The centre - which is the brainchild of an international team of biologists and conservationists - will be four times the size of the Cornish tourist attraction, and will be built at a 40ha former brickworks site near Stewartby in Bedfordshire.
Its massive biodomes will be stocked with tropical trees and plants, and will house thousands of species of freshwater fish, amphibians and reptiles.
As well as being a tourist attraction, the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats project will include different freshwater ecological environments focusing on the conservation of endangered species.
Project leaders say it will generate more than 2,500 jobs. The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) says £20 million a year will be ploughed back into the local economy and has already loaned the project £4 million to survey the site, draw up a business plan and try to raise the cash it needs.
George Kieffer, deputy chairman of EEDA, said the site could attract up to two million visitors each year. 'This is fantastic news for the region,' he said.
'The centre will offer an unrivalled resource for researchers in the biosciences and is set to be an important tourist attraction, not only for the region but nationally in the UK and in Europe,' Kieffer added.