A new £1.1 million facility to help transform Whitehaven into a hotbed of innovation has been revealed.

The Watershed is a collaboration between Sellafield Ltd and property developer BEC.

It has been designed to complement the plans to convert the town's bus station into the £4.1 million Buzz Station and will be created in the 2, 715 sq ft three-storey offices next door, which have been vacant for almost 20 years.

Work is due to start on the Buzz Station, which will feature office space and conference facilities for start-ups on the first floor and an 100-seater cafe/bar on the ground floor, later this year.

BEC said the new extra facility will open at the same time.

The Watershed, it added, will support pre-start companies, or those in the very early phase of development.

Accessible 24 hours a day, it will feature hot desks, available for people to use on a membership or pay-as-you-go basis, high-speed connectivity and a digital manufacturing facility, which will allow firms access to 3D printers and laser cutters.

The Watershed will also feature an in-house support team, who will be able to offer guidance for people wanting to take the first steps to set up a business.

A BEC spokesman said: "The Watershed can help develop leaders in areas such as finance, marketing and technology as well as assist to create opportunities with new clients, projects and markets.

"Sellafield Ltd and BEC have developed the concept for the Watershed in collaboration as a response to the changing needs of new start-up companies and a desire to provide world-class, idea shaping facilities in Whitehaven."

Michael Pemberton, BEC chief executive, said: “With co-working becoming the norm, the space in which new firms grow fledgling ideas is morphing from the solitary four walls of a one or two-person office to the lively arena where founders bounce ideas off each other and multiple ideas are shaped in tandem.”

Sellafield Ltd has invested £996,000 into the scheme.

Gary McKeating, Sellafield Ltd’s head of development and community, said: “The new development will represent an important project in helping to facilitate the social impact and transformation strategies of Sellafield Ltd.

"The facility will allow collaborative work space to be developed which will be designed to encourage spin-out and start-up companies from both existing Nuclear organisations and the wider economy.”

Rob Miller, BEC's head of property and development, added: "We are a region of great thinkers.

"The Watershed vision is to support individuals from the daunting initial steps on the decision of a new future through to being able to stand sustainably on their own two feet with a viable future ahead; from idea and incubation to launch and beyond.

"We hope it will bring about many ‘watershed moments’ for new local businesses as they move from idea to reality.”

The developments are part of the wider £300m North Shore project, spearheaded by BEC, which aims to help revitalise the town.

Plans include a multi-storey car park, five-storey office complex and a four-star hotel.

Sellafield is investing £2.6m to convert the derelict bus station into a hothouse for tech, digital, media, and creative start-ups.

The North Shore scheme was recently shortlisted for two national Planning Awards

BEC said it was hoped the construction firm appointed for the Buzz Station and the Watershed will be announced next week.