Canadian aerospace manufacturer Bombardier is to make the largest inward investment ever made by a single company into Northern Ireland.

Belfast was chosen as the location for an investment that could reach up to $1bn to develop Bombardier’s global centre of excellence for composites manufacturing.

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The project to design and manufacture the firm’s new CSeries aircraft wings will create 500 engineering and procurement roles over the next four- to five-year period, rising to 800 jobs during peak production in 2014-24.

Belfast fought off competition from Canadian locations. A Bombardier spokesman told fDi: “The wing could have been manufactured in Canada but it would have been more difficult because the expertise would have to have been developed over time.”

Belfast has had almost 40 years’ experience in advanced composites manufacture and is already involved in 10 different Bombardier programmes. “Over the years, Belfast has invested in composite technologies in both national and European research programmes as the industry moves from aluminium to lighter carbon-fibre aircraft structures and as a result has the capability for composite wing development,” said a Bombardier spokesman.

The UK government and local and regional agencies are providing backing totalling $307m, including $50m of selective financial assistance grants and $258m of launch loans.

Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward said the significance of securing more than 800 jobs could not be overestimated at a time of global economic challenges. “Economies around the world fought for this investment but it was Belfast that won the confidence of the board. The skills already established by Bombardier helped clinch the deal but it is the potential to train this base with new skills that is vital,” he said.

The investment is part of a larger $3.4bn project to develop a group of short-haul commercial 110- to 130-seat jets and will be the largest industrial project undertaken by Bombardier.

The announcement, made at the Farnborough Air Show, also included selection of Mirabel in Canada’s greater Montreal region as the final assembly location for the CSeries aircraft programme. Mirabel was chosen for its access to a skilled aerospace workforce and an established aerospace education system, according to Bombardier.