Invest Northern Ireland offered £3.5 million last year to help bring university-based research to the commercial market and unlock significant economic benefits.
Through its Proof of Concept programme, Invest NI is helping Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster take forward 35 innovative projects that aim to develop new products and processes for a diverse range of highly competitive industry sectors. The support from Invest NI ispart financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
Areas being investigated range from high speed communications and software development to healthcare and the environment, with projects focusing on, for example, next-generation network security solutions and the latest techniques for diagnosing diabetes.
Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, says: “The kind of pre-commercial research being carried out by both Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster lays firm groundwork on which to build future economic success. Each project has commercial potential, and some could result in the creation of high-tech spin-out companies which can add significant value to the local economy.
“Invest NI is committed to cultivating the conditions in which these activities flourish. Our support helps ensure that, where possible, new discoveries are recognised, protected and exploited to their maximum potential, bringing ideas and concepts from the laboratory through to the commercial market.
“Invest NI is actively stimulating investment in R&D by both indigenous companies and multinationals that wish to set up in Northern Ireland. We encourage businesses to collaborate with the universities to take advantage of the capability that exists here and this helps build the whole local knowledge base.”
Concluding, Tracy Meharg said: “By its nature, the universities’ research activity will not produce overnight results for the economy. Commercialising new ideas and discoveries can be a long process. However, local companies like Bombardier, Almac and Andor Technology have demonstrated how excellence in research can enable Northern Ireland to compete on a global scale in challenging, high-tech areas.
“Invest NI’s support for Queen’s and UU is helping push local capability even further forward. As the projects begin to yield tangible results, this can only serve to enhance Northern Ireland’s international reputation for innovation and strengthen the whole economy in the longer term.”