Developing new technologies and increasing coherent support for innovation across all advanced manufacturing sectors is crucial for Northern Ireland to become more competitive on a global scale, according to a report published today.
The Strategic Technology Roadmap, launched today at Queen’s University, was drawn up following a detailed consultation on technology and skills needs for the next decade with over 100 advanced manufacturing leaders on behalf of the £98m Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre published by the Belfast City Region (AMIC).
The roadmap has identified key priorities for AMIC to enhance Northern Ireland’s particular strengths in the region and outlines how it can support the region’s large, world-class companies as well as agile, innovation-ready SMEs.
It also notes that Northern Ireland’s economy is dominated by small businesses with limited innovative capacity, which may struggle to engage with technology unless they are supported in the development and application of key skills. These companies need significant local support to develop new technologies, access innovation initiatives and collaborate with national support structures.
Delivered by Queen’s University in partnership with industry, AMIC will provide a specialized environment for advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering sectors to access the latest digital, automation and robotics technologies supported by experienced engineers will.
Its flagship building, the “Factory of the Future” – a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art facility – will open in 2025 at the Global Point in Newtownabbey.
Consultation for the report was provided by experts from the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing in collaboration with representatives from the mechanical, electrical, aerospace, automation, food and drink processing and composites sectors across Northern Ireland.
The report’s release comes ahead of the first meeting of the AMIC Industry Board, chaired by Denroy’s Managing Director, John Irwin, and includes executives from 20 local companies. The Board will ensure that AMIC’s industry partners make strategic decisions on technology priorities and capital equipment investments.
Professor Paul Maropoulos, AMIC project manager, said: “We are working with industry to ensure that AMIC, which will be Northern Ireland’s national center for advanced manufacturing, will support companies to significantly accelerate the rate of innovation.
“The roadmap is a valuable document that highlights the needs of the local manufacturing sector for the next decade and will inform the decisions we make around AMIC to ensure it is a stepping stone for manufacturing in the region.”
Sam Turner, future CEO of AMIC, said: “Northern Ireland has world-leading manufacturing expertise in sectors such as materials handling, aerospace and life sciences, and has strong supporting capabilities such as photonics, digital, design and composites.
“Now is the time to address the region’s future technology and skills needs and capitalize on its strengths.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for AMIC to engage with UK networks at scale to support the manufacturing sector and by working in partnership with the newly formed Industry Board we will deliver what is needed to revitalize Northern Ireland’s industrial potential. “
Business Secretary Gordon Lyons said: “Advanced manufacturing and innovation are two of the key areas of my department’s 10X economic vision, which aims to create a 10x more innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy for the benefit of all.
“Investments in the City and Growth Deal provide the infrastructure to create new greener, more inclusive and sustainable skills and jobs. At £98m, AMIC represents the largest single investment in innovation under the Belfast region’s City Deal and it is great to see that action and energy is being put into ensuring that these significant investments reach manufacturing, innovation – and digital needs of Northern Ireland.
“Industry support is critical to ensure AMIC is headed in the right direction. It will only be successful if it meets the needs of industry and so I am delighted that over 100 companies from across Northern Ireland, covering the full spectrum of manufacturing and processing sectors, actively participated in the Strategic Technology Roadmap exercise to have.
“Today’s launch of the strategic technology roadmap and first meeting of the AMIC Industry Board is an important milestone in AMIC’s journey. Hopefully this will invigorate and be the catalyst for further industrial engagement and support and I wish to wish the AMIC team well in the future.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said: “It’s great to see Queen working with partners to bring this fantastic center to life.
“Backed by £78.7 million UKG funding as part of the Belfast region’s City Deal, this project will accelerate innovation and further strengthen NI’s position as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.
“The roadmap and the collaboration with industry that has informed them will shed light on how the project can bring maximum benefit to innovative industries across Northern Ireland.”
John Irwin, Chairman of the AMIC Industry Board, said: “Companies in Northern Ireland’s advanced manufacturing sector are poised to take full advantage of the opportunities AMIC offers.
“With cross-industry engagement and influence, AMIC will be the platform for delivering the innovation and competitiveness fundamental to the future growth of the advanced manufacturing sector.”
AMIC will build on 50 years of sustained innovation and industry support from the Northern Ireland Technology Center (NITC), the Polymers Processing Research Center (PPRC) and the more recent university-industry partnership, the NI Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE), and enhance existing ones Facilities in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.