Environmental quest for economic benefits

The Northern Ireland economy can benefit from major savings through increased commitment to innovative environmental practises and technologies.

That is according to Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, as she addressed guests at the Queen’s University Environmental Science and Technology Research Centre, QUESTOR, on its 20th anniversary.

Supported by Invest Northern Ireland and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, QUESTOR is the only Industry/University Co-operative Research Centre of its kind in Europe.

QUESTOR conducts industry-driven research in the areas of water and wastewater treatment, remediation, waste management, renewable energy and sustainable technologies on behalf of member companies, ranging from innovative local SME's to multinationals.

Speaking at the anniversary event, the Minister emphasised the benefits of QUESTOR’s work to the local economy.

Arlene Foster said: “Issues such as recycling, water and wastewater treatment and pollution prevention are becoming increasingly important to businesses across many sectors.

“Major savings, which could prove crucial during the current economic climate, can be made by implementing efficient environmental practices and by developing new technologies which offer significant export potential. Indeed, local businesses are already saving over £1million per week simply by increasing their levels of energy efficiency.

“Over the course of two decades, QUESTOR has remained at the leading edge of research into the very latest environmental technologies and developments. Its status as an Industry/University Co-operative means that the centre’s research activity is always in demand by companies and consistently delivers tangible commercial advantage.

“Invest NI has a longstanding relationship with QUESTOR and is supporting the centre as it seeks to attract even more members from the local industry base, particularly small and medium enterprises. This will contribute to the recovery of the whole economy by strengthening the vital linkages between business and academia that lay the groundwork for future success.”

The Minister added: “The centre’s membership currently boasts prominent local companies such as Coca-Cola Bottlers, B9 Energy and Northern Ireland Water, as well as global multinationals like Bombardier Aerospace, ExxonMobil, Shell Global Solutions and BP. It is testimony to the high value of QUESTOR’s activities that such major business names avail of its expertise.”

Dr Wilson McGarel, Director of QUESTOR, said: “Environmental issues have never been more sharply in focus and our work can help companies maximise the many commercial opportunities that are arising in this area. Our partner universities in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Canada and the USA have added to our capability and range of specialist areas. This, together with the support of Invest NI, will help us carry out useful research on behalf of more local businesses than ever before.”

The Minister also took the opportunity to encourage all Northern Ireland companies to invest in innovation and Research & Development (R&D) programmes, as they continue to plan for the future and achieve business growth.

She concluded: “The MATRIX report has provided government with advice on how to maximise economic opportunities by exploiting our R&D and science and technology strengths. It has essentially set out a blueprint for future market opportunities.

“We must ensure that our local businesses are in pole position to take advantage of any current commercial opportunities as well as those that will inevitably come when the global and national economies begin to strengthen.”