Up to #180 million is to be invested in a leading aerospace firm to help create more than 3,000 new jobs, the Government announced yesterday.
The money will help the Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast be chosen as a supplier to a new family of airliners being built by its parent firm, said ministers.
New Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said Government backing for the programme was a "tangible demonstration" of its commitment to the UK aerospace industry, which employs thousands of highly-skilled workers in the West Midlands.
The money will involve #150 million in launch investment and #30 million of selective financial assistance and will generate up to 3,200 jobs, said ministers.
The investment will allow the Belfast plant to be selected as a key supplier to the new 110-130 seat series of airliners, according to the Government.
Ministers said the agreement was subject to a formal decision by Bombardier to launch the programme, but added that the move would generate 1,700 direct jobs and more than 1,500 in the supply chain.
Mr Johnson said: "Government backing for this programme, which marks a new era for Bombardier, is a tangible demonstration of our commitment to ensuring that aerospace companies operating in the UK remain at the forefront of the industry.
"It will see the return of aircraft wing production to Bombardier after an absence for many years, adding to the company's strengths and helping to consolidate the UK as a world leader in this field.
"Combined with their existing expertise in composite materials, this places them in an excellent position to respond to the increasing technological demands of the aerospace sector in coming years."
Bombardier employs around 5,400 at a number of sites in and around Belfast.
Michael Ryan, general manager of Bombardier in Belfast, said that if the new series of aircraft was launched, it would help research and development over the next 15 to 20 years.
"That would ensure our Belfast operation remains at the leading edge of aircraft design and manufacture.
"This contribution from the UK Government will help to create or sustain many hundreds of jobs, not just in Northern Ireland but throughout our 800-company supply chain in UK and Ireland."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Germany government said that the leadership struggle at European plane maker Airbus will not be a topic of discussion between German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac at upcoming meetings.
French and German shareholders of Airbus parent EADS have been unable to reach an agreement on who will replace Noel Forgeard as head of Airbus.