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The Big Idea

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The Big Idea was billed as an Inventor Centre rather than a Science Centre and was located on the Ardeer Peninsula, near Irvine.

It has also been referred to as the Museum of Scottish Invention, however, given its fate, that particular reference is perhaps best forgotten, being a little too close to real life, which has seen most Scottish inventions ignored in the place of their birth, and capitalised abroad.

The Big Idea opened on April 15, 2000, at a cost of £14 million (provided by Lottery funding from the Millennium Project), and was housed in a spectacular earth-covered building built on the site of Alfred Nobel's former dynamite factory, on land donated by ICI . Access from the harbour area was provided by a bridge known as the Bridge of Scottish Invention, which utilised an innovative roll-back design - instead of swinging horizontally or vertically, the museum end was designed to slide back over itself, creating a central opening through which tall vessels could pass.

The project was dedicated to inventions and inventors, and was funded from various sources, both private and public, but was never able to attract the required number of visitors to make it viable, possibly due to its location. Rescued from closure in March 2002, with £500,000 from the Scottish Executive, it was still only able to attract 50,000 of the 70,000 visitors needed each year to reach break-even operation. The centre was finally closed in September 2003, with reported debts of £350,000.

Many of the exhibits and displays remain within the closed building, and have been offered for sale (through the web site linked below), but appear to remain unsold, possibly because they are fairly specialised, and even at clearance prices, still costly.

Plans are said to exist to build a golf course and marina development on the area of the Ardeer peninsula, which would reuse the building as a clubhouse

Former Nobel dynamite works

The protective earthworks and ground features built to deflect blast and debris in the event of an accident at the former explosives works still survive on the ground near The Big Idea, although most of the production facilities have been closed down and removed over the years.

A relatively small production facility remains, manufacturing hazardous chemicals (nitrocellulose), although ICI Nobel is no longer involved, having sold the business to Nobel Enterprises in 2002. The surviving earthworks of the former explosives works can be seen clearly in aerial views of the area northwest of the abandoned Big Idea building.

Photographs

Bridge of Scottish Invention
Bridge of Scottish Invention and
The Big Idea
 
Bridge of Scottish Invention, locked open, 2005
Bridge of Scottish Invention
locked open 2005
© paul c
Main hall, 2009
Main hall

© Ben Cooper
Lecture theatre, 2009
Lecture theatre

© Ben Cooper
Mechanisms feature, 2009
Mechanisms feature

© Ben Cooper
Power feature, 2009
Power feature

© Ben Cooper


External links


Aerial views


Map

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