for example, and a phenomenal growth in civil shipping contracts in China, where the North-East's marine sector design expertise will be much in demand."
Trevor Harrison, managing director at NDI, said: "For the region's marine design businesses, the centre will provide them with an influential route to market that will give them access to major clients - and major opportunities."
As well as winning ship design contracts, the IMDC is intended to assist in training up to 100 designers and will provide opportunities for graduates, as well as offering student placements from Newcastle University's School of Marine Science and Technology.
The school is internationally renowned for its expertise, with its students winning many prizes in competitions organised by the US Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.