Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Alderman Stephen Ross has welcomed the launch of the Strategic Technology Roadmap, designed to identify key priorities for the planned Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) in the Borough.
Led by Queen’s University, the £98m Belfast Region City Deal and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council-funded AMIC project will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, offering advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest technology, specialist equipment and expertise.
Its flagship building, the ‘Factory of the Future’ – a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art facility – is scheduled to open at Global Point Business Park in Newtownabbey in 2025. This will provide NI companies with unprecedented access to the latest manufacturing technologies, supported by professional engineers, as well as offering specialist guidance and advice on how to use these new and emerging technologies.
Earlier this year, Queen’s University undertook a detailed consultation with over 100 leaders in advanced manufacturing to develop a 10-year roadmap, identifying priorities for AMIC to improve Northern Ireland’s distinctive strengths in the sector;
The report found that developing new technologies and increasing cohesive support for innovation across all sectors of advanced manufacturing is vital for Northern Ireland to be more competitive on the global stage.
It also advises that the Northern Ireland economy has a wealth of small companies, which face challenges regarding innovation capability. These firms require significant local support to enable them to develop new technologies, access innovation initiatives and engage with national support structures.
Alderman Ross said AMIC, with its state-of-the-art Factory of the Future, will play a crucial role in enabling SMEs to develop new technologies and compete globally, while also providing support to large, world class companies.
He added: “AMIC will act as a springboard for advanced manufacturing innovation, supporting industry to create innovative products, generate jobs and attract inward investment to Northern Ireland.
“I am delighted by the progress that has been made in compiling this strategic roadmap, which will be vital in highlighting the needs of the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland for the next decade.
“This report, combined with the appointment of Sam Turner as CEO of AMIC, represents an important milestone in this project.
“Global Point is fast becoming a highly desirable and sought after location for advanced manufacturing companies. The Council plans to transform this site into a world-class hub of advanced manufacturing, with AMIC at its heart.
“I now look forward to the submission of the planning application and working with our partners to progress this exciting project.”
Consultation for the report was carried out by experts from the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing in partnership with representatives from the mechanical, electrical, aerospace, automation, food and drink processing, and composites sectors across Northern Ireland.
The launch of the report comes ahead of the first meeting of the AMIC Industry Board, chaired by John Irwin, Managing Director of Denroy, and includes leaders from 20 local companies. The Board will ensure that AMIC’s industry partners shape strategic decisions around technology priorities and capital equipment investment.
AMIC will build on 50 years of sustained innovation and industry support through the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC), the Polymers Processing Research Centre (PPRC) and the more recent university-industry partnership, the NI Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE), consolidating and enhancing existing facilities in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.