Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today announced more than £170million in funding for three cutting edge innovation projects that Queen’s University Belfast is taking forward within the Belfast Region City Deal.
The Minister visited the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC) at Queen’s University Belfast this morning to view progress on one of the initiatives, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), which will be a springboard for manufacturing innovation in Northern Ireland.
AMIC’s proposed flagship facility will be a new industry-focussed Factory of the Future, at Global Point Business Park in Newtownabbey, which will give advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest technology, specialist equipment and expertise.
Speaking about his visit, the Minister said: “The Belfast Region City Deal can be a catalyst for innovation and prosperity for Northern Ireland as a whole, and I am delighted to be announcing this substantial support for three projects at Queen’s.
“The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre will be a fantastic example of our higher education institutions collaborating with industry to unlock innovation and apply learnings to solve real-world challenges.
“AMIC, alongside the two other City Deal-funded projects that Queen’s is leading on, the Global Innovation Institute (GII) and the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH), will link at scale into UK networks, helping to step up Northern Ireland’s innovation, skills and digital capabilities to deliver inclusive economic growth.
“This approach will deliver benefits for wider society, including job opportunities in the economy of the future, and aligns well with my Department’s 10X Economic Vision for a decade of innovation and growth.
“The projects are at an early stage – I wish everyone involved in progressing them every success in making these innovative ventures a reality for the benefit of the whole local economy.”
On a short tour the Minister saw examples of collaborative university-industry R&D currently taking place in areas including digital technologies, big data, automation and robotics.
AMIC will build on 50 years of sustained innovation and industry support through the NITC, the Polymers Processing Research Centre (PPRC) and the more recent university-industry partnership, NI Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE), consolidating and enhancing existing facilities in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, Professor Ian Greer, said: “The Innovation Pillar of Belfast Region City Deal is about driving collaborative university-industry R&D to harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive growth.
“At Queen’s we have considerable existing expertise and a long-standing track record of working closely with industry and the new Innovation Centres will help us to further grow that engagement, positioning Northern Ireland alongside national and international networks.
“Working collaboratively with industry we want to drive momentum in fields including advanced manufacturing, clinical research and secure, connected digital technologies through impact-focussed innovation to create global impact where it truly matters.
“As part of this, Queen’s is committed to the employability and skills pillar of the Belfsat Region City Deal, to ensure that Northern Ireland has a skilled workforce to continue to innovate and drive technological advances.”
Welcoming today’s announcement by the Minister, the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb, said: “This is great news for the Borough which has been achieved as a result of the unprecedented levels of partnership working between the Council, Government Departments, UK Government, our universities and industry partners.
“With a decade of opportunities which will see an investment of £1billion in the Belfast City Region, the AMIC project aims to create over 1,000 new jobs in Newtownabbey and generate significant supply chain opportunities for businesses right across Northern Ireland.”
The Belfast Region City Deal unlocks £1billion of transformative co-investment which will deliver more than 20 highly ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new, and better, jobs and help make the region a global investment destination over the next decade and beyond.