A £1m investment from Innovate UK will enable Northern Ireland’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) to start supporting local businesses in the next few months.
AMIC's flagship building, which was granted planning permission in May, will be a 10,500m2 state-of-the-art ‘Factory of the Future’, set to open in 2026 at Global Point Newtownabbey.
It’s part of plans for a £100m investment in AMIC, a Belfast Region City Deal project delivered by Queen’s University in partnership with industry, Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, to reinvigorate local industrial potential and address the future technology and skills challenges faced by the region’s manufacturing sector.
The Innovate UK funding will help build capabilities within AMIC this year in automated food manufacturing, digital twins, and embedded digital verification technology. A series of digital manufacturing testbeds will be available to businesses to explore digital manufacturing technologies, use cases and how they can be applied to address business challenges.
It will support plans to grow AMIC’s existing strengths in smart design, digitalising manufacturing, smart nano, and sustainable polymers and composites, providing a world class offering to businesses in Northern Ireland and beyond.
The funding will also strengthen the relationship between AMIC and the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult - a network of research and innovation centres established by Innovate UK to transform UK manufacturing - aimed at making the wider UK manufacturing innovation ecosystem and funding more accessible to Northern Ireland businesses.
HVM Catapult insights from over a decade of manufacturing innovation have supported AMIC’s development, and the Catapult’s chief technology officer Professor Sam Turner has been seconded to AMIC as interim chief executive.
Professor Turner said: “The £1m investment from Innovate UK will accelerate our partnership’s support for the Northern Irish manufacturing sector. The region’s full potential can be unlocked with the combined industry expertise and academic knowledge from AMIC, HVM Catapult, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and the thousands of SMEs which are the sector’s backbone. I look forward to further developing this new hub to benefit both Northern Irish and UK manufacturing innovation.”
The announcement comes ahead of the Northern Ireland Manufacturing Conference and Supply Chain Expo at Titanic Exhibition Centre on June 22 where AMIC, as key partner, will share more plans with industry on how it will turbocharge Northern Ireland’s manufacturing capabilities and embed a culture of innovation to act as a driver for increased productivity.
AMIC experts will share a stand with HVM Catapult partners including representatives from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Manufacturing Technology Centre, National Composites Centre and CPI, organisations which are delivering industrial transformation across the UK.
Katherine Bennett CBE, chief executive of HVM Catapult, said: “Innovate UK’s support will further strengthen the relationship between AMIC and HVM Catapult. The businesses we work with will be even better equipped to make the most of exciting opportunities that manufacturing innovation has to offer across the whole of the UK.
“Manufacturing investment is a key driver of future growth, and we must ensure that all manufacturers have access to new productivity, efficiency and sustainability-boosting technologies and approaches.”
Dave Wilkes, Director of Innovation Ecosystem, Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK is committed to supporting growth and increased productivity across the UK, and Catapults are a huge part of that. This new investment in HVM Catapult and AMIC is an important part of that commitment as we continue to support innovation in Northern Ireland.”
Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said: "Northern Ireland has a vibrant and highly sophisticated advanced manufacturing sector. AMIC will provide further support as a springboard for manufacturing, giving local companies access to the latest manufacturing technologies."
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).
The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive are providing funding towards AMIC as part of the Belfast Region City Deal, which unlocks £1billion of transformative co-investment to 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.
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