A £1.3M innovation centre for technology businesses will open in the region this week.

The centre, owned and managed by Derwentside development agency Dida, hopes to attract businesses in technology-related sectors by offering modern offices that have the latest facilities.

The Consett Innovation Centre is on the Ponds Court Business Park, part of the former steelworks site being redeveloped as The Genesis Project, and next to Dida's Steel House headquarters.

The agency's chairman, Mark I'Anson, said: "The innovation centre will help to take the district forward in the creation of a high-value, high-wage, knowledge-based economy.

"It represents a major step for Dida and demonstrates our continued commitment to the district and its continuing success." A report published by business analysts Deloitte stated that the UK could be a world leader in technology if it harnessed its current strengths in science, research and finance.

However, it said that without better co-operation between technologists, academics, financiers and government, the opportunity to create a high-tech haven will disappear.

The centre in Consett will provide new and expanding technology businesses with full support, a move welcomed by Codeworks, the Centre of Excellence for Digital Technology, at Newcastle's Centre for Life.

Codeworks chairman Andy Allan, said: "A key component of the support that a new high-tech business needs is easy access to the technical resources that are abundant in the North-East."

Barrie Hensby, chief executive of Gateshead-based venture capital management company Northern Enterprise Limited said: "The region is indeed fortunate in the variety of funding and investment packages that are available.

"Timely access to finance and sound advice is the key to successful start-up and early start businesses, particularly in the high-tech sector, where delay can be disastrous."

Funded by Dida, the centre is also being supported by the Single Programme by development agency One NorthEast, through the County Durham Sub Regional Partnership, and by the European Regional Development Fund.

The 7,500sq ft centre has 16 office units, ranging from 150sq ft to 600sq ft, all equipped with the latest in telecom and broadband facilities.

It is expected that, when fully occupied, the tenants will employ aboout 35 people.

The centre will be opened by Government chief whip Hilary Armstrong, MP for North West Durham, on Friday.

Dida expects the centre to attract interest from businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide, including university spin-out companies and firms working in electronic and software design, computing and bio-technology.

While no names have been mentioned yet, Dida said there had already been a lot of interest in the centre, with two "very promising" inquiries.